My training in college was first in science and second in teaching. Teaching middle school science has given me the opportunity to combine both of my passions. Through a blend of hands-on labs, activities, music, games, and cooking, I have developed my own unique style of teaching the MEGOSE objectives for science.
I share this with you because it is part of the pleasure I receive from teaching science. While I know there is no "test" to tell if one is a good teacher, comments and return visits from former students, and yes, even standardized tests scores tell me that I am teaching what the students need. I don't agree with the MEAP test or some of the placement of the science concepts, but teaching and sharing my enthusiasm for science is what I enjoy. It has been that way for nearly ten years, until now.
Last year our students scored very low on the Science MEAP test. The reason why is simple, and I am sure it is something happening in other buildings. Teachers are not qualified to teach science and teachers are not teaching the objectives. We have staff in our building with reading degrees teaching science. We have staff who go from cover to cover using a science book that is almost 15 years old. Reading and worksheets are the stable in some of the science rooms. How interesting can that be from day to day? I am not judging the teaching style of teachers. Everyone learns a different way. What I am frustrated about is that the objective the students need to learn to play and win at this game called MEAP are not being taught. There are also other variables, such as socio-economics, that come into play. The one factor we can control, which is teaching the objectives, is not done.
During the summer my frustration and disappointment drove me to the very top of the district food chain. Just as the Lorax went to the Once-ler to speak for the trees, I went to speak for my students. Leaving that sunny summer day, I had a feeling that maybe sticking my neck out was a step in the right direction and hopefully it would promote the change I hoped for. Change did occur, but not what needed to be done. A few weeks into the school year, myself and the other teachers teaching eighth grade science were asked to redo the prior year of science, since our scope and sequence is set up for that grade to contain the bulk of the MEAP. My heart dropped. I had units to teach that the students never had. After explaining this information, a compromise was reached. We would teach the units not covered and starting in the beginning of November, we were to start MEAP review.
This meant covering 13 units in a few months time with all the disruption of holidays and other middle school events. Currently, I spend hours literally cramming information in their heads, some of which they have just heard for the first time. There is no time for labs, activities, etc. Please don't forget the endless practice tests. Is that how someone learns and enjoys science? Both the students and myself are, needless to say, unhappy. There are many days where I have wondered if what I am doing has any point or meaning. To pass a stupid test? It is hard to contain my dislike for the MEAP test and what it has forced us to do. I even question whether I am more of a good science teacher or a good employee of this district. I know from experience and research that what we are doing results in very little improvement. The stress of doing what I know does not work or enjoy has even created medical problems for me. Is the MEAP test really worth all this effort and aggravation? Not to mention the fact that the reason I teach and why students come to learn science is gone. So "unless" something changes, I will continue to question myself if being asked to teach science in this manner is something I still want to do.
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