Click below to hear your questions answered:
I’m doing a happy dance because it’s my 100th episode! Y’all, I can’t believe I’ve been supporting and sharing my thoughts, ideas, and resources with you for almost two years. Just like when I celebrated 50 episodes, I’m doing another special “ask me anything” episode.
I constantly get questions ranging from work, personal, curriculum, management, and more. And since I love connecting and supporting teachers, I knew answering all your questions was how I wanted to celebrate! I answer all your questions about maternity leave prep, group work, supporting ELs, absences, curriculum writing, and more. So, take a listen to a fun episode that celebrates 100 episodes!
Want to continue the celebration? I’m incredibly thankful to you, my listeners of Secondary Science Simplified, and I would love to have you leave a rating or review of this podcast! Your review and support means so much to me.
- The important things to remember when preparing for maternity leave
- A list of my favorite labs and how you can use them in your classroom
- Ways to support your ELs in the classroom and differentiation
- How I structure group work
- Classroom management strategies
- Free Halloween Resources
- Free Lab Audit
- Free RADAR Signs
- Natural Selection Lab Simulation
- Ecosystem in a Bottle Project: An Inquiry-Based Ecological Investigation
- Dinosaur Genetics Stations Activity
- Anatomy Body System Diagrams and Discovery Stations Bundle
- It’s Not Rocket Science Science Curriculum
- It’s Not Rocket Science Resources
- It’s Not Rocket Science TPT Resources
- Download your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge
- Send me a DM on Instagram: @its.not.rocket.science
- Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Follow, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts
Related Episodes and Blog Posts:
- Episode 95, How to STOP Grading Everything
- Episode 94, How to Deal with Cheating in Your High School Science Classes
- Classroom Management Series: Episode 90, Episode 91, Episode 92, Episode 93
- Episode 89, Classroom Management in a Post-COVID World with Guest Casey O’Hearn
- Start of Curriculum Writing Series: Episode 80, Strategizing Your Sequence: Curriculum Design Part 1
- Episode 74, My #1 Way to Simplify Future Lab Days
- Episode 49, Visuals, Middle School, Maternity Leave, and MORE with Guest Rachael Lasky
- Maternity Leave Prep: How To Do Long-Term Prep Without Stress As a High School Science Teacher
- RADAR: A Problem Solving Technique for Students
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More about Secondary Science Simplified:
Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!
Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.
You’re listening to episode number 100 of the secondary science simplified podcast. That’s right y’all episode 100. I cannot believe that in less than two years I’m recording our 100th podcast episode ever right now. And so just like we did to celebrate 50 episodes, I thought it would be fun to do sort of like an Ask Me Anything episode with questions that you all submitted. And there were so many different ones ranging so many topics. So in this episode, I’m going to answer questions about maternity leave prep group work, supporting ELLs, absences, curriculum, writing, and more. So whether you submitted a question or not, hopefully you’ll find the answers shared in this episode helpful. Are you ready to hear then? Let’s get to it. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time you spend in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.
Before we dive in, I did want to ask you if you want to do something to celebrate 100 episodes of the podcast with me I would love love, love it if you left a rating and a review. That would be a huge gift to me wherever you listen to podcasts, but especially if you’re an apple podcast listener, because those make a big difference in the search algorithm. And something I have for you, which I’ve been talking about all month is some Halloween themed a science freebie. So if you teach biology, anatomy, chemistry, or physical science or physics, I have made a specific free Halloween resource for each of those subjects. You can grab those that it’s an architect’s classroom.com/halloween. All right, now I’m gonna dive headfirst in these questions because there are so many. So first on one question that was asked was how to prep for a mid year maternity leave, especially as a really organized person. And so I’m going to share with you my best tips. But the other thing I will recommend is episode 49. I interviewed Rachel Lasky, who is the weird science teacher on Instagram, and she talked about maternity leave prep as well. So it would be worth I always think it’s good to hear multiple people’s perspectives. So you can hear her perspective in that episode, that I will say when we prep for my oldest who was adopted, we didn’t know like when my maternity leave would be, I thought the whole year prior, like at any point, you know, I could go on leave. And then I didn’t and then it was another year. And he ended up being born early March, we got the call that his first mother was in labor. On a Friday, it was the last day of quarter three, we got the call at like 730 in the morning, but they’re like, don’t come until like later in the day. Because like it could be a wild type thing. And so I worked that full day. And I’ve never done this in my life, y’all. But I put on a movie for every single class period, so that I could finalize grades and I for the quarter. And I was chasing kids down. Like I was going in the band room. And I’m like, Listen, I need you to hand me these assignments right this second. Because I mean, they knew that grades were due by you know, that afternoon, technically, but it was always kind of like one of those things like, Oh, if I get it to my teacher, by the end of the day, she’ll get it in by 8am. Monday, you know? And I was like, no, no, if you do not get it in, like you’re not going to see me the rest of the year. Okay, so you need to get this in. So my maternity leave ended up being the last nine weeks of the school year. I mean, it was really more like eight I came back and did like final exams and all of that it worked out that way. Because spring break was one of those weeks because I technically should, I’ve only gotten six, but spring break was one of the weeks and then I took a couple of weeks like completely unpaid. Most of it was just I got the difference in terms of like my maternity leave sub, like how much they had to pay that sub, I got the difference in that versus my pay. And then there were weeks that I just didn’t take pay. So all that to say this was hard for me as such an organized person to have to be ready at any point, basically for like someone to take over my classroom. So essentially what I did is I had everything ready digitally. And then when we got the call that morning and I was finalizing grades that day, I got everything printed that I need to. But some of the things that you can do in advance that are really helpful is you need to get clear on the expectations of your admin and your department chair like what are they expecting you to do? When you are not there? What are they expecting you to have prepped, you know, a lot of schools are reasonable and not if you’re not getting paid for your maternity leave. They don’t expect you to like leave anything at all. They’re like just leave a pacing guide and let it be. I know other friends who’ve taught at schools where they have to leave daily lessons and plans for the whole time. So I would make sure it’s in writing, what is the expectation not? What’s the strong suggestion. And that’s something I’ve talked on this podcast about before, there’s a difference between written expectations and strong suggestions. And we’re going to do in a maternity leave situation, we’re gonna do the written expectations, we’re not doing strong suggestions, okay? Because when you’re on maternity leave, this is the least of your priorities, especially if you’re on an unpaid maternity leave, or even one like mine, where you know, the difference in a daily rate of A sub verse me was like $40 a day. And so I was making like $40 a day for the six weeks of my maternity leave that was technically paid. So get clear on what is truly expected. Another thing I recommend, really, practically, is making a guide for your classroom with students and teachers who can help. So this is something that I did the two different years that I just didn’t know when we would get the call. And I have a link in the show notes for a blog post on maternity leave prep, where I walk through this in more detail. But essentially, it’s like, I keep it on a clipboard. I have my rosters on it, I have seating charts, but what I do is I give like the basics of this has like the school schedule on it, like, when’s it when do the bells ring? What’s
the protocol? If there’s, you know, a fire drill? What’s the protocol? If there’s an assembly? How does the schedule change that kind of thing. And then for each class period, I put a few students names down that are like, these are the students, if you don’t know, you’re going to ask those students. Okay. So for example, my kids are screaming and fighting, I go upstairs, I’m like, what happened? Y’all know who’s going to tell you the truth, I’m not going to listen to my daughter, because she will lie to my face and not feel one bit sad about it. But my oldest is my little lawyer. And he will be honest, but he will make it out he will phrase things for his best light. So I kind of know that. But that’s what you know, your students you know, who’s going to straight up tell you like, no, they’re they’re playing you like this, isn’t it? This isn’t how Miss joiner does things. So even just having like two names, I think is really helpful. Another thing I used to do is, I would put the name of like a really tech savvy student, for each class period, I think that was really helpful. Because I made this for my subs, it wasn’t just like, any time sub not just like a maternity leave. But I think that’s helpful, especially if you’re one like me, who likes to, I never really show a video. So I do like to do that when there is a sub. And that’s always nice, because like, if they’re struggling with the streaming or if you know, you do have like an old school, DVD player or whatever, you have that techy student who can help. So I think that’s helpful. And then the other thing I put on that guide is like neighboring teachers that are helpful, like, Hey, Dan, next door, he will help you out like he’ll, he will get you squared away. And it doesn’t even have to be like another science teacher, it could be like, hey, Dierdre, the English teacher four doors down, she will help you out with whatever go to her with questions. I think just giving, having that guide made is really helpful for yourself, and you have a place that always stays like since you may not know when you may end up, you know, going into labor or whatever. So I kept it in the front of my demo table. A third thing I would say is make an outline for pacing. I do think that is a gracious thing to do of like hay for these next six weeks, eight weeks, 10 weeks, whatever. This is kind of how I would anticipate the pacing going. And then my best recommendation is say goodbye and on plug. Do not check your email, do not pass go. Do not give your your phone number to the long term sub. Okay. I know that sounds terrible. But this was the best tough love that the women at my school gave me before I went on my first maternity leave. Because y’all know, I’m like a kind of a control freak. And they were like Rebecca, listen to me right now. I know you can’t understand it, because you’ve never had a child, because this was before my first but they were like you will not care. Like there’s nothing like a child to shift your priorities. And so you need to let this go. And just let it be. And then but as I was like panicking as they were saying this to me, they’re like, listen, whenever this happens, just plan when you get back, don’t plan to pick up where they should have left off, build in a one to two week buffer for when you come back. So that before you start anything new, just to assess the situation to play catch up to do whatever needs to be done. Like don’t make this pacing guide and think you’re gonna come back in April. And you’re gonna pick up right where they left off. Like you’re gonna come back in April and need a solid one to two weeks to figure out what happened where you need to fill in some cracks. And and maybe it’s a boring one or two weeks where you’re doing like, a lot of direct instruction and like practice problems just for remediation just to get kind of where they need to be. So you can move on. That’s fine. And I think that’s also a kind of a good buffer for you. As you come back to us. I think building in that buffer is really, really helpful. Now, I just think the worst thing you can do is be in contact with yourself. Luckily, I was not in contact with myself. But I don’t know if I’ve talked about this on the podcast before but I wasn’t involved. I was teaching at a private Christian school when I went on maternity leave and I was involved with a non denominational ministry called Young Life and I was a young life leader and so I was really close to a good bit Have the girls that were also my students, especially the AP Bio students that I’ve had for several years. And I had I lead like a high school girl bible study at my house on Thursday night. So I would see, I still did that on maternity leave, I still would see those students. And so those girls obviously had my number. And they would text me things that happened in my class. And that was so stressful to hear. And so I just set like a hard barrier of like, Do not text me anything about school, I cannot hear about it. So I would encourage you to really unplug because it’s hard to hear what’s going on. Just enjoy that baby bliss, you’ll never get that time back. So enjoy it. Now a couple quick things, because I’m already talking too long on this, if you’re using It’s not rocket science resources, specifically, a couple of things that I did with my resources that I use in my own classroom is I made copies of all the packets that last day I had a TA and I was able to do that before I left like I sent her off. And she went ahead and made all my copies for like the whole time, the rest of the nine weeks to have this done. That’s not necessary. But that’s something you could do. Another thing is just making a binder. And I did this again, because I just didn’t know when my leave would be bad do this for every unit, but you’d only do it for the ones you’re gone. But basically make a binder with dividers and put the unit plans from the implementation folder in there, put the packet answer key for the packets folder, print out the reverse PDF, I never really recommend printing that that in the lab details PDF if you’re doing biology, because that’s a separate document, print those out, I normally recommend us reading those digitally, it gets a lot of pages. But I would print those first up and have those under another divider, just so they have those. And then I would also like have a page of instructions that’s like, here’s where the YouTube channel is for the it’s not rocket science lecture videos. And I encourage my subs that we’re not science at all, not high school or science trained. I said you have two options. Watch these lecture videos before you teach them so that you can learn the content and hear it yourself or have students watch the videos and take notes from it themselves. I really recommend that when you’re only because they can kind of do a flipped classroom, do that at home and then there that kind of creates more space during the day for like labs and things because your subs obviously not going to be as quick with the transitions and on it like that as you are but that’s kind of my recommendation specifically for my resources. Okay, next question was what is my favorite lab and it was they specifically asked about biology and anatomy. It’s really, really hard to pick, I would say biology, I have like a top three sorry, ecosystem in a bottle. It’s just it’s a lot of work on the front end, which is not my favorite. But it truly is one of the most memorable learning experiences for my students. And it’s just so fun every year and I love how excited my students are to come to class that entire 30 days of that long term investigation, because they’re so excited to check in on their ecosystems. And even if their goldfish dies, like I’ve never had a year where they all died. If they’re all dying, there’s something wrong with the fish or the water. And so they’re always rooting on their their classmates. So that’s a really fun one. Also, I love like the very traditional natural selection like different beaks lab where you, you know, throw out sunflower seeds, and everyone has like a different utensil they’re using as their beak. Some have tweezers, some have tongs, you know, some have chopsticks. I like there’s so many on Google, I have one of my sore too, I can link but that’s just one that is so fun. Like, we just laugh a lot. And the other thing I love about though is the data is always so good. Like, it always works out that you get good data, the same beak doesn’t always end up being the best, but you get great data. And there’s nothing like a lab you can just count on, you know, like, you know, this data is gonna rock, it’s gonna make the illustrations so clear. It’s just nice. It’s a really foolproof one. I love that. And then another thing I’ll say, for biologists, I love my dinosaur genetic stations. Back in 2020, I kind of just did like a revamp of biology because it was the first curriculum ever written. And I just gotten better at writing curriculum. So just like a lot of formatting changes and things like that. But I did end up adding some new resources to each unit just because I felt really inspired. And the dinosaur genetic stations were ones that I added in, that you could use kind of like at midterm or at the end of the year to review evolution has an evolution component. So you can review heredity, that kind of thing. And they’re just really fun. They’re really creative. I also did five different versions of it. And so it’s really nice, because if you can really differentiate easily with your students, yeah, I just I’m really proud of that resource. I really, really love it. And then for anatomy, I will just say I’m obsessed with my discovery stations, I’ll link that bundle. But essentially, I made really large like fold out diagrams of the different body systems. And then for some of those systems, because I don’t like to do the same thing. Every unit, I just think it gets boring. But for about half of the body systems. I also made accompanying discovery stations, which are these really beautiful graphic, colorful stations where they read about different structures, and then they have questions they answer and then they label their diagram. And it just decreases lecture so much, though each set of discovery stations took me about two weeks to make these take forever. They’re very labor intensive, but I’m so proud of each of them. So I love love, love those. And then the other thing I really love and I mean this is like so stereotypical for anatomy, but dissections, I mean, that is just so fun and anatomy I really love how the dissections are included in my anatomy curriculum turned out, I don’t have them available ala carte at this time there are only like, in each of the units like I have a brain in my control Coordination Unit, I have heart in my unit for transport. And then the fetal pig is in the dice the absorption and excretion unit. But I brought in my sister who’s a surgeon, and I wore a GoPro and we dissected these specimens together. And she just offered like so much good extra information. And then I videoed that and I included it as like teacher support. And then the other thing I’m really proud of is I took a ton of pictures as I was dissecting. And I have versions of them that are labeled. So like if you don’t know if you never dissected a fetal pig, and you’re like, What is this, I have pictures that are labeled, and then I have some that are unlabeled that you can share with students that are absent or don’t want to do the dissection. Like, I’m just really proud of how those worked out. And I think they’re really written well, for a teacher who’s never dissected. is teaching anatomy for the first time. It is like, what do I do? Like, I feel like I provided a lot of great support for that. So I’m really proud of that. There’s my favorites. Okay. Another question is how to incorporate earth science into the it’s not rocket science chemistry curriculum, because my chemistry class is technically called chemistry, Earth systems. And so my best recommendation for you since this was a teacher who like is already using my curriculum. And it’s not an earth science curriculum, you know, but is something called the long term independent research project. So this is something that I’ve already created. I have a version for biology, anatomy and physical science, and I’m going to make a chemistry version, and it will be added to the bundle, it just probably won’t be in January, because I’m going to finish all the core units first. But you could do it for second semester. But basically, there’s my five twos there. So this is one is giving them this opportunity to do a research project over the course of a semester or the whole year, where students are going to research research, some sort of connection to earth science related to chemistry. So you can take any standards you have that are this Earth Science Standards DVM, of amongst the students and have them each research one and then you can do this whole, like big seminar presentation situation at the end of the year, where they can make all these connections to the ERP systems, because if not, like, it’s really hard to teach all of like basic Chem one, and also add in all this other stuff, too. But the other session you could do is with your use of phenomena. So with your anchoring your investigative, your everyday phenomenon, make every phenomena you use for each of your units related to Earth Systems, and tie everything you’re doing and everything that’s already included in the chemistry curriculum. Back to it. You can do that even just with your discussions and then like adding, always adding like an FR Q question on every test that ties in what they’re learning about electrons about periodic trends, about stoichiometry. To what your this consistent conversation you have in the background of Earth’s systems. That’d be my two best recommendations for that. Next question. How does structure group work? Does everyone have a specific role? What kinds of assignments or tasks do you have students complete in groups. So I personally have never assigned roles. I think it’s totally fine for you to do that. But I just haven’t I haven’t had a problem though managing students with group work, I think anything could be group work, if you want it to be personally, all my labs or group work. I like lab stations as partners, but I just really like to think strategically about what they’re doing. And is there enough for everyone to do if the group’s three or four, if not, then a partner feels more appropriate. Like for a lab station for me, when they’re huddling around a card and reading it and then doing something, you can’t really fit more than two, maybe three people around a card. So for lab stations, I really prefer partners, but for the labs that almost always do groups of three or four, my best recommendation for managing groups is I never let anything be group work. If it’s outside of school, ever, I just think that’s opening up a huge can of worms, equity issues, and some kids have jobs and others don’t. And then it’s hard to like, expect them to work together equally, you can’t supervise it at all things can go down relationally. And you have no idea of what happened because it wasn’t under your supervision. So for me personally, if it’s something I want them to do as a group, and must be done entirely in class, and I always if it’s like a project or something that’s really open ended, I always include a pure evaluation form isn’t that every person in the group fills out. And that’s a part of their grade. So I encourage that practically as well. And then I will also say to you like, I know some people were like, my kids are just wild in groups, like I don’t like doing group work because they just wild out. I think group work is a great reward and a great motivational tool. If you can do this XYZ, well by yourself or with a partner, then we will do group work for this or even for a lab say, Hey, I’m gonna put you in groups for this lab. If I have to warn you more than once that y’all are wild and out immediately becomes an independent lab. We’re going to work in silence you will be given attention if you speak like sounds terrible, but like you can really set the tone and as long as you may have clear expectations and consistently reinforce them then they will fall in line and That’s where I think I’ve never had a problem like group work being crazy or anything like that. So hope that helps. Next question was When behind in schedule, how do you decide which activities to drop or lose elsewhere? I really put everything through the filter of is this essential? You know, a lot of the last activities we might do might just be for fun, or might just be to extend or might just be to give them this great visual. But is it 100%? Essential? Maybe not necessarily. I do find that most teachers do more labs and hands on resources than they maybe need to, I think people kind of fall either end like they either don’t do enough, or they do way too many. So if you’re falling behind, I would just really assess, is it essential, if you go back and listen to episode 74, I kind of talked through how to do an audit of your labs. And that would be a way to kind of rank your labs, and then you can kind of decide which ones you might need to cut if you’re short on time or not. I also think it’s great to just do labs for fun. Like I think that’s great, too, if you have the time. But this question was if you’re running out of time, what do you do? Specifically, if you use it’s not rocket science resources? I wasn’t sure based on who submitted this question. If I was running short on time, things that would cut would be like research and report activities. And then also stations activities. Most of the stations, especially for biology, anatomy, and physical science are extensions. It’s like here, let’s do a little bit more. And let’s get into this a little bit deeper. But it’s not necessarily a necessity, because we’ve already done direct instruction or a practice or a lot about this. And the stations are just extra, like the cancer stations. They’re really interesting. My students really like doing them and learning about it, but they’re not necessarily a necessity. Chemistry, the stations I’ve written for those and will in anatomy, the discovery stations are must do because I don’t anything that’s an undiscovered station. I don’t do direct instruction on same with chemistry. So those make them a little bit more essential. But that’s just the lens I would ask myself as I’m deciding what to cut is what’s essential. Also, you know, your population, you can kind of decide like, hey, could I ask them to watch a lecture video at home and take notes on it? And then come back and do it? If the answer is yes, and like that’s a way to save a lot of time projects, too, are easy to cut. I love projects, because I love alternative ways of students showing their understanding. But me and a project can take a long time. So that would be another thing you could consider cutting to Alright, these next few I call I’m calling them Dear Abby questions because these were like really specific scenarios people sent me that they were in. And so I feel like the best way to answer these questions would be to read this scenario, and then I’ll just kind of give my best advice. But as always, this is just my opinion. So don’t feel like any of this is law. And if it doesn’t suit you, you can kind of take it or leave it and then after these little Dear Abby questions, we’ll kind of do some rapid fire ones at the end. Okay, Dear Abby, aka dear Rebecca, I’m experiencing a hard time with my eighth graders they complain, they’re always asking why to the rules, and the lack of motivation is skyrocketed since last year. How do you handle this without letting it get you down? I’m using your physical science curriculum, and they hate the math portion. And either don’t do it or and I found a better way to solve the problems and then don’t show their work. No matter how much I encourage, they still don’t want to do it. Okay, first thing I will say is, this is why I’m super passionate about teaching my students radar and requiring that they do it. You don’t have to do radar that something like this is very helpful. So I need to do a podcast episode just about radar. But radar is a problem solving technique that the math and science teachers at my last school came up with, that we trained all students in in both math and science classes. And basically, you have the signs, and I have it in my chemistry curriculum. And it’s a freebie on my website, which I’ll link in the show notes where you can grab the radar signs, I have a blog post on it. But essentially, it trained students how to solve an approach any quantitative problem whatsoever, so that when they get to these big word problems, they aren’t just like paralyzed. So they read, they analyze, they diagnose, they assess, and then they reflect on their answer. That’s what the radar stands for. But if you look at the blog post, I have a really great visual of an example of a question on what I think it’s one of the physical science tests, and I show four different students answers. And you can see the student that missed all four points, the student that Miss only three, the student has only two and the student that missed only one, when all four of these students got the final answer wrong. But they all earn different credit on this question based on how much work they showed. And I was able to follow their thought process and figure out where they went wrong. And that was what was able to allow me to give them partial credit on a four point question. And so the reason I teach radar is, we’re early in the year right now, like if you’re using my physical science curriculum, you’re probably doing like dimensional analysis, metric conversions, you might be getting into like, speed equals distance over time. And you know, maybe you’re getting into force equals mass times acceleration. Okay? Those are simple equations. Even just rearranging and solving for math and a force equation is not that hard. So yeah, they’re probably able to like skimp on things. But when you get to kinetic energy is one half mv squared, and they need to rearrange to solve for vowel velocity. that’s gonna be a lot trickier. Or, you know, when you get to Q equals MC delta t, and you’re solving for final temperature, that’s gonna get a lot trickier. And so teaching them a strategy that they can apply, regardless of the difficulty of the problem, I think is really important. And the other thing I’ll say, too, is like, I think radar is so helpful, like, now you’re in physical science, that’s just like an introductory course, they’re doing half chemistry, half physics, just a little introduction, they’re going to take Chemistry one day, and they’re gonna take stoichiometry. And they’re gonna have all these different variables, moles, and grams and volumes, and they’re gonna have to figure out how to use what they have to get to an answer. And so to have a problem solving strategy that can work regardless of the class or, and is going to help them so much in the long term. So practically speaking, I refuse to grade assignments that didn’t show work. Okay, so if we did a 10 point, practice, you know, worksheet with their 10 problems, and I’m like, Great spot checking for completion. If they just had numbers and answers down, they get a zero period. But if they show work for half the problems, they get a five out of 10, if they show work for all forms to get it 10 out of 10, I don’t even care when I’m spot checking, I don’t even care if they get it right, I care that they show the work. That to me is the priority is that they’re doing the work. And here’s my thing, I just am not going to grade something where there’s no work, because how can I possibly know you didn’t cheat. Of course, you can cheat by copying someone else’s work, I get that. But that takes at least more effort than just writing down answers. You can go back and listen to my thoughts on cheating in Episode 94. But I just can’t stand for it. And there’s nothing that fires me up more. So I’m not going to grade something. If a student tried to turn in an assignment to me with no work, I would say it’s an incomplete or it’s a zero, however you want to put it in your gradebook. You know, you can come by you can come to sit and tutoring me after school and show me all the work to show me that you know how to do this again. Does that seem maybe like overkill? Yeah, if you’re listening to this, and you teach senior physics with calculus, you’re you’ve got a different type of student than my ninth graders who are taking physical science, okay, I feel like with these younger students, yeah, you’re gonna have a handful in there maybe that are like geniuses, and that will never need a calculator their entire life, but the majority of them are gonna get lucky on the easier stuff. And then really, really struggle later in the year. So I want to equip them, to really have some, I’m trying to think of the right word here to be able to approach any problem and not be scared away from it. That’s what I’m trying to equip them to do with this radar strategy. And so, to me, it’s a non negotiable, you may feel differently about that. I would also say to like, I understand, like, you hate the math, I will say it’s a lot. It’s really math heavy on the front end, that curriculum is it and it kind of is the whole first semester, but it gets less math as the year goes on. And when they get to chemistry, it won’t really visible science, at least is not I don’t do a lot of quantitative stuff in the chemistry portion.
So I would encourage that there. Another thing I would say is listen to episode 89, with Casey O’Hearn, I introduced, I interviewed him about, you know, dealing just with the apathetic students, and he had a lot of really great things to say. The other thing I would say is, I would talk to your admin and other teachers like, to me, this sounds like a serious respect issue, I would see if other teachers or in other admin are having the same problem with this group of students. And if so, let’s rally around this and like, figure this out together and figure out how we can deal with this respect issue with the students. Now, if you do some research, and you kind of find out, it’s only at you, I don’t know how to say this as gently as possible, that to me, tells me that you have maybe given them too much leeway, and you’ve allowed them to be disrespectful, and you’re gonna have to really tighten it up. I mean, and I get it, I know, some teachers are just not strict, and that’s not their personality. And that’s fine, like a lot of students will follow your lead. But there are some groups that are just they need a, I say firmer hand. But obviously, I don’t mean that physically at all, but like, they metaphorically need a firmer hand to teach them how the class is going to be run. And so I would just say, I think there is a benefit. And I think this is hard, like this is such a Gen Z thing to like, I feel like when we were growing up, respect was always given whether it was earned or not, because you give respect to authority. And that’s not the case now, like students really feel like you have to earn my respect, you have to earn my whatever. But I just don’t think that’s realistic. So even if that’s how these Gen Z years feel, and these students that we have feel, that’s just really, really rude. And that’s not how the real world works. And I’ve been I teach my children, all people, and this is going to get a little religious. So this is obviously personal to my family, but all I teach my kids all people are created in the image of God. So every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Whether you think they deserve it or not. We treat all people with dignity and respect, especially someone in an authority situation. Obviously, there’s it’s an unsafe situation. That’s one thing but you don’t sound like a teacher who’s unsafe. You sound like a teacher who really He really cares about your students. And so I want to encourage you with that, like, this is not not necessarily your fault. And I don’t, I want to encourage you that like, one, the rest of the school year doesn’t have to suck. Because this first part has, like, I really think you can rally around and change your school culture in your classroom culture, by having like, I would have like a come to Jesus talk with my students, I would sit them down and be like, I’m not doing this with you guys, the rest of the year, you don’t want to be here. And I don’t want to be with you. I maybe wouldn’t say that to their face. But like, just be straight up, like, and I think something that’s really helpful is using labs as a reward or motivational tool. I hate to say it because as a science teacher, like I would never want to like cut out labs. But some classes will not be motivated to do the hard work on the front end, in order to get to do a lab where it’s fun, like, I’m thinking about unit two, where they get to do the running lab on the football field, like that’s gonna be so fun for them, they’re gonna love that day that, hey, if you can’t prove to me that you can sit down and do the work to show me that you understand how to calculate acceleration and velocity, and you know, whatever, then I’m not going to let you go outside and run on the football field. And so I think that is something that would be really helpful. Another practical note is I would try and board points I talked about that in my classroom management series as well. I’ll link that episode in the show notes. But something like board notes, board points might be really motivational for your students. And then the last thing I’ll say is this, I would ask them in that come to Jesus talk like, what is it going to take for you to behave differently, because I’m not about this life. And if it feels like it’s a personal disrespect issue, this might be worth bringing admin in to like, have a talk with your class or to sit in on a class period and just say, Hey, can you do some more observations of my class and just their presence can maybe make a difference. Those are just be some practical things I would do to help but don’t lose hope. Sometimes you just get that group that just is not your favorite, and is not the most fun, but I don’t think all hope is lost, and you still have time to kind of hopefully change what the trajectory of the rest of the year will look like. All right. Here’s another one. Do your Abby or do you Rebecca, how do you handle absences when you’re grading for completion, I’ve tried reducing the amount of things I collect to grade, but we’re required to record at least two grades per week. We also have a huge attendance problem. And I can’t excuse students from that many AP assignments. So first thing I’ll say is if you have to have two grades per week, here’s what I would do. One is my weekly primetime score. So that’s five points a day, typically 25 points a week, Bada bing, bada boom, I calculate it all at the end of the week and put it in, that’s one score. And then I kind of practice and preach that you should only collect one other thing per prep per week, okay to grade. So that’s your two, you’ve got your primetime score, and you’ve got your one thing you’re collecting per class. This tracks I talked about this in Episode 95, with how I stopped grading everything. Now, here’s what I’ll say. Those are the two things that I grade for accuracy. Okay. And so if I’m grading something for accuracy, even if you’re absent, you need to make it up. Now prime times are a little bit different, because like, they can miss one prime time, and I can still give them a grade out of 20, and then transfer that to a grade out of 25. And still use that score. But like anything I’m collecting grading, like you have to make that up if you’re absent, because it’s great for accuracy, then anything I’m spot checking for completion, and putting the gradebook that to me is just extra, because that takes me two seconds to spot check something for completion and put in a 10 out of 10, or put in a seven out of 10. So I do exempt students from that, like if they’re absent and they missed all these practice problems we did, I might exempt them from it. But again, if you see that there’s a chronic issue, then you might be like you need, I would always say you need to come to tutoring, and I’m going to do these practice problems with you. And even if we just do the odds, like I want to do this with you, like you need to learn how to do a Punnett square and you miss all three days you talked about it. So you need to come in and do this, I’m not going to exempt you from this because I need you to come in. And even if we get through half, like give them the full completion score, you know, because they’re doing it in such a smaller amount of time. Like try not to make it unreasonable. But that’s where I would I would handle this more on a case by case basis. But hey, Primetime and one other thing you collected great for accuracy, that’s your two grades, all the completion grades, those your are on top of it and you can exempt more from those. Now if you have out of hand absences, though, you need to talk to admin and a school counselor stat. You should not be doing this alone. Follow your school absence policy. Like if they get five days later, whatever, like you got to follow that. But again, I would try to get them to coming into tutoring like this could be a truancy issue. So that’s what I would encourage with that. Another rating question that came in was grading stations. How do I make it less droning students and I both despise going over them. So if you use my curriculum, especially the biology ones, I do a lot of stations as like extension assignments just to like, basically, the whole all my stations were born from the concept of like, I’m lecturing too much and my kids have so many questions, how can I answer questions and make it more student centric? And so I created these stations, like I mentioned about cancer where they get to go and they get to Research all these different things, answer the questions on their thing. And then we come back and we go over them. So my first thing would be, don’t grade them. I usually spot check stations for completion and we go over. And I don’t think you need to go over every single question on every single station, like you can pick one or two per station, typically the stations or six of them and just go over them. Physical citations tend to be ones where I took demos that I used to do, and I made them possible for students to do them on their own those like, I would be going over those while I’m going over notes, like do the demo again in front of them while
they’re writing lecture notes, and then kind of talk about it, but they’re not having to like self grade it. Another option is you just post the answers and they can self check the answers and grade the rest. A third way I used to kind of handle this was with popsicle sticks, which I talked about in episode 91. I think 90 ones also when I talk about board points, which I mentioned earlier, but I just do rapid fire answering like I draw stick you have 30 seconds to answer the question, I say yea or nay and add on to it, if I need to, we move on, you go over all of them within five minutes. Like if you’re spending more than five minutes going over stations, that is boring. And that is journey. And I would despise it too. So I would kind of make that my goal, I would pre select questions in advance that you’re gonna go over, they don’t know which one, so they need to do all of them. So that’s kind of how I would approach it. Okay. Next, Dear Abby, question, I have a class that I’m having some behavioral issues with a lot of students in this particular class, like to roughhouse and play fight with each other. Any advice on how to manage a class like this, when we’re just doing worksheets in their seats, everything is fine. But when they have more freedom, we do labs, they’re hot mess. So this kind of goes back to some things I’ve already said. But first of all, zero tolerance policy for this, this is a safety issue, period, and you’re a science teacher. So you have things in your classroom, that can become weapons, and that are not safe. So I mean, they can break glass and cut their hand open, like they’re just, they can’t do this. This is an immediate removal from class, for me immediate when I was in a larger school we had in school suspension, so I would send students there. Or when I was in a smaller school at a private school, I mentioned, I had a buddy system with my neighboring science teacher, my next door neighbor. And we would do this with each other. Because typically, like, we weren’t like doing labs necessarily on the same day in every class period, so I can be like, hey, this one person got kicked out, can they sit in the back here and do independent work, and vice versa, like, I think we always had someone from each other’s classes sitting in our room working so that to me, that will nip it in the bud fast, like you gotta, you gotta be really strict on this. They just don’t get to do labs. And that’s the other thing like, they cannot do labs, if you cannot trust them a lab labs then become a privilege, not a right, which again, sucks, like, no one wants to do that, as a science teacher labs are so fun. But I feel you have to set a really strict procedure on this, and really hold to the discipline on this for them to fall in line and behave appropriately to more practical things you can do ask an admin to sit in on a lab day, like get a vice principal in there and be like, Hey, can you do my quarter to observation while we’re doing this lab, I know that might sound bad to you. But their presence can make a really big difference with the students behavior. And then the last thing I would say is split your class in half, I had a couple of years where I had groups of 32. And I can’t manage that many students safely in a lab. It’s just not safe. And so what I would tend to do with labs is I would basically add an extra day in. And so we could do all of like the pre lab and designing of a lab together. And we could do all of the graphing and analysis and conclusion together because that’s all at your seat that’s more like seat work in a group. But the actual lab collection day, I would divide into two days, half the class gets to do it, then the next half class gets to do it, that when they’re not doing it, they’re doing some sort of independent work. Even if you’re just pulling practice problems off Google that have terrible formatting, you know, and are in Comic Sans font, like just grab something that they can do that’s helpful or productive or work on a study guide. If you’re an It’s not rocket science resource user. And then then you can be with the students doing the lab and only focus on 16 as opposed to 32. So that would be my most practical recommendations. Okay, the next one to interject Our Dear Abby series, I got a really specific Dear Abby, question about English learners students. I know I mentioned at the top of the episode I said ELLs English language learners where I live we so called ELLs English language learners. I know now they’re called English learners. The question I got use the term ESL English speakers of other languages. I feel like that phased out a decade ago, but where this person lives, they’re still using that. So I hope I’m not offending by saying ELLs. I’m going to try to say ELS because I know that’s the most current terminology, but just for clarification, but I did get another question that just was like, give any general tips for supporting these English learners in the science classroom. So general tips, and then I’ll answer the really specific scenario question. General support is always, always always partner with the ELL teacher at your school. You cannot serve these students alone period. Like you need a plan in place from that teacher and they need to help you with it. They are the ones that are trained to serve these students. Okay, this is a very specific population of students that needs a very specific type of support that you probably don’t have training in, because it’s not a part of like standard educational certification programs. Okay, so you need their help, really specific practical things, removing one answer choice from each test can be helpful. So like, a multiple choice would have ABC instead of ABCD, just to eliminate some of the reading they’re having to do, I would also really simplify the words used in your test. So like, instead of saying, this increases, say, this goes up, that can be helpful for students. And when I turned on a team of teachers like that was my job was to take all the tests and kind of reward them more simply for our ELL students. And so having a team and if you have a team of teachers, like each of you taking a test and doing that, and then you all can use it as helpful. Here’s the thing I will say, I really, we had a policy at one of my schools where they were not allowed to do labs unless they could pass a safety quiz, because it’s just not, it’s not safe. Like, if there is enough of a language barrier that they you’re worried about their safety and lab, that’s a problem. And so we had a department wide lab safety assessment they had to do. And we were really gracious with it, like everyone else had to do it written with our English learners, we did it orally, and like we would kind of act it out with them and try to help them. They can use their translators, all that. But if we could not get them to pass that we ask them to take science as a sophomore, like, especially with your freshman students, like, hey, because freshmen, most schools, freshman year sciences biology, like hold off a year, let’s do biology next year, or if you’re on a semester block, let’s do you know, some more electives, let’s definitely do English. And typically math, because that can be, you know, independent of language, in the first semester, say things like history and science for your second semester, that was a school policy that was really helpful. I think making word walls for each unit can be really helpful. And if you don’t want to make them have it be a class project at the start of each unit, you know, divide up your vocabulary for the unit, each student gets one or two terms, or maybe you do it in pairs. And they’re in charge of making some sort of visual to represent the term and then assigned for the term and then the definition and you could hang these up on your wall and decorate for the unit. And that can be something that would benefit everyone. I also recommend if you don’t have your lectures on YouTube, or you’re not using someone else’s, like mine, put them on there, and then have them listen to the videos with the English in English with English captions. That effort with every ELL teacher and coordinator have ever talked to you is the best practice for helping with them with the language. Especially like, I think there’s such a big misunderstanding and it makes me so angry when people just assume that IE English learners means English speakers of Spanish, like people just think ELL means they speak Spanish. So we should translate everything in Spanish so that the students can have it. Well, I understand that where we live, that tends to be the largest population. It’s also really, really short sighted. I haven’t No, I know like four different Spanish speakers in my son’s kindergarten class. And they all have different Hispanic backgrounds. They all use different dialects. They speak Spanish in different ways. And so even a translate that would not be equitable. So with the ELLs I’ve talked to you, when at my first school, like we had such diverse English learners, like they weren’t from all different countries seeing all different languages, we could not possibly translate everything for them. So the best practice was things are in English, they had English captions, so they can see the words, hear the words have visuals that’s really helpful. Google Translate is free. And you can use that for documents like PDFs. With text that works really well. I also recommend allowing alternative responses I was really gracious with like, is easier for you to have a conversation with me about this verbal option versus a written option. So creating those opportunities, giving them extended time. Practically, from a teaching standpoint, this was the hardest thing for me that my ELL coordinator really pushed me pause when you speak. I’ve been thinking about myself, like I took six years of Spanish, I can read Spanish and understand it pretty decently. But when I’m speaking to someone who is a Spanish speaker, I cannot keep up because they can talk so much faster than my mind can work. And of course, they don’t pause because we don’t pause when we talk like that. We’re just talking. But think about that then for your English learners that are in your classroom, and you’re just especially if you’re like me, some of you listen to my podcasts on half speed because I’m the fast talker. Like imagine how hard it is for them to look at my mouth moving and be like she doesn’t take a dang breath. So really try to slow down your cadence and pause when you’re speaking. Like sit when you’re talking to them like say a sentence. Give it a few moments they can process what you said. Say it again. I think that was in there really struggled with personally. I also recommend finding a digital textbook for your subject, you all know about a big textbook person. But the nice thing about a digital resource is typically, those come in multiple languages. So if you can find a supplemental text, and then maybe you tell them like read, no one else is reading textbook chapters, but maybe you give them some textbook chapters to read in their native tongue instead, for additional support that can be helpful. And then lastly, I’ll say this, like build relationships with them, don’t let the language barrier keep you from having a one on one relationship with this student, I cannot imagine how isolating it would feel to walk into a classroom and not have my primary language that I speak be what is being spoken around me. Like, I just think we can show so much more empathy to these students, and I’m preaching to the choir here and really see them. I think, oftentimes, as teachers, we have so much on our plate, that anything extra like this just becomes an extra burden. Like I’m so and I hate to even call student a burden. But that’s like how I felt sometimes when I’m getting these extra responsibilities. And that’s where maybe to create more capacity to serve these students, you need to outsource some other things. Like for instance, you need to maybe use someone else, you need to not be writing curriculum, you need to use premade lesson plans, or even if you’re not buying them, you know, co teach with another teacher, make sacrifices in other places so that you have more capacity to serve these students and how they need to be served. That’s one of my favorite things about it’s not rocket science resources, is when a teacher will reach out to me and be like, Hey, I’ve taught you know, biology for 20 years, but I’ve started getting all these learners and so I just decided I’m going to only use your resources and do how you said so that that lesson planning is on autopilot that has freed me up to have so much capacity to then differentiate for my students. I get so encouraged us to hear that so I hope those are some tips that help now here’s a really specific like Dear Abby scenario I got related to this. So I’m gonna read what she submitted because it’s super specific. And then I’ll kind of give some additional tips and then the rest of the questions are gonna be rapid fire because I know I’m getting this is getting long. Okay. She said she teaches biology and AP Biology in an urban charter school in Florida. I am also department chair for the science and PE departments. In the past four years, our school went from 15 to 20%. She uses the term e so ESL students, so more than 50% students are mainly from South and Central America, but also Ukraine and Russia. I have classes that I can actually teach in Spanish. That’s our background, but I teach most of the biology courses in my school. The eighth grade teacher has the surplus plus the eighth graders that take biology Middle School, it has become more and more challenging teaching this course and covering the standards for the EOC she said as you know the Florida biology standards are not the best friendly standards ever existed. Y’all.
They are terrible. I hate to say that like this is not no shade on Florida as a state. I love Florida go Jags Jacksonville Jaguars, my favorite NFL team, but who I don’t know who wrote the Florida biologist who knows but I genuinely don’t know how anyone could possibly teach the amount of standards that Florida requires her biology in one year. It’s crazy. Okay, that’s a side note. Back to this question. She says our scores this past May were 63%, which I don’t find that bad given the circumstances, however, not from an administrative point of view, statewide, we’re on level with the state. But compared to our district, we are below average, the district average was a high 80%. Our school does have an ESL coordinator. And the students have an ESL strategies class that does not help us. How do teachers teach a fast paced class like this with so many ESL students that do not even understand yes or no in English. She also says on ESL cat two endorsed that is what is required, like basically to teach these classes but that has not helped. Basically, we have to create lesson plans completely different for these students. And I just don’t have the time. In addition, these students and their families struggle with literacy. I can take that right away from the Spanish speaker since you know that’s her language but and then she said the Russian speaking paraprofessionals at our school said the same thing about some of those students. And then I asked her some more context, she’s on a block schedule all year long, 90 minute A B day. So she sees these students 90 minutes every other day, and then they take a biology EOC in May. Okay, here’s what I have to say, this is an admin issue, not a U issue. Okay, this is an admin issue. If they have a problem with that your scores, then they need to help you do something about it. And like, I know that can be hard to hear, because he wants to say that to their admins face, but it’s true. Like you want to complain about my scores. I’m doing the best that I can in the given circumstances. What can you do to help me improve my scores? Is the better question here rather than just letting them berate you for not doing higher. They need to go see what these other schools are doing. They need to go look at the population that these other schools and what percentage of these others the students at these other schools are similar to yours. You’re saying you have more than 50% What about these other schools in the district? Okay, because you cannot compare scores, and district averages for schools with entirely different populations. Now, here are some things that I will say practically, I’m going to provide some suggestions, you can pass these on your admin, I really appreciated the large public school I taught at when I what I mentioned, had a lot of these English learners in it the way that they approached this, okay, so here’s how they approached it. Most of you may know, you may not know, if you don’t have a lot of English learners in your class, there tend to be five levels of like proficiency in English, there’s it’s L one through L five, l one is starting L two is emerging, L three is developing l four is expanding. And l five is bridging. And we kind of had a school policy, that if they are L, one through L three, they have one of three options. One, biology needs to be a two credit hour course. So they’re seen for a days and B days, it becomes like a double course so that they get double the amount of time to do the same amount of information. Second option is they take biology twice, and they don’t take the EOC until the second time they take it. That’s another option. And again, maybe this is something where the way you actually put it in the system is it’s not called biology one twice because you know, but it could be called like biology, Intro duction to biology and they take that as a freshman and then they take this as a sophomore. Third option is just save biology altogether for 10th grade rather than ninth grade. Like I said, we had a safety quiz. If they could not pass it, they were not able to take biology one at their first semester, because we were on Semester blocks. We made them wait till semester two. I mean, typically the way that most states work, they only do an EOC exam for one course per content area. So like the science EOC tends to be biology, the English EOC tends to be English one. And our state the social studies or history. EOC is the US History course, which tends to be juniors, and then the math EOC is algebra one. So some students are taking that as seventh graders, some are taking it as 10th graders just depends on where they are mathematically. So I would see what the district and state requirements are. Are they required to take a biology exam as a freshman in high school? Okay, I would say they most likely aren’t. Because thinking about students that move in from different states, they can they take biology as a 10th grader. And so I think this is an admin issue, because this is something your admin needs to change at their level, how you structure these courses, there needs to be something different. They’re taking as freshmen instead of biology unless you’re going to make biology a two credit hour course. And the students get to take it over double the amount of time. It’s just completely unrealistic. And so I would push this back on your admin and say, Please help me, like, what are you expecting us to do with this population compared these other schools that their populations, and then again, if you like you said, I mentioned before, you’re like, I can’t outsource all these specialists and plants, like it’s just too much to do? Is there other stuff that you can outsource so that you have more capacity to serve these students and their specific needs, and you know, maybe that is like your school starts a TA program and you have a teacher’s assistant who can take over all your copies, or maybe your school needs a lighten up on your grading policy. So you can grade way less stuff to have more capacity, but there needs to be some higher up changes here in order for you to be able to serve this population. Okay, this is so long, I’m so sorry. Let’s go rapid fire for the last few. Someone asked they want to explore curriculum writing more, but don’t know where to start. Guess what, I did a whole series on the podcast about this. So check out episodes 80 through 88. I did it for the entire month of July, two episodes a week on curriculum writing. So you can check it out there. Someone else asked, What’s my next big project. So right now, my eyes are only focused on finishing chemistry. Like I’m trying so hard to finish these 10 units by December, then come January, I have like all the extras to do like I need to do that long term independent research project. And he did make the midterm and final exam pack. So that’s going to kind of be January. From there. I’m not 100% Sure, maybe do the secondary science have a five professional development course again, there needs to be a lot of strong interest for that though, because that it’s pretty it’s a lot of work on my end to run a professional development course. But if people want it like I’ll do it, maybe many professional development courses like smaller things, I do want to update my stations. Someone gave me really great feedback of from an organizational standpoint of like all the station cards have little footers and covers so like if you lose one you know what it belongs to and you can like organize it better. So I’ll probably make some of those. I always like to after writing a curriculum pull some resources ala carte to offer like some of my favorite labs and things make them available just on their own for people who don’t want a full curriculum but want a couple things. And then the next probably big big thing I’ll do is a facelift for physical science. So I mentioned biology was my first curriculum. I wrote it in 2016. I did a really big facelift and 2020 of it and and physical sciences written in 2017. And I’ve not done a facelift of it, just because it’s the course that like the least amount of people teach because not all schools even offer it. So it’s just kind of been to be honest, push the ball on the list, but it needs a little facelift. So that’s gonna probably be what I’ll be spending next year doing, and then We’ll reevaluate. So that’s where I’m at. Okay, last few questions. Were all related to me doing this as a job curriculum, writing and working from home. So if you’re like, I’m out, you can probably check out here, leave a review before you go. But if you’re interested in these questions, that’s kind of how I’ll wrap this up. So someone asked what made you want to switch from teaching to curriculum writer, and I will say I didn’t ever intend to switch, I started writing curriculum as a second job to afford all the fertility testing and treatments we were going through when we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. And then eventually, I was doing it to hopefully save money for our adoption. And we chose to pursue adoption as opposed to like in vitro or other more invasive biological measures. And so that was the initial goal. My husband was coaching lacrosse at nights, in addition to his day job. And so he was gone a lot of nights at tournaments and games and practices. And I just had nights and I didn’t have kids. And so I was like, I’ll start doing this. And then I loved it. So I never intended to switch. And that’s kind of where the next question was, could you talk about your decision to go from teaching to stay at home mom before, it’s not rocket science. So it wasn’t the plan. Again, like, I wasn’t planning, I didn’t start this thinking, I’m going to do this. So I can be a stay at home mom one day, like,
I just started it on the side, and then it got bigger than I ever anticipated. By the time we adopted our oldest, I was making more doing this on the side, then my teaching salary. And so I knew the decision was easy from a financial point, because I knew we could afford it. Now again, y’all know, that’s not saying that much. Because like teaching at a private school, you tend to make 75% of what you make it a public school. So like, it was a lower bar. But I mean, I was still so pumped that I could make additional income like this outside of school. And so that’s kind of how it started. And I said, Hey, you know what, we can make it financially, if we just try this out for a year, in the amount of money we will save by not paying for daycare is worth doing this experiment enough. And so that was the original plan. He was born in March of 2018. My maternity leave went, you know, through the end of that 2017 2018 school year, I was like, I want to test this out for a year 2018 2019. And just kind of see if we can make it work financially, whatever. And then in December 2018, I thought I was pregnant and do August 2019. And so I was like, Okay, this is now a two year experiment. So then my second was born August 2019. And we know what happened 2019 2020 school year COVID hit. And by that point, my business had exploded, because I had been had started in 2018, making paperless digital resources on top of my written paper ones. And I just had done it. And then I had all these things already made when COVID hit and so it got really big. And honestly, I couldn’t manage it. I could not foresee ever going back into the classroom after that, because the job was too big, I would legitimately have to shut down. It’s not rocket science, in order to be able to teach. And so I had to choose like, there was no way I had the capacity with two kids to teach and maintain this business. And so I chose the business. I think some people think that writing resources is passive income, which it is like it is passive income. Like once it’s written, it’s there. But it’s never done. You’re always updating there’s, there’s constant customer support, there’s always people asking you to make more stuff. Like I mean, listen, I have people already asking me what’s gonna be the next curriculum. And I haven’t even finished the chemistry one yet. So like, there’s always more to do. And that’s not even saying like marketing, or the extras I try to do like with the podcast and the blog, just to like support teachers. So that’s a whole nother thing on top of it. So there’s just a lot that goes into it. And I personally don’t have the capacity to do it all. I could not be a mom and teach and do this curriculum, writing gigs. So I chose my family and I choose It’s not rocket science for the time being. And honestly, when I told my audience, I wasn’t going back after I had originally been like, I’m on an extended maternity leave, because that’s what my school called it. They were like we’re treating this as an extended maternity leave. Like, we’re hoping to see you the 2020 2021 school year like whatever. And then after I was like, no pandemic, they’re like, 2122. And that’s when I was like, No, I can’t, it’s just too big. And when I told y’all though, I told my emails, Instagram, I thought there’d be a lot more judgment. But mostly people were thrilled because they’re like, you have more time to make resources for me. And I was like, You’re exactly right. Because before I would get all these requests and all these things, and I was like, I literally can’t like for instance, someone would find a typo. And I’d be like, I’ll try to get to it in the next two weeks. Like you’d be like a two week turnaround for me to fix a typo. Whereas now someone finds a typo. I can get it fixed that day, get it sent to them, you know, so I’m grateful I have more capacity to serve the teachers who use its architect As resources also, I think the other thing that helped me because I had a really hard time not being directly with students and impacting students was my husband helped me to see like, the quantity, look at it quantitatively of I can have a greater impact on more students, if I focus on it’s not rocket science, rather than my classroom. Like in my classroom, I’m maybe reaching 100 students a year at the small school I taught at, whereas it’s not rocket science observing, you know, 100 plus teachers a year, I don’t even know how to quantify how many and all their students and it’s a multiplication factor there and exponential way to serve students and serves teachers. So that was really encouraging for me. Another question was, do you ever see yourself going back? And so let I’ll be perfectly honest, at this point, it’s almost impossible to imagine, because it’s not rocket science. I don’t have it set up in a way that it could go on without me. And maybe that’s just bad business strategy. But like, I didn’t go to business school. So if it’s bad strategy, I’m not surprised because I don’t have my MBA, but it is set up and I am the curriculum writer, I write all the podcasts like, Yes, I have great people that helped me and work with me. Y’all have heard Allison, you know, helping me with emails, any social media posts is my friend Lauren, who does it. I have Sarah, who edits all these podcasts, so I can just record them. Like, I have great people working with me and helping me. But the core of isn’t rocket science is still me. And I can’t imagine this business self running without me. Maybe it can get to that point. And then I would have the capacity, but like, right now, I like I would have to close the business. And unfortunately, it’s not like SEO, where you can just like put your store on vacation. Like, it’s still like, it’s up, it’s up. And I can’t imagine selling resources and not being there to support teachers after the fact. And so for now, I can’t imagine it. But maybe one day, I would say to would have to be a really specific situation now that I’ve experienced total autonomy as my own boss, it would be hard for me to submit someone else’s leadership. And just being perfectly frank, I will say though, getting my doctorate has always been my dream. And I would love to get it in your curriculum design and instruction. So maybe that could happen one day, and that would open up doors, like teaching at a college level could be really fun. I don’t know, never say never. I mean, if you had told me eight years ago, that I would have a podcast or secondary science teachers, and I would not be in the classroom, and I’d be creating these resources, I would have laughed in your face. So never say never, who knows what will happen eight years from now. And eight years from now my kids are going to be 911 and 13, which is insane. So I have no idea what that’s gonna look like. So I’m just trying to have open hands with it and just see what happens. But I think the hardest part is I really miss students. I just love high school students, and I love just teaching them. And I do have joy in teaching teachers like that has been fun. But um, there’s something different about just like, watching a 15 or 16 year old, like, get it for the first time. No, no, it’s really special. But as you all know, that’s just unfortunately, there’s so much else put on teachers that like that just feels like a small part of it. So no job is perfect. And that’s kind of what I settled on. Okay, last question tips for new TBT sellers. My best advice if you’re going to start on TBT, is you need to make quality products, like nothing else matters if your products aren’t quality. And I think that has been the craziest part of isn’t rocket science is like the resources have stood for themselves from the beginning. And that’s been really great. And even when they weren’t flashy or anything like that they were just good resources. And so I think that’s my number one recommendation. I would also say Don’t stress about everything else at first, like marketing and having an Instagram and starting an email list. Like I know people will tell you 1000 different things. But if you don’t have quality products, nothing else matters. So I would focus on making quality products first and let all the rest come after it. I was lucky in that when I started in 2016. Like people weren’t really like marketing, and they weren’t like teacher grams as much and stuff like that it was all very small. So I can just kind of like make my resources and let search engines do the rest. Now it’s a lot more work. But it can be overwhelming. So that’s why I would say your number one priority should be those resources. And then the second thing I would say is find a course or a community for new sellers. Like I haven’t taken any of these because when I got started there were not courses so you just figured it all out yourself. It was a huge learning curve. But I know Shelley Reese has a course I think it’s called TBT focus excess. And then Erin Sellars, I know she has a podcast called School of sellers. She has a community. I think she has courses and like memberships for new sellers. I think she does a lot there. I think something like that would be really helpful. Like when I see some of those things pop up on my feed. I’m like, oh, that’s like really great services that are offering new people to get started. So I would lean in heavily to that. Again, I can’t like I feel bad recommending something I haven’t tried or like vouch like I hadn’t listened to that podcast or anything. But that’s only because like I very much like stick your head down and stay in your lane and like right now my lane is the chemistry and I’m not even Looking at anything, I’m not listening to business podcasts or marketing podcasts or like learning and growing like, I’m just trying to get this done. So that’s kind of where I’m at. So I would check those out. Take it with a grain of salt, because I haven’t personally tested it out. All right, that’s it. I had fun answering these questions. I’m sorry, I got so long. Hopefully you can listen to this in chunks. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m planning out my episodes for next year, which is crazy. Like I already kind of have all of October, November, December mapped out. But I’m already thinking about 2024 and what the podcast will look like. And I really like doing episodes based on questions you guys have like taking one and doing a deep dive. So if you have those kinds of questions, DM me or email me and say, this would be a great podcast episode on XYZ. Because sometimes when people send me a question, I’m like, do they just want me to respond right now? Because they want a longer response? And do you think it’d be a good podcast episode that I can do a long response on it? So let me know and don’t be shy. And if you want any of those links to like, resources, or anything I mentioned in this episode, you can find those in the show notes at it’s not rocket science. classroom.com/episode 100. And yeah, leave a review today. That’d be a great gift, especially if you’ve been here since my first ask me anything back in episode 50. You have not left a rating review. Do it today. That would make my day.
All right, teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be rooting for you teacher friend.