Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I met Mr. Michael Butler, a biology teacher at Mission Hills High School, the week before school started, August 15th, for in-service days. We discussed how to co-teach at different stages during the semester, and hashed out the first week of school, which began August 20th. We clicked right away, discovering that we both had similar educational philosophies and approaches to teaching. He’s been very respectful of my previous teaching experience, my doctorate in cell biology, and background in the scientific field. Mr. Butler has also encouraged me to share my resources with him and is excited about some of my ideas. He’s been wonderful at giving me feedback after each class in a very gentle and constructive way. I’ve already had the opportunity to co-teach with Mr. Butler for the first week of school, and it’s been fantastic.

1.      How many times per week will you want to meet for planning?

Let’s meet during my prep hour, 2nd period, daily: Tuesday through Friday. Also, since we don’t teach together until 5th and 6th period, we can discuss briefly during lunch how the lesson will unfold for that day and whether or not any changes need to be made. This will be perfect since I teach a bio class right before, during 4th period. Then, we can meet after 6th period to finalize the details for the next days’ plans.

2.      What are your requirements for written lesson plans?
         I don’t have any requirements but I’m happy to help with the lesson plan requirements of CSUSM. I have a file cabinet full of materials for each unit, which you are free to use.

3.      What are your most important goals for this semester?

         My biggest goal is for these students to learn that biology is exciting and fun. Most of the students in bio class are incoming freshman that have opted not to take an honors bio, or higher level science course. They are required to take 2 years of science to graduate so a lot of them are doing it because they have to.

4.      What grading procedures do you use?

         A general rule of thumb I use is to grade them based on how long it takes them to finish the work. I don’t give homework so the students use a lot of class time to do assignments. If it takes 1 class, or an hour, then the assignment is worth 10 points. Half a class is 5 points. 2 classes is 20 points, and so on. They are also graded, based on quizzes, which are given weekly, and unit tests, given every 3 weeks or so.

5.      Do you group students during any assignments?

         Students are broken up into groups almost every day. I like to involve them in as many activities as I can. They seem to be more interested and learn more this way. I don’t let them choose their groups. Otherwise, they will just pick their friends and be less productive. In the beginning, I assign them to their lab groups alphabetically using a seating chart. Once I get to know they’re names, I reassign their seats about every 6 weeks. This way, I can plan the groups based on ability levels. Each lab group will ideally have students with a variety of ability levels.

6.      Are there any English Learners in the classes? Are there any students who have special needs I should be aware of? Where can I get students’ IEP’s or 504’s to read?

         No. The English Learners take a separate biology class called “SDIAE”. We may have a few students with IEPs or 504s. They will be sent to us and accessible to you in the seating chart binder.

7.      Will you please explain your philosophy concerning classroom discipline?

         I need to be better about discipline. I try to prevent problems before they occur and make the class fun and activities-based. When the students are into it and busy, they don’t have time to act up. Students are expected to work bell-to-bell. If they don’t, I time how many seconds are wasted, and they have to stay after class to make it up. I absolutely do not allow eating, drinking, texting, or headphones. Also, I never allow students to choose their own seats. They tend to sit next to their friends and are more tempted to talk and not pay attention.

8.      What kinds of bulletin boards or other displays do you prefer to have in your classroom?

Never have a bare classroom. Ideally, you want your walls covered in your students’ work but that’s not possible in the beginning of the year. In the beginning, I use instructional posters. Then, I hang up student-made posters and art whenever possible.
Yes! Please bring in your posters. I think it’s good you hang something that came from you. It gives you more credibility to the students that you are a co-teacher.

(I have since hung some educational posters on “Photosynthesis”, “Cell Respiration”, “The Plant Cell”, “The Animal Cell”, “The Bacterial Cell”, and an inspirational poster from Ironman Utah, which I completed in May, 2010.

9.      How did you arrive at this particular room arrangement?

         Each grouping of 4 desks is designed to be one lab station. I’ve set up 8 of these “L” arrangements, which is perfect, unless you have more than 32 students. We are going to have classes up to 45 this semester. We are going to be forced to seat students around the lab as well.

10.    What is your field trip policy?

         My AP classes get to go on fieldtrips. We go to the Wild Animal Park and the Long Beach Aquarium. The freshman biology classes don’t usually get to go on field trips. Those classes tend to be rowdier and more difficult to control on field trips. The AP classes are structured like college classes so students are expected to behave accordingly.

11.    How do you maintain active communications with parents?

         It is an effective disciplinary tool when a student is misbehaving frequently. But I also like to call the parents occasionally to tell them when their child is doing well also.

12.    What techniques do you use to motivate students?

         They don’t have homework but they are expected to get the work done during class. Otherwise, they may have to stay after, turn in incomplete work, or finish it for homework. If students aren’t working hard, I use a timer to add up wasted time, which they owe back to me at the end of class. I try to make them laugh a lot and make my classes fun and exciting. Students seem to enjoy my classes but they have to work hard.

13.    What are the special challenges of teaching this subject or grade level?

         Freshman are challenging because they are still at that “in-between” stage and going through puberty. They are transitioning from middle school to high school, and it can be difficult for them. A lot of them aren’t mature yet and some can be very rowdy. Also, there’s a wide variety in the skills and levels incoming freshmen bring with them. Some may be quite advanced, whereas others may not know simple math skills. In addition, some may not know how to read the Biology textbook, especially for English Language Learners.

14.    How would you describe your school’s community relations?

         There’s a few student-run clubs that focus on community services (AVID). We also have some school-wide events, such as food drives, and a relay for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society.

15.    How important are standardized test scores to your school?

         They are critical. If you spend time teaching content that won’t be on the test, and other teachers are using that time to review test questions, they’re students will score higher. You are evaluated based on your students’ test scores. If they test lower than other biology teachers’ students, you get in “trouble” and have to go down to the D.O. (district office) to have a talk.

17. What’s your favorite subject to teach?

         A.P. Bio. Even though it’s way more work to prepare, I love the maturity level of the students and the advanced content material. The students keep me on my toes, and I often find myself learning alongside with them.

18. Where did you get your education?

I received my Bachelor’s from UCSD and my credential from the same program as you, Cal State San Marcos.

19. Did you ever work in any other field besides education?

I worked for the government briefly, preparing documents. It was not exciting. I knew I needed to do something that was a better fit for me. Teaching is very rewarding.

20. What do you love most about teaching?

Students from previous classes come by and visit all the time. I’ve saved every letter or card they ever gave me. I love hearing about where the students end up. It’s such a rewarding career. It’s great to feel like you’re making a difference.

Cooperating Teacher Interview Rubric
15 Questions
Provide answers to 10 of the questions.
Provide answers to all 15 questions.
Provide rich detail for the 15 answers.
5 Added Questions
Provide a list of the 5 additional questions.
Provide the questions and answers to the additional 5 questions.
Organize the 5 additional questions and answers with the themes of the 15 set questions.
Induction Plan - Clinical Practice Timeline of Activities
Make reference to the induction plan.
Provide evidence of how you and your teacher will provide a variety of supports for the different stages of the induction process.
Articulate how you and your teacher will access the needs of you as a team in the different stages of the induction process.
Evidence of Developing a Collaboration
Articulate the foundation you are creating as a team.
Articulate any strategies that will be used for a successful collaboration (communication, planning, management…).
Cite each of the three areas on how your approaches are grounded in your philosophy.
Each question is recognized with a different font (italic, bold, colored…).
Interview is organized so the questions are easy to identify not only by font, but also in the context of the writing.
Visual representations are provided to communicate the foundation of the collaboration of your team.
(1 point will be deducted
if not included)
Provides a copy of the rubric …
& highlights the criteria for each component…
& provides evidence for each criteria marked.

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