Have you ever wondered (in a positive sense, I hope) “How did I get to this place in my life or career?” Some people have a specific life plan that they followed religiously. Then there are people like me, who may have started off with a plan, but in the process I meandered off the original path and serendipitously found myself in my current path, which includes being president-elect of HAPS.
How the heck did THAT happen?
I would like to say that I carefully planned out my entrance and involvement in HAPS- but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When I attended/presented at my first annual HAPS meeting in 2001, I was a bit intimidated and wondered what I could possibly contribute to the organization. I was used to other organizations where there tended to be a ‘hierarchy’ – those more established would present, and we mere underlings would ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over their achievements and stand in line to ‘kiss their ring.’ But HAPS was different. There WAS no hierarchy. Instead, there was a group of caring educators who treated each other like equals, and who wanted EVERYONE to participate. And so began my HAPS journey. I was encouraged to participate in committees – ‘but what could *I* contribute?”, I thought? Turns out, a lot – just as much as everyone else at the table. Just like all of YOU have a lot to contribute but may be just as hesitant as I once was.And so I progressed from committee member, to committee chair, to elected official of HAPS.
So how DID I come to write a blog for HAPS? In our monthly Board of Directors (BOD) meetings, we discussed the HAPS blog and I naively mentioned that it would be nice if BOD members contributed, and talked about their experiences. Oops – before I knew it, I am at the keyboard writing the first blog from the BOD. Serendipity, you are a double-edged sword. But interestingly, I am having fun with this new venture! Some of you may be hesitant about volunteering and exploring leadership opportunities in HAPS, but instead of heeding the words on the mug (pictured), just jump in and participate! You will be glad you did – I know I am!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my driving forces as a high school teacher is to address and reconstruct my students’ misconceptions. What misconceptions do you find that your students have most often? How do you address them: do you find it’s best to correct them immediately, or let the students struggle with their prior thoughts before they eventually get their “ah-ha” moment?
Similarly, I certainly feel the frustration of my students seemingly not having the necessary requisite knowledge to take Anatomy and Physiology. I do not want to do my students a disservice by not addressing their misconceptions at the appropriate time or not allowing them to build the foundation they will need for college courses. So what things do you wish your students knew before they get to you? What do you find your students are lacking most often? I know many high school students do not have the advantage of taking an Anatomy and Physiology course before entering college, so how can I, as a high school teacher, better prepare my students for you? What kinds of knowledge or information do you think gives students a “leg up” in college?
Thanks for continuing to check the HAPSblog! I am really excited about all the possibilities that are being uncovered through this blog and can’t wait to see where our conversations take us.
Last week at Chavez we wrapped up the nervous system and will begin the circulatory system next week. One things my students seemed to struggle with was conceptualizing the “action potential”. What great activities do you have to really cement the process/visualize an action potential? At my school, we do not have access to YouTube, so finding videos on the fly is not a possibility if I find my students are in need of another visual. Many of the videos I found at home on an action potential are not very engaging anyway… Do you know of any helpful simulations or visuals? How do you teach this topic in your classes? And, lastly, what depth of knowledge do you think is appropriate for a high schooler on this topic?
I have found that one of the great advantages, and challenges, of being a teacher at a Title 1 school is the abundance of opportunities for the students to make up credit, get ahead, and improve their grades. This winter break, students had the opportunity to retake classes they previously failed. An entire semester’s worth of Introductory Biology over four days, for eight hours a day. And yes, I taught it! It was a refreshing change for me since I haven’t been able to put my passion for biology to use this year, and gave me a new interesting perspective on all the opportunities we provide to our students to ensure their success. I was happy to see students taking advantage of that opportunity and working hard to improve.
Essentially, each day was close to an entire six weeks of content, and seemed like the students were seeing this material for the first time in their lives (granted, that happens after just a weekend, too!). Eight hours is a long time to spend working on only one subject, but I found that using inquiry and continually referring to the “big questions” kept the students engaged. This time schedule actually lent itself quite well to the use of inquiry, as many labs and activities can take hours. But with only four days to cover an entire semester, one might wonder how much the students are actually learning anyway, and how much they are just regurgitating. Here I say, once again, inquiry to the rescue! Tell me if you disagree, but I find that learning through inquiry makes it almost impossible to forget…
So, my question for you all… If you had four days to teach an entire semester’s worth of content, what would you focus on? How would your class run? Would you rely on inquiry? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you think it’s really possible?
I’m Erin Russe, a first year high school Anatomy and Physiology teacher in Houston, TX. I received my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where I worked as the Lead Teaching Assistant with Dr. Peter English in the Hands-on-Science program for elementary education majors. Through this program, my training with the UTeach program, and a physiology course I took from Dr. English and Dr. Dee Silverthorn, I solidified my passion for science and really developed a desire to teach and use inquiry in my classroom.
I currently teach at Chavez High School, a Title 1, 5-A school in Houston, TX. I am teaching one section of A&P this year, with about 35 seniors. I am also teaching 5 sections of sophomore chemistry, which, this past semester seemed to demand most of my focus. Now that chemistry is mostly organized, I am dedicating this semester to rebuilding our Anatomy program. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to design the A&P program as I see fit, which is very exciting, but often overwhelming. A driving force for me, as a teacher, has been to uncover and reconstruct my students’ misconceptions. As a new A&P teacher, I sometimes do not know what misconceptions to expect, and I hope that the lessons I teach are not fostering my students’ prior misconceptions or allowing them to develop new ones. Because of this, I feel very strongly about the POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) methods and using inquiry in the classroom. I would be so proud and excited to build a rigorous and engaging A&P program around that!
Hopefully this blog will serve as an outlet for all HAPS members to share ideas, experiences, research, references, activities, and all things important to teaching Anatomy and Physiology. I envision this as a very collaborative and engaging space to ask questions, get answers, and work together to solve some of today’s biggest challenges in being a first year science teacher, and in teaching Anatomy and Physiology in general. What better resource could there be than a group of passionate experienced professionals? I am honored to have this opportunity to communicate and collaborate with you, and I hope this blog will prove beneficial or insightful to you, as well.