Wednesday, February 01, 2006

When all you have to do is ask...

I've never been very good at the part of teaching that is about promoting careers or even studying famous scientists. I've always left the first to others, and felt that in the limited time we have, I'd rather learn content and do science than read biographies. There are always hard choices to make.

As you know, I've been thinking about ways to use Black History Month (and Women's History Month) to draw my students' attention to the lack of women and people of color in science and math fields. I am probably going to do something where they read about the problem and think about how they would try to encourage interest in these fields. I see it as a little like the "demand algebra" movement, where making kids aware of a problem can help give them the tools they need to seek solutions, and can even spark their interest or motivation in something they previously did not value.

I started thinking about inviting some scientists and engineers to come in and speak to the kids during homeroom. I don't want it to be a one-off; that can be valuable, but I want the kids to see many people "like them" (in terms of ethnicity) who have pursued careers in math and science fields. I want them to see men and women, people from New York, people from elsewhere, people from middle class backgrounds, people who grew up poor. I want them to hear about a range of different careers - meteorologist, engineer, doctor... and lawyer, journalist, entrepreneur, politician. It doesn't have to be just science careers. Though I don't need anything more on my plate (good grief, no), a vision of an advisory Speakers' Bureau began to take shape in my head.

Today, instead of doing one of the ten thousand more important things, I started looking up professional organizations on-line, navigating through them to find the most likely contact person, and sending quick letters explaining what I had in mind and asking for their help in finding speakers. I didn't know if I was sending emails into the void, though I certainly expected at least one or two responses.

It's only been a few hours. I have about a dozen responses. Some from individuals willing to speak, others from the people I contacted, offering to help me find speakers within their organizations, forwarding on my message.

I have tears in my eyes. I'm not usually this emotional... I guess it's just that this could really work, and with so little effort. I will go to my principal and the other grade leaders tomorrow and fine-tune the idea, then start contacting possible speakers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:09 PM  
Blogger fachingnuts said...

I love that these folks want to take some time and try to inspire the next generation! That is so good. I am so glad you and your students are going to have this opportunity!

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a future teacher in Washington State and in the middle school I was interning at they had a career day that was similiar to what you are thinking about. The hardest part about that was getting kids to think about careers other than rapper or athlete.

I hope you have a lot of success!

5:16 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...


Welcome to the real world of the classroom where the mom & dad role models have been replaced by 50 cent and Brittney Spears!

6:36 PM  
Blogger Mike in Texas said...

Ms. Frizzle,

Have you checked with NASA? You can contact them several different ways and I understand many of their scientists are very willing to either speak with students or correspond with them.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Ivory said...

Brace yourself for a shameless plug for people in my profession - you should teach them about the clinical laboratory. You can be anything from a chemist to several different flavors of biologist in the clinical setting and save people's lives every day. There's a workforce shortage now and we need people badly. It's a job that pays well and is compatible with family life. New York has some excellent training programs - I did a review of one in upstate NY that looked outstanding. You can contact for local groups that have more info about this in your state and a packet of ed materials for a presentation about the career. Also, the American Society for Microbiology (asm), American Association of Clinical Chemists (AACC) and Clinical Laboratory Managers Association (CLMA) might be able to provide you with additional material.

Good Luck!

2:54 PM  
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2:50 AM  

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