Where Am I Now?

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Introduction

In August 2011, I began my first year of teaching at Brighter Choice Charter Middle School for Girls (BCCMS-G). BCCMS-G is an urban-charter middle school whose mission is to prepare scholars for high school and college success while attending to their unique developmental needs. Student demographics comprise 87% African Americans, 11% Hispanics, and 3% Caucasians. 97.5% of the student population receive free or reduced lunch.
At BCCMS, the school-day is extended, classes are year-round, and its program focuses on single-gender education, differentiated and data-informed instruction. The school was in its second year of operation, and thus had only two grades, 5th and 6th Grade when I joined. At the time of my hire, I was the sole certified science teacher on staff hired to teach 5th Grade Integrated Science and 6th Grade Earth Science.

The Beginning and Changes
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5th Graders working on a lab in the Project Room

At the beginning of the school year of 2011, I taught six one-hour classes total, with three classes per grade. In addition, I taught another hour-long inquiry lab for each grade each week. With a new but empty laboratory, I also worked on developing connections and relationships with the local community and state organizations to secure donations for equipment and teaching materials.

Due to unique infrastructure changes mid-year, I was asked to teach a self-contained classroom of 20+ 5th-grade scholars. Many of these scholars had individualized education plans, and high-incidence learning needs. With the aid of one of the Special Education teachers, I taught these scholars not only Science, but also Math, English Language Arts, Writing, and Social Studies from January to May. I became the Lead Science for the 5th Grade Department, and was responsible for creating unit plans, daily lessons, and labs for all of the 5th Grade teachers. After May, there occurred more changes and I was once again asked to change my position. From May to August 2012, I taught 6th Grade science again and as a homeroom teacher for one of the 6th grade classes.

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7th Graders Observing Femurs

Lessons Learned

My first year of teaching was very challenging, especially since my position constantly shifted and my responsibilities frequently changed. It was also tough working as a new science teacher
without a mentor. Despite the overwhelming struggles, I was able to rely on my colleagues' support and my own strengths to persevere throughout the year and create a professional network for myself.

With the help of the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS), I was also able to find a science mentor who was kind enough to meet with me biweekly and look over my lessons, and provide advice regarding classroom management in the science laboratory. It was also during this time that I worked tirelessly to form relationships with my scholars and their families. I attended many of their after-school programs and events, volunteered for after-school events, and worked on maintaining frequent contact with parents regarding their scholars' academic progress through emails, phone calls, and newsletters. It was a hard year, but I learned an important lesson. I had to be an advocate for myself if I am to act as an advocate for others.
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7th Graders Observing Cells

Currently...

For the school year of 2012, I returned to BCCMS to teach 7th Grade Life Science. During the summer, I worked hard to improve my classroom management, revised my scope and sequence, and wrote a few grants that resulted in class sets of science literature for my classroom. I also continued attending many science workshops and teacher for my personal professional development. In Fall 2012, I looped with the former 6th-graders and taught three 80-minute long classes of Life Science.

This year, I was also asked to teach 7th Grade Life Science at the boys' middle school. From August 2012 to February 2013, I was with the girls' school where I taught a year's worth of science curricula in that short time frame. In February 2013, I transitioned to the boys' school where I started over with the same curriculum, and worked to add
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more inquiry lessons and labs.

NSTA Dow Science Teacher Fellowship

During the fall, I also received notice that I was accepted into the National Science Teachers' Association (NSTA) New Science Teacher Academy. While teaching, I worked as a NSTA DOW 2012 Teacher Fellow and continued my informal learning through monthly web seminars, research projects, and daily contact with a science mentor. From my work with the New Science Teacher Academy, I am promoting more inquiry learning in my instruction and improving the quality of my science teaching in the classroom. This spring I will attend the NSTA San Antonio Conference with other teacher fellows, and I cannot wait!