Monday, April 29, 2013

Gamification Day 3 Recap

Friday went very well. They handled the lab activity better than most of the activities they did earlier in the semester. They were using light probes to make a graph of the intensity of light as distance increased. They then fit a curve to find that the relationship was an inverse square. That is pretty high level math for some of these students.

The first thing I noticed was that they finished the lab within the given time period. This is not normal. They knew that they would not be able to take their bar exams until the activity was turned in and thus they got it in on time. Some of my lower achieving students also focused on knowing how the lab was done and what the conclusions were. This was remarkable as in previous labs, if they turned it in, it was probably half done with little thought to conclusions.

Today will be a big day for the class. They will be taking their first bar exams. I am having them all take the multiple choice section, and then giving them an option to take either the free response, or the math portion. Many of them may take all three, but they are given the option. They need only pass two of the three to make Ensign, but passing all three gives them a brighter colored bar. I will truly get to see if these incentives are effective today. How many will choose to take all three? How many will pass on the first time? What will that do to their engagement if they fail? If they succeed easily?

I will let you know how it goes.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Gamification Day 2 recap

Day 2 is done and things are still going strong. I was able to stay on schedule with finishing the Electromagnetic Spectrum activity. 

I altered this activity from a lecture to a webquest to find information. Instead of me standing before them and going through the entire spectrum (which really is a pretty good lecture if I do say so myself), I gave each of them a wavelength and 20 minutes to research it. They then combined the data they found on a google doc that is shared so they can all have them as notes. They each stood before the class and presented their type of radiation. The found the radiation's speed (all the speed of light), its frequency, permeability to atmosphere, how it was created, and one use for it. 

Doing this again, I would probably focus more on the applications of each type of radiation instead of the numbers related to it. I interjected some things from my old lecture as they presented to try to get students something to remember about the radiation. 

Overall, I think it went well even though it took about 20 minutes more than my normal lecture. I can tell you that giving them only 20 minutes before they presented forced them to focus on the task at hand. A much greater majority of kids were on task on during the research part of this activity than some other activities. Keeping them focused during the presentations was a struggle so it will be interesting to see how much they absorbed. 

Today we are doing a lab using light probes and the inverse square law. This will be interesting as the equipment is intensive as well as the math component. Traditionally they are hard to motivate when the task is challenging. We shall see if they step up.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Galaxy Fleet Gamification Day 1 recap

Well I survived the first day of my classroom gamification experiment. This may have been the most important day of the lesson, the day I had to sell the students on the idea. Here are a couple of observations from that first day that I think I should share.

  1. I did not bring out the coat to turn myself into the hard ass admiral as I planned. I ran the class as myself, but as we got into the game I did joke about how I was thinking of using the character. They thought the yelling and the southern accent was pretty funny. I will pull him out when the class needs some motivation (in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way)
  2. Overall they seemed to think of this as a pretty good idea. It is hard to get a read on every student in the room, but most expressed willingness to try it. 
  3. I heard comments from some of the best students in class that they were going to be the first one to the level of Captain. For the top end student, it took me literally four minutes to tap into their competitive nature. Lets see if it will hold for the entire unit.
  4. The mid-level students seemed to like the idea in general (most are "gamers" and the idea of gamification seemed natural to them). I think they are a bit hesitant about the amount of work that I am going to ask them to do, and the testing involved, but hopefully they will fall in line as we go. 
  5. I have a group of lower-level students that concern me the most. There are two sects here. There is a group of four that sit in the back, do little work, and thus do poorly on exams. I know for a fact that these are smart kids, who have the ability to learn this. However, they are disenfranchised with high school in general and thus are the hardest to motivate. I have been working with one of these individuals a bit lately, talking to him about being a leader of his group of friends, and how he can help focus their attention. I am happy to say that out of all of the students in the class, he was the most excited about the game on that first day. I think he wants to do well, but for some reason that is not "cool" with his friends. This is giving him an avenue outside the normal school-type functioning, that he can embrace. I will work on him a lot through this experiment. 
  6. The other sect that worries me are the students who feel that they are not smart enough to do the astronomy. They feel that their background, especially in math, is hindering their learning. It is my hope that both of these groups of low-level students can feel some successes in the lesson as they go and that that success will carry them to learn the material. 
  7. I will say that the game is also fun for me. Having created a "Star Trek-like" game, I made myself the commander. I asked them to call me "Sir" or "Admiral". That is fun in itself. They stand at attention when I enter the room, which really is a cool feeling. 
Yesterday we did an intro to EM radiation with the activity Lost in Space. Today we will be exploring the EM Spectrum and beginning an activity on the Inverse Square Law. 

I will let you know how it goes.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Galaxy Fleet Day 1

Today is the first day of my gamification experiment and I am excited to get it started. The anticipation of something new can be consuming, and filled with anxiety. You all know how it is. I was up this morning at 4:30 with epiphanies about creating characters for the class. Do I think the kids would like to meet a hard-ass military general who will introduce the game to them? Do I put on a coat and accent my voice to turn into  this character or just do it as myself? Cool or lame... it is a fine line. Science Expert Dr. Like in a lab coat could take them through the activities... ???

I brought the coat but even one hour before class starts, don't know if it will come out of the closet. Game-time decision.

I did figure out how I am going to grade this thing though. My plan is to have 85 points for each learning cycle. 30 points will be from their scores on two of the three bar exams, 45 points will be from the activities that gave them the commendations the exchanged for the exams, and 10 points will be if they participate in the process. I don't like participation points, but with what I may ask them to do, it would be nice to give them some small reward as an incentive. I am thinking of taking off those points if say, they don't follow the game by wearing their lanyard displaying their rank or stand at attention when the General enters the room, or call me sir... you know the fun part of the game. With three learning cycles planned, that is relatively the same points I would have devoted to this last semester.

Time is a big factor in this, so I will be pushing them hard. It doesn't help that I just graded their last exam and it was far from stellar. I plan on using this fact as a springboard for changing what we are currently doing to something new, fun, engaging.

Wish me luck. I will update you all tomorrow on how it went.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gamification of Classroom T minus 1 day!

I am planning on starting the gamification of my Astronomy class tomorrow and I am getting nervous. If you have not been following this blog you can find information on the planning stages here and here, and you can get to the site I set up for the class here.

That being said, I plan on blogging updates on this every day for the duration of the experiment. Today is T minus one day!

Over lunch, I will be going to Hobby Lobby to retrieve the beads and pins for their level awards. Nothing like waiting for the last minute!

I went through my schedule on how I believe the day to day progression is going to go and I came to a realization... I need 19 days for this and I really only have 10! With the addition of several activities to round out some abbreviated learning cycles, the timeline for this curriculum has grown much more than I anticipated. I spent an hour this morning paring down the days in an effort to lessen the blow the other units I need to cover before the end of the year. I have a schedule now that is 14 days long, which I should be able to make work.

We shall see. Feel free to give comments or suggestions as I go. I will try to get some pics and such as I go.

Wish me luck.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If Twitter is the Answer, What is the Question?

I recently heard George Couros (@gcouros) speak to our K12 staff about advances how our society utilizes technology and how our schools need to catch up. I have to say that I agreed with most everything he said. I am obviously a blogger, believe that we need to foster 21st century skills in our kids so they can compete in a global economy, and firmly believe in giving back to my profession. Last year as the keynote speaker at our National Honor Society induction I urged the students to create something (ala #Starwarsboy). Needless to say on most respects Mr. Couros and I seem to be cut from the same cloth.

That being said, I want to address a twitter issue. I call it a twitter issue because it is becoming an epidemic in teacher circles. So much so that the teachers that probably need the good attributes of the media platform want nothing to do with it. Mr. Couros stated that "If you are not on Twitter, you are becoming illiterate." Many of those I follow on twitter are engrossed in the wonderful things that twitter can offer. They have encouraged its use by others to a point that it is starting to have a backlash around the water cooler. I am not being critical as I do use it in edchats, have connected with some great educators, and have gained some followers that are probably reading this right now because of it. I think twitter can be a good thing. It has been a good thing for my professional development.

Twitter doesn't address the real problem though. The problem, as I see it, is that many teachers do not feel a need to better themselves using any method. There are many reasons. Time is the biggest. With grading papers, planning for the next day, calling parents, running a class, meetings, and initiatives it is hard to find time to devote to your learning. Some have done very well in the profession and feel they can ride out the rest of the ride, and some think they knew it all coming out of college.

Many of us do see the need to keep up. Before blogs, twitter, news feeds, and online publications, used to get peer reviewed journals in the snail mail. We know that education changes and that attending a conference once a year is not enough to know your profession. We wrote (and still write) articles to educational journals, do research in our classrooms, and share back to the profession. When I started, I knew very few in my building that did this kind of activity. This kind of intrinsic professional development was the realm of college professors, AEAs, and department of ed committees.

What we need to recognize is that that has changed. Giving back to the profession should be a regular part of the job. I write this blog as a way to do that. I recognize the importance of giving back to the profession and that is how we as a nation will get better. I feel like I am being a teacher in writing this and I make time even though it is precious.

Yes, twitter is an avenue to do this, a good avenue really. I use it regularly and I believe that. But it is not the only avenue. Mr. Couros's quote is not unique. Many more like it sail around the ether of RT-land spreading like the flu. What those kind of quotes do is divide our profession into followers and dissenters.

If we want real change in our teachers I feel we need to encourage them to grow using the exploration of whatever kind of media a person feels comfortable with. Zite, Flipboard, Google Reader, News Sites, the Dept of Ed Website, or online publications can do this in some ways better than twitter. I have been encouraging those around me to read these kind of things, to keep themselves current to what is going on, and to join in on the conversation. I have seen in the last decade, even in the last year, how much more accepting teachers are of new ways of learning for them and their students. I know we have a long way to go, but when I find myself reading blogs on educational policy instead of watching Netflix, it amazes me how far I have come. I look at all of the social media and news sources I read in a day and still realize that most of my opinions are made by talking to real people, face to face. We discuss issues, we probe problems, and refine our thinking in real time.

I worry about relationships in social media. We are not walking through this technological adolescence, we are running blindly. I dig you guys, I really do. I enjoy having followers on twitter and hearing from people who read this blog. I have no problem carrying on a dialog involving education, but I, and you have to know that that is not a conversation. It is not a conversation when you can script what you are going to say, edit and delete before you hit send. It is not a conversation when you are limited to 144 characters. I worry about our kids and how this will effect their relationships. Relationship dynamics are changing and I don't think anyone knows how that will effect us and our students. We can't forget those around us for those a half a continent away.

That being said, I am going to stop there and read a book with my daughter.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Is Content Dead?

In 2002, I sat in on a colloquium at my grad school where a professor was speaking about the power of the Internet. He spoke at long length about how we are teaching students the wrong things. He argued that information should no longer be taught in our schools. Any rote information, be it the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the number of Justices on the Supreme Court, or Newton's Laws of Motion, can always be looked up in a couple of seconds using the Internet. That was startling in 2002, but holds probably more validity now what I have the Internet in my pocket.

He argued that we should be teaching kids how to make better and better google searches and work on technology skills that will allow them to retrieve this information out of the ever-expanding mountain of data that is out there. He quoted statistics about how there are thousands of new papers published every day and that there was no way that anyone could keep up with the surging tide of knowledge that was flooding our world. Teach them how to get what they need when they need it, that was his philosophy. There was no need to actually know anything so long as you can have the information on hand when it was necessary.

I sat in silence in 2001 closing my eyes and hoping that his ideas would not pick up steam but fade into the black hole of educational reform agendas.

They did not.

I have read numerous blogs, several tweets, and sat through a few edchats to know that this loss of content knowledge is a real agenda on the minds of some educators. It has been over 10 years since this idea was proposed to me and my feelings on it have not changed. Let me spell out my reasoning.

Learning must occur in context. If put to the question, I would say that I am a constructivist in my educational philosophy. (If you do not know what constructivism is in education, you can always look it up. I am sure wikipedia has a great article on it.) I believe, as many educators and brain researchers do, that students learn by assimilating information to what they already know. In order to understand a concept, a person accesses some part of their brain where similar information is stored and links the new information to that.

In science, this is why identifying misconceptions is so important. If a student comes to us strongly believing in a misconception, it is imperative that that be drawn out before any new learning can take place. The experiences that we have had before coming to the classroom are just as valid to us as those we have in the learning environment.

I follow a learning cycle approach to teaching. I have chosen to stick with the simple 3-step model involving exploration, concept development, and finishing with application. This preliminary exploration phase is where I give the students a common experience for which we can draw new concepts from. In truth, I am asking them to access their preconceived schema and drawing out any misconceptions they have about the topic. This puts the learning in context with what they already have experienced, or in some cases fabricated an experience that the class can share in.

This is a missing piece in the "no rote learning" model. As an example. In 1999, I was offered a summer internship at the Mayo Clinic. I was to work in an orthopedic research lab studying cures for arthritis. Upon entering their lab, I ran across large research studies posted like movie posters on the wall. "Articular cartilage regeneration using periosteum" was not in my vocabulary. I understood two words in that title. It took me a while to gain the background knowledge, vocabulary, and skills needed to make a contribution to the lab. I was a smart guy, but this was completely out of my wheelhouse. I think over the summer, I may have done more harm than good in that place.

This is an extreme example. In all my schooling I was never introduced to these concepts and had to learn them from scratch. I was motivated to do so as I did not want to fail. I can only imagine what students would be like that had no rote knowledge to draw from.

There was a book published a while ago called Cultural Literacy- What Every American Needs to Know. In it, the authors outline basic knowledge that they believed American voters needed to know to contribute a contemporary society. They actually have a list of about 5000 words that should be in everyone's vocabulary. This goes to the other extreme, but I think there is some merit to the idea. In order for us to communicate, we need to speak the same language.

I was able to work at that orthopedic lab, as well as a particle physics research lab at the University of Iowa helping build the Compact Muon Solonoid in CERN, Switzerland due to the fact that I had a strong science background. I agree that students need skills in finding information, and that not everything can be taught in our schools, but a fundamental understanding of how the world works in necessary. Students need background information in order to learn new things.

Please comment and join in on the conversation. Where are you on the "content" spectrum?

Chris Like

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Science Teacher's Reading List

I thought I might give y'all some insight into what I have been reading that have changed my teaching. I have put together a short list here of some of the things that keep me busy when I am not putting time into writing this, planning that, grading those, or presenting whatever. Most of them are classics that are such a staple in our society, that you can draw examples from them and many of your students have heard of the book.

1. A Brief History of Time- Stephen Hawking

Even though it celebrated it's 10th anniversary about 15 years ago, this piece of literature is a must read for science teachers. Hawking writes this for the layman (under 200 pages), taking complicated mathematical astrophysics and simplifies so my mom can understand it. Hell, he only uses one number in the whole book (the speed of light). I have my students in my Astronomy II class read this as supplemental material for particle physics, Einstein's Theories of Relativity, and Black Holes. Much of this book is still applicable with new physics, but you may want to look up some new physics after chapter 8.

2. The Elegant Universe- Brian Greene
When you finish with Hawking, you may want to expand your knowledge to more current theories on string theory, M theory, or quantum tunneling. No one is better at this than Brian Greene. He is a string theorist, but try to not hold that against him. The beginning half of this book is wonderful. He uses real examples to teach us about dimensions, the speed of light and Einstein. I am not sure how much of the string theory stuff I buy into, but it is always good to see all of what is out there. He made a PBS special on this that you can watch online that is also great. I believe you can even use clips from it in your class. 

3. The Clockwork Universe- Edward Dolick

This is essentially a biography of Isaac Newton. I am a huge believer in the importance of the history of science. Scientific developments are subject to political pressure, society's whims, and funding. It was no different in the time of Newton, and it is no different now. I think you should definitely read a biography on Newton, Galileo, and Kepler if you are going to teach physics or astronomy. 

4. Cosmos- Carl Sagan
No one is better than Carl Sagan. He is somewhat of an icon in my astronomy classes. Even though this Cosmos series was shot in the 80's and has very poor effects as seen today, my students love it! Carl has a personality and a flare for drama that is unmatched in today's discovery channel specials. The series is on Netflix and is totally worth a look. This book is a must read for astronomy teachers. 

5. Surely You are Joking Mr. Feynman- Richard Feynman
Any book by Feynman is a gem. His books were ones that physics teachers anticipated like a 9th grade girl waited for a Twilight movie. He is funny, light, and brilliant. After you get a feel for Feynman with this one, check out his Lectures. 


1. Timeline- Michael Crichton
Anything by Mr. Crichton is great, but this one I really enjoyed. I am a big history buff as well. I heard at one time that the way in which he describes going back in time using quantum foam and such is theoretically possible, but you know how non-fiction is. This may be on my top 10 book list and has some interesting science in it. The movie is okay, but nothing compared to the book.

2. The Sum of All Fears- Tom Clancy
Tom Clancy writes terrorist handbooks. All of his books are amazing in their detailed descriptions of how the military functions. He describes the engineering behind a lot of military applications of what we talk about in our classes. His best book may be Rainbow Six, but this one describes how to create a nuclear bomb in intricate detail. Coming from the guy that crashed airplanes into the Capital Building a decade before Bin Laden, this guy knows the mind of the military and their enemies. I would suggest starting with Patriot Games and read the all. Ignore the movies. 

3. Science Fiction- Various Authors

I am going to cap this list off by encouraging you to read some science fiction. Although the science may be bad in these, the imagination that goes into the uses of simple scientific principles is noteworthy. I read these as they are classics that any fan of the genre are must reads. Most of these are a series of books that if you like the first one, you wont want to stop. 
  • Ender's Game- Orson Scott Card
  • Foudnation and I, Robot- Isaac Asimov
  • Battlefield Earth- L Ron Hubbard

Finally, as I have your attention, the best series I have ever read has nothing to do with science, but is amazing anyway. If you have not read George RR Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series, you are missing out. It begins with A Game of Thrones and only gets better after that. HBO has picked it up and done a great job adapting it to screen. 

Please let me know what you are reading as I am always looking for something new. 


Friday, April 5, 2013

Why It Is Okay to Lie to Students... And When It Isn't!

For those of you who are not science teachers, hold on for this post may blow your mind. I am not sure how many of your realize this, but on some very real occasions, I purposefully lie to my students. I hedge the truth, I pander through partial truths, and sometimes outright omit the truth. I would like to tell you that I don't do this on purpose, but in most cases, that would be a lie in itself.

I want to discuss some science today. Stick with me through this and I may change your world, at least the one your high school science teacher told you existed.

Most recent lie:

Earlier this week I taught Bernoilli's Principle to my physics class. This is a very famous principle dealing with fast moving fluids in a closed system. It is the reason that we get lift using laminar flow over airplane wings, or how your carburetor works to draw fuel in your car engine.

 There is currently a heated debate on whether this can be used to explain why a curve ball moves, or my golf ball turns left after it leaves my club.

Technically these involve another principle that is very similar to Bernoilli (Magnus effect), but differing in that they do not require a closed system. The differences in the physics are so minor, that most teachers tell their students they are the same thing. I know they are different, but since we didn't really differentiate between what an open and closed system was (I didn't have time to add a second principle) I told my students a lie.

I am sorry for that, but it is by no means my biggest lie.

Most Blatant Lie:

Electricity is a difficult thing for students to understand. We simplify it down to moving charge through wires and components of a circuit. Students do lab activities with Christmas lights, measuring currents through resistors, and learn about switches and capacitors. I tell them that the lights in their house work under a similar principle as what they are learning in class. Blatant lie.

The lights in their house as with much of what is plugged in uses AC current instead of the DC that we are using in class. Students imagine electrons whipping through the lights, exciting gas molecules or heating tungsten to light their room. I mention briefly the difference between drift current and the electric field, but in the two weeks that I have devoted to electricity, I can't go into all that.

Most Outrageous Lie:

I save my best fallacies for chemistry class. We tell them that everything is made of atoms, and that atoms are made of protons and neutrons. The gross omission is that we stop there. Sure in my advanced class, I cover quarks and leptons and the force carriers, but a general chemistry student is simply not ready for that.

If that isn't bad enough, think about the lie we are spilling when we draw these particles on the board. 
This is nothing like what an atom looks like! First off, representing the particles as small spheres is a misrepresentation of what they truly are. What is an electron?.... Its a quantized amount of energy that has a charge of -1.6E-19 Coulombs. It has mass due to its interaction with the Higg's Field giving it a rest mass of 9.11E-34 kg, which changes as it moves. Does an electron have a volume? I have never seen that figure. We know it is localized, but to draw it as a small sphere is completely misleading. The nucleus is worse! It is drawn as a jumble of protons and neutrons, vibrating around each other. Technically is should be a soup of quarks waving in and around each other. Do quarks have a volume? Hard to tell.

Chemistry teachers know that electrons don't orbit like planets as they do in the previous picture. Electrons exist somewhere in orbitals (which for all we know are just mathematical probabilities) that surround the nucleus. In fact, they appear to exist everywhere at once. Why do we draw them as planetary orbits? Well there is a reason. That model explains spectroscopy very well. Students can visualize electrons jumping from one orbital to another. This was worked out a century ago by Neils Bohr. This was his model... 100 years ago! 

The scale of that picture of an atom is also completely off. Electrons have 1/2000th the mass of a proton, and the nucleus is WAY smaller than that. As a matter of fact, most of the volume of an atom is empty space. Try discussing the real scale of an atom with students. Since I am made of atoms, and atoms are basically empty space, does that mean that truly I am not here? If I am basically empty space, and the desk is empty space, why can I not pass my hand through the desk? What does it mean to feel something?

Objects are tangible because that empty space (electron orbits mostly) are filled with a few electrons. That makes them negatively charged. The negative empty space in the desk repels the empty space in my hand and thus I can not put my hand through it. In fact, the reason you can see your own hand is the interaction of photons from the lights with that empty space, exciting atoms until they release photons that you can see. 

Never lie when it sets up a misconception. 
Many would argue that any of the above lies would set up some misconceptions for a student's future understanding of these principles. Most of my hedging of the truth is due to the speed at which I have to cover material. I am very careful to mention many of the above aspects of nature at some point in the year so as to clue them in on what comes next, but many times it is cursory. 

We need to be very careful about setting up misconceptions in students. As the above conversation notes, I am not alien to this idea, but there are things that I have seen that concern me. Elementary text books need to be VERY closely scrutinized. I understand not telling a 3rd grader the whole truth about an atom (I don't even stress this to my high schoolers). What I can not overlook is when my son's textbook tells him that mass is anything that takes up space. This is setting up a harsh misconception between mass and volume. What compounds this is the fact that many elementary teachers are not confident enough in the science to know the differences. They rely on that book for their information and may not have the concept separated in their head. This may be a harsh example, but it happens more often than I ever imagined. 

What lies do you tell, or what have you seen?


Monday, April 1, 2013

Characteristics of Effective Teachers

We often hear about the characteristics of effective learning. Classrooms need to be student-centered, based on problem solving, etc. On a recent application I was filling out, I was asked to give the top 5 characteristics of a science teacher. It was an interesting question to ponder. I put fingers to keys and in about an hour, I came up with the following. After pouring out my ideas, I thought it would be interesting to pose the question to the rest of you. I see so many attributes in the excellent teachers that surround me, it was hard to narrow down my list to just 5.

Teachers wear many hats. They can be instructors, coaches, psychologists, friends, secretaries, administrators, referees, and parents, all before lunch. To perform these duties they need a set of core characteristics. The following is a list of some of what I believe are the most important attributes a teacher must possess.

Knowledgable: A science teacher must be confident in the material they are presenting to their students. Science, in its very nature, is content driven. The laws that govern the universe are the basis for every discipline in science. A science teacher needs to understand at a deep level, the intricacies of how these laws are weaved together, for it is our goal to pass these patterns on to our students. Aside content is the appreciation and knowledge of teaching pedagogy. I firmly believe that teaching is an art form, based on a teachers' fundamental methods of instructing. Although the students are not always privy to it, good teachers have a method to their madness. I use learning cycles, some use modelling, whiteboarding, etc. Regardless, good teaching centers on pedagogy.

Understanding: Relationships are fundamental to teaching. Teachers need to be more than friends to their students. They need to celebrate successes, be a shoulder to cry on, a confidant, a cheerleader, all while pushing students to achieve more than they knew they we capable of. Teachers need to understand that every student is different, have different histories, personalities, and future plans. Not every student will respond to a teacher's personality or style, but the teacher must be understanding and empathetic of each and every situation.

Diligent: Teaching is not for the weak willed. It is a demanding profession that requires hard work and patience. There are many parts of the job that can be mastered with a strong personality, but not all. Grading papers, planning curriculum, collaborating with colleagues, writing tests, aligning to ever changing standards, attending professional development meetings, and inservice days require teachers to be hardworking and diligent. These are not the most fun aspects of the profession, but they are at the core of the job.

Respected: I believe that this is the single most important characteristic of any teacher. If a teacher is respected by his/her students, they tend to rise to the expectations set in the curriculum. Discipline issues tend to be less if that respect is there, and any that arise can be dealt with without bringing in outside help. Respect is earned, not given or implied. Teachers need to devote effort to gaining and keeping their students' respect throughout the year. This can be done using numerous avenues. Developing a relationship of mutual with the student is key here. Students will respect the work the teacher is trying to do if in turn the teacher has a respect for the reasons the student is acting the way they do.

Adaptable: Whether it is a snow day that moves the test back, a senior meeting that had to be rescheduled during 4th period, or major alterations to the state's content standards, teachers have to be adaptable. Teachers make hundreds of decisions every day that can make or break a lesson they are teaching. They have to be able to think on their feet and alter their plans sometimes on a moments notice. They need to understand the big picture in curriculum and trust in their core pedagogy enough to alter lessons in stride. The evolution of the scientific world is accelerating as well. Teachers need to re-learn the new aspects of their discipline, whether it is the finding of the Higgs Boson, or the the mapping of the genome. They need to learn, and then adapt it to their classroom.

By no means are these the only attributes that make teachers great. This list is simply an overview of some of the characteristics I have seen in the great teachers around me.

Please let me know what else fits in here. What are your 5 characteristics of an effective teacher?