Sunday, November 20, 2016

Knowing your weakness can be your strength



Exploring the concept of repelation and attraction

I have never been very good at Science.  As a Dual Immersion fourth grade teacher I have relied on my strengths of languages and language arts to make lessons fun and rewarding for students.  I teach Science, but I teach it from the point of view of a language teacher in that I encourage a lot of vocabulary, grammar, and reading and writing.  Now that the Next Generation Science Standards need to be included in my teaching repetoir I realize that I have some learning to do.  (Growth Mindset is not only for students!)

I just finished up a unit on electricity for fourth grade.  Like every year, I taught students the vocabulary needed to access the concepts I needed to teach.  I taught about static electricity, protons, electrons, and neutrons and how to construct a series and parallel circuit, all the while focusing on using complete sentences and verb tense correctly.  It has always been a good unit for the students but I knew that this year I wanted to take it a step further, I just had to figure out how.

So I went to work to study electricity and its components further.  I checked out books on it from the library and researched it on the internet.  I know that a person gets shocked from a transfer of electrons, but how does that happen?  Why does it happen?  I read about it but it just doens't sink in.  Even though I have taught my students what the fourth grade Science text tells me, I still don't understand it, and if I don't get it, they won't get it.  That's definite.

So this is where I realize my weakness.  I completely subscribe to the Growth Mindset, but I'm still not getting it...YET.  Maybe next year will be the year that it finally sinks in.   But for now, I need to take care of my current students, and how do I do that when I only have a basic working knowledge of this subject?

The solution is brilliant.  We have a community college within a 10 minute walk from our school site.  I contacted the Dean of Science who put me in contact with the most brilliant and generous professor,  Ms. Ana.  She invited us to her classroom to participate in a real college level Science lesson.  My students felt so special and thus, particularly motivated to learn.  Above is a picture of us walking to Ms. Ana's classroom.

Ms. Ana had so many Science realia, tools, and manipulatives.  It was wonderful to see my 2nd language learners seeing, touching,  and hearing all the concepts we had learned about from lessons in the book.  This field trip to the college had brought all the lessons to life.  The students experienced electricity and all of its components in a real world situation.  They constructed and connected series and parallel circuits, they themselves became conductors and demonstrated how electricity moves, they created situations that demonstrated the laws of attraction and repelation.

Now, even though I still don't understand how electricity works...YET... many of my students do.  They understand because I knew my weakness well enough to search for help from the experts at the Community College.  That is why I say that knowing your weakness can be your strength because my students got the best education possible all because I knew to seek help. 

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