The mystery of teaching kids STEM related subjects.

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6 years ago I was asked to teach a group of high achieving students the complexities of robotics. Hearing the word robotics and realizing that I was going to get the opportunity to teach students made me feel more than a bit excited. After about 10 seconds, I realized that I knew nothing about robotics. Absolutely nothing. Not a single thing about where to start and end with it all. This brought about extreme anxiety and bewilderment at the fact that they (administration) thought that I would be the right person to do this.

Fast forward those 6 years and I could not have asked for a more rewarding experience teaching than the opportunity I was given, what seems like, so long ago.

But lets get to the topic of all this. What makes an effective STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teacher? Is it the degree they have? Is it the amount of hours spent in the field? Is it because they have all the knowledge to teach the subject? School districts spend a ridiculous amount of money on professional development in areas related to STEM and Leadership (AVID). They spend this money in hopes that the teacher that they send will be inspired to bring what they have learned to each student in their class. From experience I can tell you that there are many teachers that go to these conferences/ training and never implement the ideas they’ve been shown. They fail to implement these strategies because they are either unmotivated to do so, don’t care about the subject matter or are just upfront about the fact that it is TOO MUCH WORK.

Take a step to the side and lets look at a person view of why someone would want to learn about a given subject. I like to make videos. Its a passion of mine. I love to create a story that people can watch and enjoy to the point where it makes them feel a certain way about themselves and about what they have seen. As a result of my passion, I try and find new innovations, technologies, strategies and techniques to help my videos look and feel the best that they possibly can. All this, to try and create the BEST EXPERIENCE possible.

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Take a step back over to the side and try and answer the question: What makes an effective STEM teacher? Here are some steps I believe professionals should take when they choose the right candidate.

  1. PASSION – I’ve been approached by so many teachers, principals, counselors and business people with the question of , “how do you get the students to do what you want them to do?” I always struggle with answering this because it’s not a simple, straightforward answer. But….if I could put it into words I would say that the person teaching needs to be passionate about the subject. The students need to see that it means a lot to the teacher. If they can see how much the instructor loves to interact and make the material fun and challenging for them, they will raise their level of interest and intelligence to try and meet that excitement and drive.
  2. CONSISTENCY – If the students see that their instructor is not as motivated each day to improve on what they did the previous day, then the students will become unmotivated as well. Things like, cleanliness, preparedness, attention to detail and time management are all important aspects of a STEM class that improve the flow of the lesson and overall function of the class.
  3. TRACK RECORD – This is not to say that the candidate needs to have had prior experience with the subject matter. This is more of a general idea of what kind of teacher candidate this individual was before they came to your office. Often times people can fudge their way through interviews and it isn’t until later on that you realize you may have hired the wrong person. Asking them to provide evidence of their accomplishments with student achievement and how they have motivated students to achieve greater things would be an extremely important aspect in choosing the right candidate for the job.

The reason for this blog post was similar to a call to action. It’s not new news that technology based jobs are being outsourced to other countries around the world. Walter Hickey wrote a story in the Business Insider about the real problem ( Article here ) with the “STEM shortage” and he said this,

But what makes this most galling for the Silicon Valley crowd is that they’re looking at American colleges and they’re seeing a whole lot of foreign born students that are crushing the homegrown talent.

They want that talent.

This is the foundation for this blog post. We need an awakening in this country somehow. A revisiting of the technological plan for education. Students now, more than ever, are capable of conceptualizing new innovations because they’ve been spoon fed technology through the use of social media. Channeling this somehow to invigorate a generation of students that are willing to become the standard and not the unusual. Its unusual that the United States is one of the most technologically advanced societies and yet we aren’t even the ones who keep the technological innovations going.

How do we fix this? We start from the foundation. Teachers spend more time with their students then some parents spend with their kids. Choosing the instructors and institutions that value this type of education is what drives students towards this type of platform. Teachers are the key. Get the right people in there and things will change.

 

 

 

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