PDK Emerging Leader Natalie A. Morales, combines high standards and students’ native curiosity in one of the most important challenges in American education these days — getting and keeping kids interested in science.
It’s the consensus opinion — almost received wisdom — that the prospects of so many students along with prospects of this nation lie in getting more students interested in and proficient at science. What’s the trick?
The key to increasing student interest in science is to point out and emphasize that science is happening all around us by using everyday scientific occurrences that are familiar to students. This makes science real and tangible as opposed to abstract and difficult by activating their prior knowledge and, more important, it piques their curiosity, allowing for wonderment that can lead to them posing questions, thus engaging them in using the scientific method to seek an answer.
Also, a science teacher must exude a passion and a love for science. This passion transfixes the students and draws them into science. It is also important to note the marvels and wonders of the scientific world. All of these things can pique student interest in creating their own potential passion and proclivity to science.
Currently, you’re working on your doctoral dissertation, focusing on student and teacher perceptions of academic achievement and underachievement. What are the biggest misconceptions of those issues from those groups?
The biggest misconception facing each group is who is to blame for high school students’ academic achievement and underachievement. Teachers tend to blame student choices and actions. They also believe students will blame them and their teaching. Students’ awareness of the causes for their academic achievement and underachievement is often underestimated.
The reality is that academic achievement is not black and white but complex and multifaceted. There are many internal and external factors that affect a student’s ability to achieve or not. Family dynamics, neighborhood/community dynamics, society’s view on education, the school, teachers, peers, and the individual student all impact achievement. True resolution must address these multiple areas.
You’ve spent a while working in one way or another on the teachers’ side of collective bargaining and contract maintenance. Is there a middle way to enhance these relationships and thus student learning?
The best way to enhance these relationships is for both parties to acknowledge that negotiations are going to be grounded in the belief that all decisions made involving both parties will be in the best interest of students. This must be the guiding principle for all negotiations and district decisions. All parties must negotiate in good faith, leaving all egos and pride behind so student needs can be properly met and served by all parties involved in negotiations. It is also important to remember that when negotiating, neither side should approach the situation with demands; rather, they should be ready and willing to discuss the roles each party plays in educating our children and how best they can serve their student population.
The face of education is changing and so must the old ways of collective bargaining. Past collective bargaining practices have laid down the foundations for current and successful collective bargaining. We must now build upon that foundation to face the challenges and changes occurring to the field and profession of education so we can meet children and their academic, social, and developmental needs and allow them to become successful and productive citizens of society.
What are you going to do this summer to get charged up again for the fall and school?
I am going to take the time to do me. I have spent the last year dedicating my life to my teaching and my dissertation. I am TIRED and overworked! I want to be able to dedicate my time to me, my wants, and whims. I plan on establishing a daily workout routine that includes going on daily jogs/walks, lifting weights, and doing yoga. My workouts will be followed up by afternoons seated at the pool reading a book for pleasure as opposed to an article for citation in my dissertation. My evenings will be spent making meals from the numerous recipes and books I have in my kitchen. But I will also work on creating reading comprehension questions from various scientific articles that will be integrated within all of my classes. My students must be able to transfer and apply the knowledge learned in the classroom to all aspects of their lives.