Grammar. I loathe grammar. When I was a child, my sister would follow me around and constantly be ready to leap at every little thing I would say incorrectly. Oh, she just loved to correct my grammar, and quite honestly, I was horrible at it. I had no clue because, frankly, it bored me.
I was “lucky” enough to have one of those English teachers who didn’t really teach much. We were pretty much handed a textbook and told to complete the exercises in it. At the time, even in high school, I couldn’t tell you what a verb was, let alone the difference between a helping verb, a linking verb, and an action verb.
So, I guess you can imagine that when it came time for me to teach little ones in the classroom parts of speech, I was extremely nervous. I could only imagine all these little children correcting my grammar and writing. That would not be good. (And honestly, I’m still nervous when I blog because it’s still not my strong area!)
Over the years I have learned that people tend to lean more one way or the other. Some people are more English and not “science/math” and vice versa. There are some rarities, of course, but that is typically what I have found. Of course, anyone can become good in both – and that is what this blog post is about: how to feel confident in teaching a subject, such as science, when it’s not your “strong area.”
As I write I’m going to reference the subject of science because I have found over the years that a lot of teachers feel uncomfortable teaching science for a variety of reasons. Some feel that way because they have limited background knowledge in the subject, while others feel they had a lack of preparation in college. Unfortunately, with all the focus being mostly on reading and mathematics, that is understandable. Either way, if you are confident in science and are thinking of another subject area, the concepts would still apply. Just simply substitute the word “science” for your subject area.
Ideas to Feel Confident Teaching Science
When I first began teaching, I knew I was going to have to teach grammar at some point. It was inevitable, and whether I liked it or not, I couldn’t just avoid it. (The next year’s teacher would not have liked that!) So, the first thing I did was sit down and look at my standards to make a list of what I needed to know to teach my students that year.
Next, I began collecting a wealth of resources related to those standards. I collaborated with other teachers on my level and nearby. Some were hands-on activities, some were activities that I bought at the teacher store, and some I found online. The point was, I wanted to start getting materials ahead of time before I started teaching it so I could look them over and become familiar with it. I sometimes found that if I looked at the answer keys, I could figure things out. Sometimes in teacher booklets there was “background information” to help explain it. I would sometimes read the explanations in the teacher manuals and students textbooks.
Teachers Pay Teachers is another great resource, as I create many science products (and other subjects!). I create full units that are planned out for you with detailed lesson plans that include both reading activities and hands-on science experiments. If you have very little time, I have smaller activities, such as craftivities and tabbed booklets, that still allow for some reading and doing! You can check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store here to see what I have to offer. Read my feedback and see that I offer fabulous materials that are sure to help you out (and save you time and money!).
I’m going to tell you a little secret… Even though I majored in science, and I LOVE science, I’m not super hot in all sciences. For instance, I was attending Michigan State full time one semester while I was pregnant with my son (who is now 15). During that semester, to make things a bit easier on me and my pregnancy, I decided to take physics online. BIG MISTAKE! The only thing I learned in that class was that I can’t take classes online. I am one of those students that absolutely MUST be in the classroom to ask questions and experience the hands-on activities. The simulations on the computer were not enough for me. I really didn’t learn a lot about physics in that class, and honestly it was my lowest grade (and only one below a B my entire college career!). To this day physics is my weakest science, all because I took it online. I believe if I had taken it in the classroom, it’d be different. So, now when I have to teach physics-like sciences, I first have to “research” and learn. How do I do that? I gather resources. I go to the public library and read children’s books (because they break it down in a way that is easy to understand). I ask questions like a scientist does and mess around with experiments. I watch YouTube videos to understand.
Another option is to attend conferences in your local area put on by SDE or other associations. Sometimes your local intermediate school district or local colleges/universities will have workshops. These are great opportunities to not only learn up-to-date information but also to gather great resources and hands-on materials. Don’t be afraid to watch other teachers, listen in on how they teach things, and ask questions.
One thing that I like to do, even as an experienced teacher, is observe other teachers teach. I love to move from classroom to classroom observing other teachers in other grade levels in my building. This is a great opportunity to see how they teach the subject and to ask questions. And, you can secretly be a student learning. I won’t tell anyone. 🙂
Consider subscribing to local periodicals, journals, or magazines related to your topic or subject. For instance, in science, you can subscribe to the NSTA publications, Science and Children, Science Scope, or Science Teacher. They present lots of great up-to-date information.
This is dependent on the subject, as I’m not sure how I would have done inquiry in grammar, but in science, this is definite. Guide students to ask questions, and then research it together. It’s a win-win. You are learning as they are learning; it’s authentic!
I am never afraid to admit to my students that I don’t know something or that I don’t have all the answers. I never want my students to grow up thinking that all adults know everything or that someday they will have all the answers, too. That’s just not how it works. I want them to understand that we may not know the answer, but HOW we find it is what is important, especially in this digital age. (And sometimes when I even know the answer, I’d pretend I didn’t!)
Just Try It
Finally, just try it! Don’t be afraid to let anything hold you back. The only way to get better is to practice. The only way to feel confident is to take that risk and get moving! You can do it, and before you know it, you’ll be an expert at it, too! (Like I am at grammar now! Haha!)