My Role as a Teacher
I believe that the best learning occurs when students build their own knowledge. Therefore I see my role as a facilitator in the classroom, providing activities, information, and guidance as is necessary for students to master content and skills. In order to accomplish this, I believe that as a teacher my job is much more than just disseminating information to students. While this may be a part of what I do at times, my job is really to get students to build their own knowledge by engaging them, allowing them to explore ideas and then helping them to build those concepts into solid scientific knowledge and skills. My role to get students to work towards mastering these objectives is that of a “warm demander”. I will provide my students encouragement and positive support, but also expect and demand that students give their best performance, including effort and respect in the classroom.

In addition to teaching content and skills, I believe that teachers have a responsibility to use their position to be a positive support and role model in students’ lives. In order to show students that I support them, I will establish a positive rapport and one-on-one relationships in the classroom, but also beyond the walls of my classroom. I will go to events that are important to students, especially for students who may struggle academically but excel at art, athletics, theater, etc. Recently I was able to attend a softball game of one student who sometimes struggles academically and behaviorally in my class. It was rewarding to be able to see her score the winning run in an overtime game. I was able to congratulate her in class the next day and show that I supported something which I know to be very important to her. It also gave me a new understanding of what drives and motivates my students.

My Commitment to Science Education (NSTA Standard 1: Content and Standard 4:Issues)
I believe strongly in the transformative power of education to change students’ lives and provide them with better futures. I am also committed to the importance of science education for students. STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers are growing and American education has to keep up with being able to provide students who interested and well-prepared for a career in science or technology. In addition, I believe that all of my students will encounter many scientific issues in their present or in their future that they will need to be able to make decisions about. Being able to understand how science is done and how to think critically about science is a crucial skill in the modern world. There are many scientific issues that my students face now and must make decisions about in the future: health and medical concerns, local and global environmental policies, and ethical issues surrounding new technologies just to mention a few. Though I cannot anticipate every issue that students will need to consider in the future, I can help them develop the skills necessary to think sensibly and critically about how these issues will impact their lives.

Evaluating My Effectiveness as a Teacher
I believe that reflection is essential to improving my skills as a teacher for the benefit of my current and future students. I use several sources to evaluate my effectiveness as a teacher. To evaluate specific teaching effectiveness, I use student assessments. I believe strongly that teaching can best be measured in student learning. I frequently use formative assessments to determine how effective I have been in teaching specific content and skills.

More broadly, I seek to improve my teaching practice through self-reflection and seeking feedback. After each lesson, I reflect on how certain activities worked, in terms of both level of student engagement and learning. I also note for future lessons what students struggled with that I did not expect and how I can better support them. I also reflect on my general teaching skills and how I could improve the way that I structured a lesson, introduced or facilitated an activity, explained a concept, etc. I also seek feedback from others. I had many opportunities to receive feedback both on specific lessons and on general teaching skills during my student teaching experience. After every discussion, I found myself coming away with ideas about how to improve my teaching and feedback about what I am doing well and what I need to work on. These sessions were incredibly valuable and pushed me to grow as an educator. I also sought feedback from students during my teaching with open ended surveys (example responses can be seen here). I plan to continue asking students for feedback, because this gave me a sense of how students were responding to my methods and provided me with valuable information on how to improve my teaching.