November 2017 | Editorial
Lone Ranger, No More!
By Jenny Bishoff
As chemistry teachers, we have a lot of company, considering that there are over 40,000 of us in the United States alone! However, I’m disappointed to say that for the first eight years of my career, I “did chemistry” alone. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have kind and helpful teachers around me, but the vast majority of them didn’t teach science, let alone chemistry.
Enter AACT. Since this organization’s infancy, I’m proud to say I’ve been involved and have grown as a teacher and as a professional by leaps and bounds.
“No way! I’m NEVER going to be a teacher!” Quite a few of us said this in our undergraduate days as visions of research, medical school, or other chemistry pursuits filled our young minds. For me, I was going to be a marine chemist, so I attended a university near the beach and began my graduate work. I had wonderful professors and opportunities, but the research part of the experience wasn’t what I envisioned. I missed talking and connecting about chemistry with other people, and I missed helping people understand something new. If anyone has ever done research, you know these kinds of moments can be few and far between!
However, I still had to pay for college, so I began working as a teaching assistant. That sealed the deal for me, and after graduating with my master’s in chemistry, I knew where I wanted to be.
My state allowed me to proceed with alternative certification due to the demand for science teachers, and I quickly finished the coursework and spent a year teaching every single science in a small school. Clearly, I was on my own! Shortly thereafter, I received my certificate and taught chemistry for ten years in the same school I had attended, but I was still the only chemistry teacher.
During the last three years, I was finally joined by another teacher of chemistry, and working together to improve our lessons and create new experiences for our students was a wonderful time of learning for me. It was also during these last years of teaching that AACT took off. At that time, I was working on a task force with ACS to update lab safety guidelines for secondary schools, and personally, I was working on cleaning out my store room. Somehow, the two intersected, and I presented two webinars for AACT — the first on teaching lab safety and the second on a four-part plan to clean up your lab, which was based on an article I had written in an article I had written in an article I had written in Chemistry Solutions.
Last year, I left high school chemistry to teach at the college level. I am now a coordinator of a Masters of Arts in Teaching program that takes candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a specific subject area (like chemistry) and provides all of their education coursework and internship hours so that they can become certified in one year. It’s an interesting shift to go from student, to teacher, to teacher of teachers. My perspective is very different now that I need to decide what new teachers should know, and I’ve been extremely grateful for the support of AACT and its members to help guide my understanding.
Getting Involved with AACT
I was appointed to the AACT Governing Board by the ACS Society Committee on Education (SOCED), and am so grateful to have this opportunity. Colleagues, please know that there is a team of people at AACT working hard on your behalf to bring you an organization that educates and supports all of us.
But we need your help. Could you offer a webinar, lab activity, or lesson plan? Even if it’s not perfected, share it with your fellow educators! Do you have a question or just want to connect with other teachers of chemistry? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there aren’t many opportunities to discuss best practices in teaching chemistry at the grocery store … so join us!
Let me be completely transparent here: I NEVER felt “qualified” to get involved. Nor did I feel I knew enough, had enough experience, or quite frankly, had anything to say. Does any of that ring a bell for you? If it does, I encourage you to ignore the voice in your head that says such things — because it’s lying to you! If you teach chemistry, WE NEED YOU! Only when we combine all of our perspectives and ideas can we create a rich, inclusive community that will ultimately help our students flourish.
In this Issue
Chemistry Solutions is a great place to learn from other teachers. This issue contains multiple ideas you may consider incorporating into your classroom:
- Does having students classify chemical and physical changes early in the school year actually make sense? Kaleb Underwood presents an argument for eliminating or delaying the practice based on students understanding of the particulate nature of matter.
- Anita Tseng’s article can help you think about cultivating scientific literacy in your students in an era of information overload, controversy, and conflicting arguments on social media.
- If you need to integrate NGSS and STEM in your chemistry classroom, Stacey Balbach proposes a process for doing so.
- Mary Sande emphasizes the importance of teaching students about particulate representations of matter and an activity that shows how to do so when teaching Molarity.
- Finally, Roxanne P. Spencer offer tips on teaching students how to find and evaluate chemical information and a sample activity for doing so.
If you would like to share ideas from your classroom with other teachers of chemistry, visit our authors page to learn more about Chemistry Solutions. Or, consider leading a webinar, or running for an elected position the AACT Governing Board. Whatever you do, don’t be a lone ranger. We need teachers like you!