What could be so hard about it? Besides the lesson planning, difficult micro-level concepts, keeping the curiosity alive in the classroom, and helping students succeed on standardized tests.
Oh, and let’s not forget keeping up with the constantly changing, constantly evolving nature of science.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of teaching a subject like science is that it is not concrete. I may have learned organic chemistry for the first time in college, but the high schoolers I’m teaching in field right now just finished their unit on C-H based molecules, something I had never even heard of until sophomore year at Miami. Why are students learning these things so early? Because the nature of chemistry is changing, and what we expect students to know is constantly increasing.
This is the challenge with science teaching–not only do you have to be proficient in your subject area, but you have to remain proficient in your subject area. You have to be constantly learning and growing as much as your students are. You have to keep up with the changing times.
This in and of itself has some implications.
1. No more teaching out of the textbook.
That 29 year old photo of Ronald Reagan to show a “real-life celebrity” with Alzheimer’s in your cell bio class? Not gonna cut it. Textbooks can be used, but teaching straight out of a text that is outdated as fast as driving a brand-new car off the lot isn’t going to help anyone. This means you have to put in work and find the newest research and examples to teach your students.
2. You’ve gotta hit the books.
Oh, so new technology shows the ever-increasing prevalence of climate change? And we have to actually teach this stuff now? Welcome to the challenge of keeping yourself up to date–knowing the newest information, the facts, is essential for teaching your students what they need to know.
— News from Science (@NewsfromScience) December 21, 2017
3. Students will ask questions you won’t know the answers to. In fact, students may know things you don’t.
That’s right, get off your high horse. You may be the teacher, but students often know more than you think–especially in science. You have a kid who LOVES the anatomy of the human body (something you don’t LOVE as much) and they tell you about new advancement in research to help heal human organs? As science teachers, we have to admit we don’t know everything. We have to learn from our students as much as we teach them.
4. Keeping students engaged is tricky with hard to grasp concepts.
Students have learned their whole lives to believe what they see, and all of the sudden you’re telling them that the water on their desk is actually made up of molecules that share these “polar bonds”? Many kids will have a hard time keeping up with these micro-level concepts, and this will take some work on your hands to make sure you’re making material as engaging and understandable as possible.
All in all, being a science teacher is tough, but we picked this career for a reason. The rewards are well worth it if you’re willing to put the time in and teach the way students deserve.
Can you keep up?