So few teachers who specialize in a discipline ever have the opportunity for professional development that focuses on the content of the discipline. For example, I teach biology and I love biology, but until this fellowship year I haven't had the time, money or opportunity to focus on learning more BIOLOGY. I've been to plenty of conferences and district sessions about how to teach biology, but not had the opportunity to actually focus on advancing my own biological content knowledge. Now don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that my biological knowledge hasn't advanced since I graduated with my biology degree nearlytwenty years ago; far from it. I make a concerted effort to remain up to date in the field. For example, I am a biology news geek, I am sure to take time daily to read the newest articles about advances and discoveries (which I share on Twitter #ibbio and post to my website topic pages).
For me, probably the best part of being an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow is the opportunities I've had to advance my own biological content knowledge and to witness firsthand the scientific process in action. I've previously written about a couple of these opportunities.
This week I was able to attend the Synthetic and Artificial Cells workshop, a gathering of about 25 cell biologists from the USA and Europe who are interested in building an artificial cell or models of cellular processes in order to understand the nature of how cells work and to develop applications such as pharmaceutical drug delivery systems. As the National Science Foundation deputy director for Biological Science said in the introduction to the workshop, "we've spent decades taking cells apart; now we need to determine how to put it all together."
Some big idea questions can be answered by trying to make synthetic cells (or cell processes ex vivo):
Throughout the conference I took lots of notes. I was especially intrigued the some of the conversations that mimic those held in my classroom. Questions such as:
There are two main approaches to creating synthetic cells, the "top down" approach and the "bottom up" approach. Some of the researchers (i.e. Dr. Hutchinson) were focused on one approach while others were focused on the structures and functions of sub-cellular components.
A highlight of the workshop was hearing from Clyde Hutchison, a well known and respected biologist from the J. Craig Venter Institute. Dr. Hutchison discussed his teams progress on creating a minimal bacterial cell which contains only the core machinery for life. Following a "design --> build --> test" model, the team is systematically removing genes from Mycoplasma bacteria and observing the phenotypic effects on the cells ability to sustain life. They started with a bacteria that contained 901 genes (1079 bp) and by "Syn 3.0" have created a living cell that now has 473 genes (531 bp). Fascinatingly, the minimal viable cells contains 65 genes that are essential for life but who's function is unknown! Additionally, the implications of OMNIGENIC was discussed. The idea of omnigenics is that in reality, no single gene has a single function - there is complexity in the interactions of the genes and gene products. Proof that we still have a lot to learn in biology.
Dr. Hutchison was sure to use language to suggest his team had created "A" minimal cell, not "THE" minimal cell. The genome required of a minimal cell will depend on the medium on which the bacteria is growing. In other words, a minimal cell genome size for a bacteria grown in one media will be different than the minimal cell genome size for a bacteria grown in another media. That said, the minimal cell as described by Dr. Hutchison was a big breakthough and will continue to influence the future of the field.
The J. Craig Venter Institute is using a "Top Down" approach to building a minimal cell. All of the other presenters at the workshop were focused on a "Bottom Up" approach in which they were focused on creating synthetic or artificial structures and/or processes of cells.
There were scientists who focused on the INFORMATION aspect of a cell (cell-free transcription and translation) and others focused on the SELF-ORGANIZATION (creating artificial cell membranes).
One thing I learned was about cellular compartmentalization. I had learned, and the IB Biology curriculum suggests, that prokaryote cells aren’t compartmentalized. However, I heard multiple times over the course of this conference about prokaryote compartments (not necessarily membrane bound). For example, one person said “In prokaryotes, the nucleiod is considered a phase separated compartment.” I was curious about phase-separation, so I looked it up and found this great summary.
Throughout the workshop there was a vigorous dialogue between the scientists about the nomenclature around the terms minimum, synthetic and artificial in relation to biology and bio-engineering. It was clear that I was witnessing the birth of a new scientific discipline. I summarized a full page of my take aways from the sessions:
Thanks to the Einstein Fellowship, many of the current Fellows were able to attend the ASCD Empower18! conference in Boston. Having never been either to Boston or to an ASCD conference, I loved the opportunity to learn and see new things!
The ASCD conference is unique because it pulls from a wide variety of education stakeholders. There were district superintendents of major USA urban districts sitting next to kindergarten teachers from rural Canada. Everyone was there to share ideas and learn about how to best serve children, from individualized instruction with kids to whole school and district approaches benefiting the "whole child."
The Einstein Fellowship had a booth in the exhibition hall and presented an "Ignite" style presentation at a showcase event. I happily volunteered my time as a "booth babe," however most of the conference was self directed professional development. Some highlights for me included:
Opening Remarks by Jill Biden
Dr. Jill Biden has dedicated her work to highlighting the importance of education, sacrifices made by military families, and issues surrounding women's health. As second-lady of the United States, she managed all this while continuing to teach as an English professor!
Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom
About 35 years ago, Howard Gardner shook up the education and psychology worlds with his book Frames of Mind, where the multiple intelligences (MI) were described in detail. MI has been criticized and marginalized by traditional psychologists and the education establishment. Despite efforts to discredit it, MI remains one of the most influential educational theories around the world. This session focused on the legacy of MI that has inspired so many to teach for "human potential" and of the benefits of diversifying instruction as a good pedagogy technique. As the session presenter, Thomas Armstrong said, "MI is a hypothesis about how the mind works, not a classroom strategy, however, using MI often results in high quality instruction because students enjoy learning."
Discussing to Learn; Learning to Discuss
This session focused on classroom discussion is both a means and an end to student learning. When students speak, listen, and pose questions, they are able to make connections and clarify understandings—both of which contribute to long-term retention and deepening of knowledge. As they learn these skills, they enhance their ability to engage with others in a respectful and productive manner. The presenters modeled good instructional techniques by having the members of the audience engage in dialogue and active, hands-on learning as we explored strategies for use in scaffolding active and respectful listening, thoughtful speaking, and purposeful questioning; honoring norms that contribute to a culture supporting open and respectful dialogue; and approaches for partnering with students to create new roles and responsibilities.
What We Say (and How We Say it) Influences Student Learning
Teacher words and tone matter. Have you ever said to a student, "I love the way you're working so hard!"? How about, "Here are the three things I'll be looking for in this next piece of work."? Or perhaps you've said, "If you all work really hard for the next 30 minutes, we'll finish class with something fun!" You probably have—we all have. Even though these statements (among many others) are used with the best of intentions, they might actually lead students to disengage and learn less! In this session, I learned about several common language habits and patterns that many educators find themselves in and had a chance to explore better alternatives. More information can be found here.
The Power of the Adolescent Brain
Of all the sessions I attended, this was probably my favorite because it occurred at a time when adolescents were taking to the street to "March for Our Lives," and serving as the primary drivers of a social movement. To me, such behaviors proves that the adolescent brain is crazy; it's a powerful brain that can be used for a lot of good. I think I most love working with teenagers because they are passionate, committed to causes and idealistic. Also, as a mom of a young adolescent, I appreciated the reminder of the biology occurring within the brain of a person I love like no other. “This is the time when they need the most love, but are often the hardest to love.”
The session started with an inventory for participants to review their own adolescence experience and then share it with a partner. Then, the presenter and author Thomas Armstrong shared eight key neuroscience findings about the adolescent brain which all secondary school educators need to be familiar with and eight "adolescent brain friendly" classroom interventions based on those findings. These interventions included giving teens choices in their learning; providing them with self-awareness activities for their burgeoning identities; creating peer-learning connections; integrating affective learning, expressive arts, and kinesthetic approaches into the curriculum; using metacognitive strategies; and providing real-world experiences to help prepare adolescents to live independently as future adults. Dr. Armstrong also discussed 10 ''adolescent brain hostile'' strategies currently in use by many secondary schools that subvert teenagers' developmental needs. In fact, adolescence might be the time when the brain is most vulnerable to the stress response. As Dr. Armstrong pointed out, "stress does serious damage to their pyche and brain.”
How to REACH Youth Today
Relationships are the foundation upon which all great learning takes place. Manny Scott, original Freedom Writer and founder of Ink International Inc., presented a keynote address exploring how to cultivate healthy relationships with students and all youth so that they can excel in school and come out prepared for work and life. By sharing life-changing lessons he has learned from teachers and loving adults who helped him and from the work he has been doing with kids for the past 18 years, Scott expressed how, together, we can transform our schools into safe, positive environments where all adults are equipped to reach kids and all kids are empowered to reach their destinies. This session was a reminder of the incredible power every adult has to help young people flourish. For me, two take away quotes were:
“If I can help others, than my living is not in vain.”
"Even on your worst day you can still be someone’s best hope.”
It was great to be in Boston with many of the other Einstein Fellows. We got to spend some time together in the city and at the conference. One of the best aspects of this fellowship has been meeting other educators from around the country. I am thankful for them and for the network we have built.
I am serving my year as an Einstein Fellow with in the Office of Science in the Department of Energy. As quoted from the SC website, the Office manages “Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics, and Nuclear Physics." In addition, the Office of Science manages and supports additional programs and activities, including: the Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program (the group in which I am placed), the DOE Small Business Innovation Research Small Business Technology Transfer programs, and the Office of Project Assessment.
The Office of Science is the largest funder of physical science research in the United States. As a biologist who has a comfort level that spans from the atomic to ecosystem levels of organization, the discoveries of the Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics offices actually kind of blow my mind! I've learned a lot, and readily admit that I needed to Google search to help me comprehend some of the terms I've been learning and how they connect to the parts of matter that I recognize! I am definitely thinking of my IB physics teacher friend/colleague and how she would love to know what I am doing right now!
The Office of Science is also the steward of 10 of the 17 DOE laboratories; these 10 laboratories provide essential support to the missions of the Office of Science programs. One of the benefits of being an Einstein Fellow placed in the Office of Science is the ability to visit some of the national laboratories. I have been to Brookhaven National Lab (on Long Island, NY) and will soon be visiting Pacific Northwest National Lab (in Richland, WA). I would like to get to two more labs before my fellowship is complete.
As a high school teacher, I was curious about what skills and attributes they most desire in undergraduate and graduate students applying for internship positions at the lab. The list of descriptors included:
A highlight of my visit to Brookhaven was a visit to their National Synchrotron Light Source-II. The light source generates a intense X-ray, infrared and ultraviolet beams that are able to resolve images down to the nanometer scale. There are currently 19 running beam linesI had a wonderful discussion with one of their staff scientists about how the light source functions and its uses in the materials and biological sciences. As a result of my visit, I have a deepened understanding of the Nature of Science and the magnitude of effort required to learn about things at orders of magnitude beyond the visible.
A synchrotron is a ring of electrons moving very, very fast (near the speed of light). Because of physics that I do not really understand, the circulating electrons emit photons which can be "peeled off" the ring, traveling at a wavelength of interest, into a beam line. Beam lines are the spokes that run tangent to the accelerator ring and contain a slew of impressive instrumentation that can focus the photon onto a sample for imaging.
The NSLS-II currently has 19 functioning beam lines, each of which takes 5-6 years to get running. Because they are such massive investments of time and money there are just four synchrotrons in the USA. The one I visited has the brightest beam in the middle energy range and is primarily used to the study of materials science, such as the live functioning of batteries, semi- and superconductors.
One of the many benefits of being an Einstein Fellow is the opportunity (meaning time and money) to focus on my own learning. In my professional development plan for the year I have included a goal that, “I will strengthen my own scientific content knowledge so that students benefit from an added depth, breadth and interdisciplinary connections.” In alignment with the goal, I attended the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Austin, Texas (14-19 February, 2018). AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society, and publisher of the renowned journal “Science.”
I had never been to Texas and was excited to explore a new place. The timing of conference aligned with a break in Curtis’s work schedule, so we had the added benefit of being able to spend some time together as a family. While I “conferenced” during the day, Curtis and Carrick were able to explore the region around Austin, including going to the Longhorn Cavern State Park (for some cave exploration) and to visit friends and Ferrari’s at the Circuit of the America’s racetrack. Together we were able visit the Waco Mammoth National Monument to learn about the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths, view fossils of the mammoths and other ice age era animals.
The AAAS conference was interesting because the session topics were so varied and interdisciplinary. My schedule was packed full of sessions related to my specific interests in the life sciences, scientific communication and education research.
One of the most interesting sessions I attended related to LIFE SCIENCE was called “Modifying the Microbiome for Life Long Health.” This was a composite session, with multiple scientists presenting on the same theme, the human microbiome. On a cellular level, we are only 43% human. An adult human is estimated to be made of 30 trillion human cells and 39 trillion microbial cells! The federally funded Human Microbiome Project is currently working to get a snapshot of the microbes found in 250 healthy people at three time points, by sequencing the microbial DNA found at five sample locations: mouth, skin, vaginal, gut and fecal. While the results are still preliminary, a few preliminary conclusions have been found:
Also on the LIFE SCIENCE thread was a session I attended about brain plasticity and critical periods of learning. It was incredible to hear of the cutting edge research being done to study critical periods of learning and how to either extend these periods or reopen the window for learning. I learned that the closing of critical period is due to formation of a synaptic net, an extracellular network around dendrites which stabilizes neuronal connections. Plasticity can be restored if the synaptic net is removed, but with the risk of destabilizing neurons. Interestingly, a weaker synaptic net is correlated with symptoms of schizophrenia.
Another session I attended was about, “Applying Conservation Genetics and Genomics to Wildlife and Fisheries Management.” It was super interesting to learn how genomics is being used to save species in zoos and in the wild by providing information about:
As a teacher, I was also interested in attending sessions related to LEARNING RESEARCH and PEDAGOGY. One of the most interesting sessions was about the shift in undergraduate biology courses towards a more active, engaging methodology of instruction. This is a major shift to the inertia of traditional undergraduate teaching, away from “sit and get” type of lectures to more dynamic and effective methods of instruction that utilize group work, case studies, discussion and student accountability. Interestingly, but honestly not surprisingly, is the measurable resistance by students to the new teaching methods. Students want the “lazy” way of doing school, even though they will admit (and data support) that they learn less via the traditional methods.
A crosscutting theme of the conference was the importance and effectiveness of SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION. I attended a session called, “Alternative Facts and Fake News: How to advocate for science when data aren’t enough” with the focus on the need for scientists to communicate more than facts in an era of fake news. I was intrigued that the philosophy of rhetoric, persuasion and communication as originally presented by Aristotle seem to still have relevance today:
After waiting in line for two hours, I was able to get front row seats for the two conference plenary lectures. The first was by Katharine Hayhoe, a professor of political science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She is an atmospheric scientist whose research focuses on developing and applying high-resolution climate projections to understand what climate change means for people and the natural environment. In addition, Katharine was the lead author for the Second and Third U.S. National Climate Assessments, with over 120 peer-reviewed publications that evaluate global climate model performance, develop and compare downscaling approaches, and quantify the impacts of climate change on cities, states, ecosystems, and sectors over the coming century.
Ms. Hayhoe’s talk, called “When Facts are Not Enough,” provided an overview of the very simple, very old and very obvious climate science basics. Her lecture focused on the reasoning why some people who have no ideological problems with the idea of gravity, cells, or photosynthesis appear to have an ideological disregard for the equally supported science of climate change. Her thesis was that climate deniers actually most have a problem with the perceived solutions to mitigating climate change, not wanting the government to tell them what to do.
Fear of solutions > Fear of impact
Ms. Hayhoe’s explained that the primary predictors of climate change denialism are age and political conservationism. However, she went on to argue that it is a false dichotomy that you have to be a democrat to care about the planet. NO. In fact, all major religions have a care for the planet theme. “We care about climate change note because we are democrat or republican, we care because we are HUMAN.”
So, what can scientists and science educators do? Ms. Hayhoe pointed out that arguing facts makes people more entrenched, that more information does not change minds. She argued that presenting only fear and doom and gloom will not sustain long term change, rather that we need HOPE to sustain us towards the future. She encouraged conference attendees to share stories, connect with people where you live, share impact AND solutions and most importantly to share their heart and passion to change the world. “It’s the passion that makes other people care about things.”
The second plenary lecture of the evening was by former US Vice President Joe Biden. Biden led the White House Cancer Moonshot, which resulted in more than 80 new actions and collaborations from the public and private sectors to speed progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care, and worked with Congress to authorize an additional $1.8 billion for investment in cancer research.
Mr. Biden’s presentation was called “Punctuated Equilibrium Meets Cancer: Big Promise Requires Big Change.” Punctuated equilibrium is the idea in biology that (in speciation and evolution) there are long periods of stasis followed by rapid burst of change. He argued that social change follows the same pattern; years of status quo can be interrupted abruptly to create a renewed society. Biden was specifically speaking about cancer research, prevention, treatment and cure, but I couldn’t help but follow the punctuated equilibrium analogy through to other areas of societal and political concern.
The last government/civics class I took was 25 years ago, when I was a senior in high school. I did well in that class and have since tried to be an informed voter (especially around my core issues of concern). However, it's been a long time since I really took any deep dive into federal processes and policy. A benefit of the Einstein Fellowship has been my exposure and learning about the authoring of bills and appropriating of funds by our government representatives. I feel like during this fellowship I've earned a political science degree at a rate analogous to drinking water from a fire hose.
During the September orientation, the Einstein Fellows were indoctrinated to federal education policy through written briefs and presentations (by Washington Partners, LLC) that provided a broad overview of the major pieces of enacted federal education legislation.
Given the renewal dates on these laws and lack of educational policy change looming in the field of view, a major take away for me is that education is not a priority of the federal government. Education was not a major topic of discussion during the 2016 presidential campaign and it continues to be on the back burner of federal policy concerns. Depending on your political leanings, this is either a "good or bad" reality.
The majority of my fellowship experience has NOT been focused on educational policy. However, between January 21 and 23, I was able to attend the ASCD Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy. The goal of the three day institute was to expand the influence and voice of educators in federal legislative process. Honestly, I had to fight an internal fear of coming across as a "creepy lobbyist" because let's face it, in Washington, D.C. advocacy = lobbying. Luckily, the reputation of teachers as good people work care deeply for students and learning is strong. Very, very few people would say, "oh, there's a teacher.... She must be a horrible person." So, that's good!
The stated goals of the sessions were for teachers to:
For me, an issue of interest is the status of Title II funding for teacher professional development. Title II is part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that funds professional development to teachers of every subject as well as all other school staff, such as librarians, counselors, and paraprofessionals. It also recognizes that educators learn best when they can collaborate and immediately apply what they learn by explicitly requiring ongoing job-embedded activities that improve instruction. Title II funding is also used for programs that recruit, train, and retain effective school leaders. Edweek wrote an article summarizing how states are using Title II funds to strengthen the teaching profession.
As I write, the future funding for Title II programs is uncertain. Under normal order, the annual budgeting and funding process for the federal government begins with the president sending his budget request for the next fiscal year to Congress. Next, Congress crafts its own budget resolution and begins the appropriations process to determine funding levels for federal programs. However, our government is currently not operating under normal order! At the time of this conference, the federal government is being funded through a series of short term continuing resolutions. Even though it is already 2018, the 2018 federal budget has not been approved and the president, and the house and senate have very different proposed allotments for appropriating funds. So, Title II's future remains in doubt. The 2018 proposals are a maintenance of $2.1 billion dollars in the senate budget, and $0 dollars (NONE AT ALL, full elimination) in the congress and presidential budgets. I personally would like to see Title II funded.
UPDATE: When the 2018 funding omnibus was signed into law in March (funding the government through September), the education community was pleased to see the majority of the programs at least level funded. Title II was not eliminated. The following lists the recent appropriates for Title II of ESEA (billions):
For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of being an Einstein Fellow has been the opportunity to deepen my own understanding of scientific principles and practices. I have tried to take advantage of any and all opportunities aligned with one of my professional development goals: "As an Einstein Fellow, I will strengthen my own scientific content knowledge so that students benefit from an added depth, breadth and interdisciplinary connections."
Here's a sampling of some of the science learning opportunities I have had the chance to participate in as a Fellow:
National Institutes of Health Systems Biology Symposium
In October I attended the 2017 National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Systems Biology Symposium at the National Institutes of Health. The two-day conference focused on the latest research from five key areas of systems biology: single-cell systems biology, imaging-based systems biology, quantitative proteomics, systems biology of metabolism, and large-scale data integration. It was really incredible to be a fly-on-the-wall in a room full of research biologists as they presented results, questioned each other's methods, established research partnerships and engaged in academic discourse. I was able to learn some new things that I will be able to incorporate directly into my classroom next fall. I took pages and pages of notes!
Georgetown University Mini-Med School
Georgetown University offers a series of courses as "mini-med school." The weekly lectures follow the traditional disciplines that medical students encounter and that span a variety of topics related to biomedical sciences and health. The sessions I went to were:
Amazing Things Panel
Amazing Things is a podcast sponsored by United for Medical Research (UMR), a group of biomedical research advocates including patients, scientists, families, venture capitalists and members of the public. The goal of UMR is to increase dedicated federal funding dollars to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world leader in biomedical research. During a live recording of the Amazing Things podcast, NIH funded scientists shared their research innovations and discoveries. I was able to learn cutting edge applications of the biology I teach to high school students and gain further insight into the nature of the scientific process.
Science on the Sphere
Our cohort of Einstein Fellows had the opportunity to visit the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) "Science on the Sphere." The sphere is illuminated by projectors and is used to visualize 500+ NOAA data sets on a Earth-wide scale. NOAA data is collected from multiple sources, including low Earth orbit satellites, geostationary satellites, and ocean buoy networks. Together, the data allows us to develop understanding and models of Earth's weather, climate and and ocean behavior (including temperature, wave height, turbidity and salinity). Collectively, NOAA collects over 20 terabytes of data everyday, a figure that is incomprehensibly large.
A highlight of the day was hearing from Dr. Walter Smith, a geophysicist with the Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry within the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction. Dr. Smith shared his educational history and how an man without a high school diploma can forge a path culminating in a model that allows prediction of ocean depth using gravitational distortion measurements collected using satellites. I was mesmerized by Dr. Smith's passion for ocean science, mathematics, modeling and science communication.
The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) is a non-governmental organization that is able to pair high school graduate information with college registrar information to track student transition post-secondary and through college completion. They have access to data from 97% of the nation’s post secondary institutions and about 40% of the nation's high school graduates. Such a large data set enables comparison of college progression rates across state lines and dis-aggregation by high school characteristics (i.e. income, minority, locale). The NSC creates an annual Benchmark Report which includes data for:
Last week I attended a session at the US Capitol for a discussion of the Benchmark Report during which the following findings were shared:
Students who graduate from schools that serve low income or high minority populations are less likely to start college in the first fall after high school graduation. Graduates from low income schools had the lowest "first fall" college enrollment rates.
High school graduates in the class of 2010 that attended high poverty/low income schools had the lowest college completion rates. Although slightly more than 50% of kids from high poverty schools begin college immediately after high school graduation, less then 20% of the high school graduates will complete a college degree within six years post graduation. (This is the percent of students who earned a college degree out of ALL students who graduated high school, not just those who graduated and enrolled in college.)
Given the nation's emphasis on STEM education initiatives, the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) tracks college degree completion by STEM major. Across demographics, no more than 16% of high school graduates complete college with a major in a STEM field. Furthermore, students from low income schools who do graduate from college are less likely to earn a degree in a STEM major than other students.
A further breakdown of STEM majors was shared, showing the distribution of fields of study among high school graduates from the class of 2010 who did earn a college degree in a STEM field. Interestingly, I learned that the social sciences (such as political science and sociology) are considered STEM fields. I personally wouldn't have thought so, but the National Science Foundation provides a list of approved STEM fields of study which includes the social sciences and psychology. As can be seen in the distribution of STEM degrees, the majority are in social sciences and psychology followed by biological and agricultural sciences. The least STEM degrees are awarded in Earth, Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences. I can't help but wonder if the structure of our K-12 school systems is a major contributing factors in these results.
"Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher."
It's October, which back at my home school we consider the toughest month of the year. The novelty of the new school year has worn off and the day to day "grind" of teaching is in full effect. There are stacks of student work to assess, engaging lessons to plan, concerned parents to contact, letters of recommendation to write, staff meetings to attend and rooms full of students to teach. The Einstein Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to actually breathe during the month of October and gifted me with the time to reflect on the joys and challenges of teaching.
I've previously written that the public tends to value and support public schools and school teachers are often regarded as some of the most honest and ethical professionals.
I am proud of being a school teacher and hold the work of teachers in very high regard. I agree with Dr. Richard DuFour in the book "In Praise of American Educators" who said, "Teachers need to be frequently recognized, genuinely appreciated, and respected for doing a difficult and complex job well."