The landscape of education is constantly shifting. That’s always been true, because the world is constantly changing. But at no time in recent memory has the landscape of education been forced to change in as many ways as it has over the past few years.
How can teachers navigate the seismic changes in the education system in their day-to-day lives?
In this recent episode of Science Connections: The Podcast, host Eric Cross talks about managing educational change with veteran educator and former Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Middle School Science Teacher of the Year Marilyn Dieppa.
Below, we’ve outlined four tips for weathering shifts. The bottom line? It’s important for teachers to be able to change with the times, while remaining a steady, solid presence for students.
1. Embrace change—it’s good for kids, too.
“I always change my labs. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over again,” says Dieppa. And when she tries something new, she tells her students she’s experimenting. (After all, it’s science!)
“They’re afraid of trying something new and failing,” Dieppa says—so she tries to model taking on the unknown, learning, and adjusting as needed. This is part of cultivating a growth mindset for kids. “It’s for them not to be fearful. That gives kids a foundation they need.”
2. Have an open-door policy.
The pandemic has exacerbated challenges in kids’ lives that can make it tough for them to learn. Some even say we’re in a youth mental health crisis. Now more than ever, it’s important that “you become more than just a science teacher,” says Cross. “You’re a mentor. You’re an encourager. Sometimes you’re a counselor.”
It’s impossible to be everything to every student, but it’s important to let them know you see them.
“I always say, I’m not there to really be your friend, but I’m there to help you,’” says Dieppa. “And you gotta tell ’em, you know, ‘if you need to talk, come talk to me’. Because so much of what we’re doing is like life coaching in addition, and that connects to their success in the classroom.”
3. Measure wins in lots of ways.
What keeps Dieppa going? “Whether [students] have struggled all year and they’ve had that one piece of success, or they come back and tell you they didn’t realize what they got out of middle school science until they got to high school, those are my moments of success.”
4. Remember—you’re still learning, too.
Yes, you’re the teacher, but “you don’t have to be the expert in everything,” says Cross. “Teachers tend to be more risk-taking and innovative when they’re willing to say, ‘I don’t have to know everything in order to do something.’”
Whenever it feels like you can’t do something or don’t know something, remember: You can’t do it yet. You don’t know it yet. Growth mindset phrases for students apply to your growth, too.
About Amplify’s Science Connections: The Podcast
Science is changing before our eyes, now more than ever. So how do we help kids figure that out? How are we preparing students to be the next generation of 21st-century scientists?
Join host Eric Cross as he sits down with educators, scientists, and knowledge experts to discuss how we can best support students in science classrooms. Listen to hear how you can inspire kids across the country to love learning science, and bring that magic into your classroom for your students.