Tips for science teachers15/10/2012
Frustrated by lack of useful information for better utilising science technicians? Arwen Heyworth, Onehunga High School offers some useful tips:
Recently a colleague gave me a copy of an article about using support staff effectively; unfortunately science technicians were only mentioned briefly. Initially I was excited about reading the article, hopeful there would be some useful hints I could pass onto my department about working with science technicians. To my disappointment, there was only a brief mention of our role. I found that quite disturbing as I couldn’t think of any other support staff role in the school (besides RTLBs and teacher aides) that work so closely with their department and students.
As science technicians, our role impacts on every student taking any Science subject and effects their achievement, especially in practical assessments. Our role is often devalued and under utilised by schools, as seen by the low number of technician’s hours per student in a large portion of New Zealand schools. I prefer to think that this is out of ignorance rather than any other more negative reason.
To that effect, I have compiled a list of tips for science teachers, all of them based on my own experience.
Be organised: The more organised you are, the more prepared your science technician will be. It is particularly helpful to receive your Year Planners, schemes and assessment plans at the start of the year.
Share information: The better informed your technician is, the more helpful they can be. If they know exactly what it is that you are assessing the students on, they can research and contact other technicians for advice or new practicals that will help you deliver your content more effectively.
Meet regularly: Even if it is only 15 minutes, this is still time enough to update them on any news, changes to topics or assessments. The more often you update your technician, the more time they have to prepare.
Include them: If you are thinking of changing a practical assessment or topic and you are having a meeting about it, try and include the technician. You will be pleasantly surprised. They will be able to provide practical input that could save you time and money. Invite them to Department social events. Many technicians feel isolated from their colleagues in the Science Department, particularly if they are on part-time hours. Technicians are a valuable resource that is not used effectively in many schools.
Order in advance: The more notice you give your technician, the better the practical. With advance notice, they will be able to run a practice first to make sure that everything works so you don’t have to discover that it doesn’t in front of 30-odd students. They will also be more relaxed as they will be able to plan their day better.
Provide feedback: If something doesn’t work, or doesn’t work as well as it should, let your technician know! There may be a fault with the chemicals/equipment involved, or perhaps you are not doing the practical properly. If it doesn’t work, the technician needs to know before they make the practical available to other teachers, and if no one informs them that there is a problem, they will not know.
Be pleasant: If you spend some time getting to know your technician, you may discover things about them that could be useful to you. Things such as useful hobbies (e.g. electronics, woodworking and botany), qualifications or areas of specialisation, or even just a healthy dose of common sense. Hint: Chocolate works wonders! It just pays to be polite and to abide by any guidelines that your technician sets (e.g. orders for the next day close at noon each day). These timeframes are normally set for a good reason.
Be flexible: Remember that technicians deal with every teacher in the department, not just you. They are wonderful, creative, clever people but they are not miracle workers and cannot produce wonders at the drop of a hat (mostly, there is the odd exception!) The more flexible you can be, the less stress you heap on your technician.
Be considerate: All technicians need some quiet time during the day so they can catch up on paperwork, ordering, inventory, prepping, maintenance and cleaning. This is very hard to do if you constantly have people coming in and out. You have non-contact hours for catching up on your workload and this helps you to be a more effective teacher. The same is true for your science technician. See if you, as a Department, can schedule that time for them.
I am very lucky to have the support of a wonderful, inclusive department. We are a tight-knit bunch, who work effectively together as a cohesive team, but I know that there are schools out there that are not making the most of this amazing, mostly untapped resource: their science technician. Hopefully, these tips will help you address this issue.
For further information contact: Robyn.Eden@qmc.school.nz