Blogging to Get Real!

NSTA SCIENCE TEACHERS2016-04-01 12.22.41

“Get Real!”

What do we mean when we use that phrase?  Say what you really mean?  Focus on things that really matter? Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk?  Blogging offers us a practice, community and format for doing just that as reform-minded science teachers committed to social justice.  Blogging is a space that invites us to connect our personal, more everyday sides of us with our more professional selves.  Blogging connects us to communities that aren’t limited by time or geography.  The audience of blogging holds us accountable to be careful, trustworthy and responsible with what we say.

Participating in the professional practice of Secondary Science Teaching involves what Jim Gee describes as a Big- D, “Discourse”.  Much more than just knowing and being able to do, being a secondary science teacher involves…

… ways of combining & integrating language, actions, interactions, ways of thinking, believing, valuing, using various symbols, tools and objects to enact a particular socially recognizable identity. (Gee, 2001, p.21)

Blogging allows us access to engage in “C”conversations – larger discussions of what Science Education needs to and can be for our students, our communities and us.   I just came across this blog post this morning written about GRS Graduate, Zach White-Stellato (’12) who is teaching in the Bronx.  As you read it, you are encouraged to consider a PARTICULAR kind of science teacher being spotlighted – one that has seen and wants to share the value of “getting real” in the context of classroom science. I personally love the GETTING OUTSIDE focus.

Blogging, like other forms of new media literacies, nurtures relating –  give us places and spaces, motivations as well as people to think with,  to develop our language, actions, ways of thinking, beliefs and values as a particular kind of secondary science teacher as well as to influence others. As we connect our blogs to other people’s writing and thinking, we connect with them as people… building networks that can span institutional, geographic and other kinds of boundaries.   Getting Real! about teaching means taking on core challenges and complexities. “Ms. Frizzle”‘s blog had a readership consisting of a large number of new science teachers, because, in part her posts were catered to them like this one. (Scroll down to “Attention First Year Science Teachers).

Getting Real not only resonates with us as science educators; it draw us in and excite us.

The five new admits to the GRS program this year describe the realness they have experienced as core to their vision for the professional certification they now seek. Before applying to our teacher education program, James created and implemented advocacy programs for spotted turtles, and conducted and presented original research on Northern Leopard Frogs. In his application essay he underscored the interdisciplinarity of authentic scientific study. Kristy underscored the evolutionary nature of learning as she wrote, “Intrigued, I went on to question…” Another core ingredient (both reactant and product) of authentic work Kristy described was fun. Heather’s vision supported Kristy’s commitment to fun. In addition, she described her own real science learning that was embodied and situated in the world, resulting in the production of abstract as data. Heather emphasized that identity as a scientist matters, technology is tightly tied to the science questions we can ask, and real science requires opportunities for failure and the need for flexibility. Michael is drawn to a career in teaching because of its potential to impact people’s lives and transform them for the better. Seeking a sense of fulfillment, Michael has experienced teaching as the most enjoyable part of his week. Patrick believes that the best way to learn is experiential. Having had a rich array of experiences in leading environmental education, Patrick’s essay underscored the range of aspects of authentic science teaching including curriculum design, professional development, involvement of a community of parents, and the marriage of school with out-of-school. Patrick’s essay emphasized the important role of science education to realize social progress. Scientists need to be able to “communicate their knowledge and to organize the public around it.” And finally, Patrick highlighted the ecology of science education that includes interdependence among students, departments, schools, communities and the public.

These five newcomers have expectations of authentic science learning that is interdisciplinary, emergent, fun, experiential and participatory; it is situated in our world and connected to the community. The applicants see nurturing authentic science learning as part of the varied aspects of the job of secondary science teaching: curriculum design, pedagogy, professional development, and family and community involvement. They understand that science education is realized and impacts people at many different interconnecting levels from individual youth through the public at large.

What would it mean to blog about these ideas in order to promote a more real – more accurate – understanding of what science is as a way of knowing and being in and with our world?

All of Ms. Frizzle’s blog is a treat to read and a strong successful example of what it means to blog as a reform-minded science teacher for social justice.  She uses her space to advocate for needed change in science education – especially for her students who fight the disabling impacts of poverty. I’ll end this post with one of many favorite posts that “Miss Frizzle”, science teacher from the Bronx, has published:


Dear Santa,

If you should happen to look down from your sleigh this Christmas Eve and see my building in Alphabet City, you won’t see a chimney. And I won’t even be home. But if you decide to drop by anyway, there are some very nice people living in my building – and some of them have adorable kids – so I’m sure you’ll find plenty to do and maybe even some cookies and milk.

I have a few wishes this year, Santa.

I’m trying to start a knitting club. I showed my students a knitting project that I’m working on, and a whole bunch of them expressed an interest in learning. The cold weather’s coming, and if it’s too cold or snowy, they can’t go outside to play during lunchtime. And we don’t have enough space in the gym for all those kids to run around. So I was thinking a lunchtime knitting club would be fun… But I don’t have the money for 15 sets of needles and all that yarn! I wrote a grant, Santa, which will eventually be posted at Donors Choose, but if you find a few skeins of colorful yarn and a bouquet of knitting needles in the bottom of your sack, well, you know where to find me.

And Santa? I could use a few good books and the time to read them. Nothing strikes my literary fancy these days, but I’m eager to read more… maybe you’ve read something good during the off-season? Music and clothing are always appreciated, too! Especially music.

My students want video games for Christmas… the new X-Box or whatever. And hey, if you’ve got enough to go around, why not? But if you could drop a book or two their way while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate that. And I know some of them could use a little peace and love in their homes, and others a little more attention, and a few are probably wishing, deep inside, for the disappearance of an abuser. They won’t write that in their letters to you, Santa, but I hope you can read between the lines.

If you have any pull at the Department of Ed, get them all into good high schools for me, places where they’ll be cared for and challenged and, in every way, educated. I don’t know if Joel Klein celebrates Christmas, Santa, but he and I are both wishing there were more of that kind of high school out there. Think you can do anything?

And while we’re on the topic of education, I wouldn’t mind a raise – my contract’s way past due, and New York’s not getting any cheaper. I’ve been good – taking classes, reading up on good teaching, working hard – and I really think I deserve a little more money. I’d like to buy a place someday, I’d like to travel more, I’d like to give a bit more to WNYC and Doctors Without Borders and the Central Park Conservatory and all those other deserving organizations…

One more thing, Santa: a building of our own. This building is always too cold or too hot (today it was both!). There’s never enough space for assemblies, phys ed, even indoor recess – not when we have to share with the other school. Plus, it looks like the worst kind of medieval dungeon – especially the cafeteria. And the acoustics are terrible! Find us a small building of our own, with shiny new science labs, a proper gym, a clean, well-lighted place for the kids to eat lunch, and maybe even a little yard with a garden – find it and put a big red bow on top of it, and I’ll know you were thinking of me.

Santa, you may not be a US citizen, but I’m sure you followed our election this year. I’m afraid, Santa. I’m afraid that the decisions made now are going to pollute our air and water. I’m afraid that much of the progress women, gays, and people of color have made over the past few years will be rolled back. I’m afraid that the poor are going to keep getting poorer, and that the children coming to my classroom will be hungrier. I’m afraid for the people in Iraq – the soldiers from the US, and the citizens of Iraq. If you can help the elections go a little more smoothly there, if you can help our actions there turn into something good, please do that. I know that Muslims don’t really believe in Santa, but they’d thank you anyway… My uncle may be going back to Iraq to fly MedEvac transports this summer, but I dearly hope that the country is safe and he is not needed (though I realize that would be an awfully quick turnaround). Maybe you prefer to stay out of politics, but if you get involved, I hope you take these fears and hopes into account.

I’ve tried to be good. I think I’ve done all right. I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself and the world this year. I know I’m asking for a lot, but hey, that’s why we write to Santa come Christmas each year. I’d be grateful if you grant any of my wishes.

Happy flying to the man in the big red suit,
Ms. F.

Retrieved from on May 10, 2016.

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