May 2018 | Editorial
Refresh and Refocus through Reflection
By Jenelle Ball
In the September Issue of Chemistry Solutions, I had an opportunity to share my mantra Lift as You Climb. Throughout the school year, each of you has lifted your students every day. Perhaps you lifted them to deeper levels of understanding, greater questioning power, more sophisticated relationships between the classroom and the world they live in, or a deeper confidence in their ability to learn.
Through the year, you have also lifted yourself and your colleagues through your relationship with AACT, benefiting yourself and your teaching community. You have engaged with us by using the resources from this website in your classrooms, sharing your questions and ideas on the Discussion Board, submitting articles and lessons, hosting and attending webinars, volunteering to be a Regional Representative or a member of a committee, or running for Governing Board positions. Thank you for your valuable contributions.
Dedicated time for reflection
As we enter into the hectic final weeks of the school year, we also enter into a time of reflection. When that last day of school arrives, you will finally have the time to actually sit at your desk, embrace the opportunity to pause on the climb, and reflect on the journey. This is a great thing that teaching offers. We have a dedicated time to refresh and refocus in order to improve the climb that we offer our students.
At the beginning of this year, I made a big change in my course sequence by teaching about gases earlier in the year than I had previously. This was inspired by an article from W. Patrick Cunningham. As a result, my students have been much better at creating particulate diagrams and at articulating the molecular level explanation of phenomena. Another unanticipated yet welcomed benefit has been their increased understanding and use of the mole unit in comparison to past years.
In addition to this new sequencing, I also had a positive
and unexpected result from using the activity,
Calculating Your Carbon Footprint. The interest in climate change and rare metals
sparked an enthusiasm for
articles about how cell phones work, where their component materials come from,
and how things are recycled. Similarly, Steve Sogo’s lab,
Less Than Zero,
helped me to see how I might incorporate more engineering practices into my future
This year there has been a significant increase in the number of published AP resources for teachers, which has been fantastic. I used one day of the lesson plan, Discovering Equilibrium in my classroom, and it benefited my students by setting the foundation for the equilibrium unit. Paul Price’s AP Chemistry Webinar, Helping Students Show What They Know, as well as Adrian Dingle’s Webinar, AP Chemistry – A Review Plan, have not only aided me in planning the end of my year but have also made me think about how I structure my entire AP year. Delving into the resources available to AACT members has resulted in my use of new labs and activities, such as Simple Kinetics, Lemon Ice, and Analyzing Mixtures to engage my students in explaining more phenomena. My year has definitely been enriched by the use of AACT resources and listening to the advice of this great community through interaction on our website.
In this school year’s final issue of Chemistry Solutions, more great teachers have shared about their teaching practices, and I’m excited to consider implementing their ideas in my classroom. As the year comes to a close, these refreshing perspectives may help rejuvenate your teaching toolbox for years to come:
- Martin Palermo shares valuable insights for evaluating and transforming your modeling activities based on learning progressions.
- If you’re an AP teacher, like me, you may be interested in challenging your students with a focus on computational chemistry during your remaining class time after the AP exam.
- Two Tech Tips articles share valuable ideas for managing chemistry lab work. These include the implementation and use of electronic lab notebooks, as well as using Moodle, a tool to help with the assessment of student lab work.
- Elizabeth Stewart-Miranda shares valuable strategies for best practices when teaching students who are considered as part of the specialized population.
- An elementary science teacher embraces her inner chemist, and emphasizes the value of connecting with several enthusiastic mentors during her teaching career.
In addition to taking time to reflect on my classroom and the impact of AACT, this is also a time to reflect on the growth of our organization. Notably, AACT has grown to a membership of 5,000. While most members are K-12 teachers, the number of preservice teachers is substantial and an important group to support. The two newly-established committees (Member Services and Nominations & Awards) have been very productive. As a result of their work, three outstanding teachers and active members were recognized as AACT Teachers of the Year: Kristen Drury for High School, Laura Celik for Middle School, and Rebecca Field for Elementary School.
In an effort to promote outreach, the Regional
Representatives increased from 10 participants to 20 this year. An extensive
survey of the membership was initiated in order to determine the types and
content of professional development that members would like to see offered in
If you have not completed the survey, please take a few minutes to do so. The voice of every member is important. As a result of member requests, the student video pass is now available on the website, enabling students to independently watch videos on the AACT website. Excitingly, AACT has been represented at major conferences this year as well. At the recent ACS national meeting in New Orleans, President-Elect Sherri Rukes organized two symposiums for teachers and highlighted AACT in both. As an organization, AACT is on a positive track to continue the mission of helping to support teachers of chemistry by establishing a community based on networking, professional development, and shared resources.
A focus on the future
The result of reflection is ultimately to refocus. This refocus brings us back to making plans to improve our future teaching through participation in AACT. Now we have a chance to make those changes in our curriculum and to implement the suggestions and ideas we’ve learned about. So why not take the time to watch an archived webinar that you weren’t able to attend because of a faculty meeting, or check out resources that aren’t in your grade band but could add value to your teaching? For example, I found the activity, Augmented Reality and the Atomic Model in the middle school library, but it provides a great foundation for including trigger images and imbedded video in a report or poster at any grade level. Re-read some of the valuable articles from this year’s volume of Chemistry Solutions that you may have intended to read during the school year. Refocus with a refreshed mindset!
Refocusing from a reflection also brings about a gratitude for the people and events of the past. For the past three years, Scott Hawkins has served AACT through the presidential succession. The success of AACT is a part of Scott’s successful effort to help this new organization thrive. I want to thank Scott for all of his work to create opportunities for teachers through AACT. All of the members of the past Governing Board also have made valuable contributions to our future focus. The upcoming year for AACT is sure to be one of positive impact under the leadership of President Sherri Rukes. Sherri’s long-standing emphasis on outreach, and her extensive experience in organizations such as the ACS and NSTA, give her the unique ability to lift this organization as we climb.
The new members of the Governing Board will meet this summer in Washington, DC to plan a year of events in an effort to continue to improve AACT and benefit its valued members. It is with great excitement that I congratulate newly-elected representatives of the Governing Board, including President-Elect Heather Weck, High School Ambassador Scott Hawkins, Middle School Ambassador Laura Celik, and Elementary School Ambassador Barbara Suszynski.
The summer also brings several exciting events and
opportunities for teachers of chemistry to refresh and refocus. AACT will exhibit
and host several workshops at both the
NSTA STEM Forum in
Philadelphia, July 11–13 and the
Biennial Conference on Chemical Education at the University of Notre Dame, July 29–August
2. We hope to see you there!
It has been a great honor to serve as president of AACT during the 2017–2018 school year. I have learned so much from the amazing teachers whose valuable work has been shared through AACT. I thank each of you for giving your voice to our community, and I encourage you to continue to contribute in the future. Your valuable input has given us even more reason to pause, reflect, and refocus.
President, AACT Governing Board