I have a confession to make. I have been dabbling…in science. It all started, I suppose, when I was just a little tyke, darting out of bed every morning at 6:30 to catch Mr. Wizard’s World before heading off to my official education at Sykes Elementary. He’d mix curious solutions or launch balloon rockets with Bunsen burners and my eyeballs would pop out of my skull like a cartoon goofball, every single morning. It was such a natural thrill to explore the ways that we human beings better understand our planet in a daily scenario with a trusted mentor. Then there were Bill Nye the Science Guy, Beakman’s World, 3-2-1 Contact, and Square One TV. I’m not kidding. I would actually come home from school and eagerly sit through a slate of those programs while peers of mine were busy having lives and practicing productive social skills. I ate up anything and everything mathy or sciency (it’s all the same, really, guys), whether served to me by a couple of strange math detectives or by a goofy Long Islander in a rat suit.
I even made the tough decision to leave the security of friends and home to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. There I was blown away by the wonders of courses like Modern Physics, Ecology, and Investigations in Geometry. And yet somehow when I became a teacher, and the time came to select a content area, I fell back to my grounding in writing. I enjoyed writing, I had won high school awards in poetry and journalism, and I had even considered heading off to the University of Missouri to pursue a career in journalism. So teaching English seemed like a perfect fit. In fact, when people asked me why I ever went to a MATH and SCIENCE school, so staunch in my Englishitude was I that I said “to get better at my weaknesses, I suppose. ”
After all, if you’re interested in reading challenging texts and writing analyses about them, obviously the English classroom is your home base, right? That’s what I thought early in my career, anyway, before several adventures I was blessed to experience. For example, I became a Teacher-Consultant with the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute, exploring the integration of writing across the curriculum. I served as a Common Core trainer for the Mississippi Department of Education, working with other teachers to spread literacy instruction to all content areas. Through these opportunities and my wonderful primary job as an English teacher at Guntown, I started understanding that solid teaching in math, science, and social studies DOES involve reading and writing, too! And yet somehow, through all this, it never actually occurred to me that the best way to learn how to integrate writing into other content areas might be to actually do it myself. The red flags have been there. Kids bring up innocent astronomy or geology questions during grammar lessons, and I launch into giddy exposition about the wonders of the universe, or the magic of exploring life, before returning to my clauses and verb phrases on the board. Oh, I love teaching reading and writing- I still do, obviously- (I love my English teaching assignment at Guntown!) but science continues to fascinate me as an adult. Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson beckons to me from across the stars on the Fox education hit Cosmos, and sometimes, for the moment, I fancy the idea of becoming a science teacher. But only for the moment… right ? No more. I write today to tell you, friends and colleagues, that I have registered to take my first science Praxis test- that I am taking baby steps toward dipping my toes into the “other side” of the pond, from the humanities to the sciences. Yes, I might be off my rocker, I’ll give you that. But it is my conscious intent as a professional educator, to pursue becoming a science teacher, as part of my growing passion for student learning- a science teacher from the language arts wing of the school, a science teacher who values the importance of reading and writing about the scientific evidence we find, a science teacher who passionately digs not just for answers to our students’ questions, but also for an understanding of the minds behind them. I’d like to think I’m not so much a convert, but rather a multivert. Is there room in science class for one more?