When I attend conferences, I often find myself asking the question of other educators “What do you teach?” Now when I ask this question I am never really looking for a particular answer and to be quite honest I should rephrase the question. For me personally, when I am asked this question I always respond in the same way, “I teach kids, but the vehicle I drive is science.”
So what do we really teach in schools, subjects or kids? I believe that there are a lot of teachers out there in schools today that have that mindset that they are there to teach kids and they use particular subjects in order to do so, but they never answer my question that way. That does not mean that they are not student-centered by any means. Even I have caught myself a time or two. We all just get wrapped up in the question and we know what the person is really asking. If they are not really wanting to know what subject or content we teach and want to know that we actually teach “kids”, the question is loaded, but loaded in the correct way.
The question is not meant to trip anybody and set them up for failure. It is meant as a way to see where their heart truly lies. Does it lie with the students or the subject? While I love teaching science and there is no other subject that I would rather teach, I love witnessing kids come out of my classroom having a more solid foundation in their reading and writing skills. Nothing makes me more excited that I did my job correctly and that they could read and write better than they did when they entered in September.
Like I have said, I teach kids, but the vehicle I drive is science. How do I use that vehicle? Simple. I am concerned that students need to learn the various objectives in science like cell division and states of matter, but I am more concerned that they can read and write about them. Like Glenn Holland said in Mr. Holland’s Opus, “Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.” I use science to reinforce reading and writing. I have them constantly read and write about various topics linked to objectives that are mapped to the science standards. Is it more important for a student to be able to explain what the three states of matter are or if they can read and write? I say both are equal. While state officials and educational leaders would say that reading and writing are the most important subject in ALL schools, there must be topics to read and write about.
I believe that it is important for students to learn about history and science just as much as reading and writing, but my main goal as an educator is to educate students. I take great care to reinforce what students are learning in language arts and in math by integrating those skills into science. Science is a captivating subject. I love being able to use a subject like science or even history to gets students excited while learning reading and writing.