September 2019 | Editorial
By Heather Weck
Fresh start. Clean slate. Sharp, unbroken pencils. Fully-charged batteries. One of my favorite parts of teaching is getting a fresh start each year. I thrive off the anticipation and puppy-like energy a new year brings. The year can be whatever you make it. You and your learners get to decide! Will it be a year to focus on scientific literacy? Experiment with flipping the classroom? Infuse brain-research-based strategies in your teaching?
In this issue of Chemistry Solutions, one teacher shares about the value of incorporating Earth Science topics into chemistry lessons in the first article of an ongoing series. Even if administration guides your curriculum and teaching practices, you can still squeeze in a few experimental strategies. For example, the Challenge Cycle is a concept that is easily incorporated into current lessons. If you are fortunate enough to have a hand in curriculum development, take a look at Systems Thinking, which uses concept and science literacy maps.
As you welcome your students to a new school year, let me welcome you to a new year with AACT. I am excited to serve as your president for the 2019-2020 school year. I must first thank my mentor, Sherri Rukes, who served as President last year. Sherri’s get-it-done attitude, graciousness, and splash-of-red style served AACT well during her presidency (and beyond). Thank you!
I am excited for the future of AACT. Just as we teachers like to begin the school year with a focused plan and specific goals, so does AACT. This summer, the governing board participated in a strategic planning retreat. Board members and staff worked together to develop a mission, vision, and goals that will guide the organization over the next 3-5 years. A sampling of our work includes increasing networking opportunities and K-8 membership engagement. Stay tuned this fall for more details.
AACT is continually looking at its offerings with fresh eyes, and updating them accordingly. For example, our Advanced Placement resources received an upgrade to align with the newly-released Course and Exam Description from the College Board. As I proclaim “strive for 5s” to my newest group of AP kids, I don’t even want them to be aware of the shift from Big Ideas to Unit Guides. They don’t need to know about the way it used to be; they only need to know the present objectives. Luckily, AACT got a head start. A top priority in the chemistry classroom is safety, so be sure to check out the new ACS lab safety videos that have been made available in the Multimedia section of the AACT website. I am excited to use the ones on Safety Mindset and Safety Data Sheets during the first week of school. The videos will hold my students’ attention on this essential topic.
AACT has so many valuable teaching resources to offer — webinars, lessons, videos, simulations, animations and a discussion board, to name just a few. Let me personally absolve you from exploring it all right now. It’s important not to let “fresh” morph into “overwhelming.” With AACT’s recent establishment as a permanent program of ACS, I can promise you that AACT will be here in the future, awaiting further exploration.
On a slightly different topic, I have a background in food science, where the loss of freshness is known as staling. How can we as educators prevent staling in our otherwise productive classrooms? The following strategies help me:
- Getting to know my students early helps me tailor routines to each class. For example, a rowdy class is met at the door with a warm-up task: create a skit to summarize yesterday’s lesson on the difference between a mixture and a pure substance. Meanwhile, a class who demonstrates a love of writing is given a writing prompt on the topic. (And yes, I’ve had students ask for more of these!) You can find more ways to develop a strong classroom culture in a newly-published article from the September issue of Chemistry Solutions, Fostering a Community in the Classroom.
- Stay positive! Disorganization, grading backlogs, and administrative mandates will get in the way, but don’t let these things stop you from being your best.
- Work hard, but understand the value of a break. Treat yourself to an easier day with the help of AACT: For example, lessons to accompany ChemMatters articles will be released periodically in September in honor of National Literacy Month. The lessons complement interesting and pertinent articles written for high school students. The hard work of planning for tomorrow’s lesson has been done for you! Now go hang with your family, read a book or practice yoga. Or, just take a moment to be kind to yourself.
I encourage you to take part in what AACT has to offer. If you need help or have questions, please contact me or an AACT staff member (they are the reason I fell in love with this organization!) More exciting content in this issue of Chemistry Solutions includes tips for surviving and thriving in your first years of teaching. Gain insight from past Elementary School Ambassador, Barbara Suszynski, who highlights how elementary teachers who teach chemical concepts are chemistry teachers.
Looking at our content from another angle, are there topics in this issue of Chemistry Solutions that don’t jive with your teaching style or situation? For example, if you teach in a year-round program, does the “fresh start” concept resonate? Please share your perspective by tweeting @AACTconnect. Overall, how can AACT better support the K-12 teachers of chemistry that we strive to serve?
Last but not least, this issue’s In My Element article outlines the successes and challenges endured by Regina Kleiner as part of her second career transition to teaching. More importantly, it reminds us to value the multiple routes to a destination. By learning from each other, our days can be not only fresh, but sweet.
Raise your beakers and clink your flasks to a fabulous beginning, middle, and end of the school year!
President, AACT Governing Board
(article cover) Magura/Bigstockphotos.com