Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why you gotta LASER hate, yo?

The post title works better if your pronounce LASER as "laysah".

The Good Ladies Across The Hall (GLATHs) wound up their first LASER kit recently, on solids and liquids. It looked like neat stuff, the little bit that I watched the kids were active and engaged, and the lessons seemed straightforward.

Sadly, I won't get to join in on the fun until 2009. Maybe.

What my district is still hearing from LASER is that you absolutely must have the training on the kit before you can teach it to your kids. Each kit requires three days of training, but the training seems to be scheduled incredibly haphazardly, and as a result I have a good shot of getting fully trained in solids and liquids by this time next year, at which point I'm supposed to teach the Weather kit. Which I haven't had any training in.

I get the point that LASER is trying to make--many teachers aren't comfortable teaching science, and their focus on the process is commendable. In practice, though, their insistence on training is absolutely killing the cohesion of the curriculum in my building; half of first grade will do one activity, half will do another, and the twain shant meet until 2010. At the earliest.

So the GLATHs will be doing their thing, I'll be doing mine. That's not such a bad thing, being as we're first grade, but if you were a 5th grade teacher who had to give the science WASL and you heard that the 4th graders were doing two different curriculum, what would your reaction be?

I'm trying to move the district in one of two directions:

1) Hire a full-time science coach. They might not even be a coach, per se; they could teach science at the elementary level, the same way that we have an art teacher or a music teacher. If you're worried about teacher prep time, don't make it a prep; instead, have the teacher be in the room at the same time so that you have two adults to monitor and guide.

As a classroom teacher, I'd love it! If I didn't have to set up before and clean up afterwords, it would be a lot easier to work science into the day. Let me focus on my strengths, math and reading, and put someone else in a position to teach to their strength, science, and I think you'd see some incredible things happen.

2) Maybe having a full time science teacher is over the top. The trouble with LASER, then, is the fact that we can't get any training in a timely manner. If we trained the trainer and put them on a 40-day extended contract to teach the kits over the summer, you could easily get the majority of the staff up to speed and ready to go when the year started. For those who didn't want to give up time during the summer, they could go to the trainings during the year. In that case it would be on them to write sub plans, and they would be the ones teaching the old curriculum, but that's their choice.

The Governor has put aside a lot of money for LASER and we've drunk the Kool-Aid; I just hope we can figure out the way to make it work best.

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