To teach (science) is to become. To be a (science) teacher is to become in and with the world. From this perspective I approach the role of being a (science) teacher from two broad perspectives: one bound by fixed conventional descriptions of a K-12 classroom and the other as multidimensional, individual, constantly in flux navigating dynamic lived experiences. These two points of view position my philosophy of teaching as a multiplicity; that is, to be (and teach) as both/and. Teaching is a negotiated act and becoming-teacher a negotiated identity. For example, the ways individuals make meaning in the world is (and will always) be implicated within a social, cultural, political, and historical context. Consequently, for me, teaching is more than merely a professional endeavor, but one of ethics.
For both K-12 students and teachers, I begin from the assumption that all individuals are already full of knowledge and lived experience. Whether it is a 5 year-old child or a 60 year-old adult with several years of formal teaching experience, I view each individual as the starting place for my instruction. I do not aim to “fill up” individuals. Instead, I consider the experiences individuals inherently bring with them into any space as the starting point for learning and thinking anew together. Teachers and teacher educators must foster a community where science and one’s teaching practice can be critically (re)negotiated, (re)examined, and (re)imagined. To do this I often draw on structured protocols that provide a safe and community-based environment where students (at all levels) can reflect deeply on their work, as well as provide helpful peer-to-peer feedback. More broadly, by striving to remove hierarchical structures within classrooms, (science) learning shifts from an exclusive experience to one of inclusivity as it relates to diverse ways of knowing and being.
When teaching in a K-12 classroom or with pre/in-service science teachers, science instruction is most meaningful when it is made relevant to students. Whether it is project-based learning or inquiry-based instruction, science (and being a scientist) can be seen from diverse perspectives. Both of these curricular designs often ground my course framework whether the class is made of fifth grade students or pre-service science teachers. By scaffolding student projects, feedback, and following students’ personal curiosities, science education transforms from a tradition of regurgitation to an exciting process of discovery and critical negotiation. An embedded piece within meaningful science instruction is the ability to afford authentic ways of doing science, that is, in community, as non-linear, tentative, and a social process. Simply put, it is important for science teachers (and students) to get their hands dirty whether it is on a barrier island alongside geologists or in a community garden with local residents. Science is lived in everyday practice.
More broadly, I view all spaces, individuals, and structures as imbued with the ability to teach. Each discrete moment, programmatic structure, or expectation (formal and informal; explicit and implicit) shape the ways all humans view themselves, ideas, and others. From the organizational features of a laboratory investigation in an elementary science classroom or a decision to recognize all individuals as always already “scientists,” each instance is an educative experience. For this reason I tend to challenge conventional educational experiences and strive to integrate innovative ways for students to become active participants rather than passive recipients. Moving beyond traditional assessments (e.g. multiple choice tests) allows me to support more holistic student-driven projects and assessments (e.g. student/teacher co-designed assignment rubrics) that foster student voice and choice.
Science teaching and becoming-science teacher is anything but practical. It is defined by deeply interconnected relationships with society, scientific knowledge and practices, and the nature of American schooling. With this in mind, teaching must do more than merely deliver information. Teaching must be an engagement that motivates individuals to move and think anew.