Why STEM Is Shortsighted

Full disclosure…I’m only writing this post after being excluded from a really cool training that could have resulted in me finally getting a set of laptops for my classroom. Why was I excluded? Was it my poor teaching skills? My inexperience with technology? My resistance to taking additional trainings or training my peers?

No. I am a lowly English teacher. I just teach kids to read and write. Nothing important like science, technology, engineering, or math.

Yes, yes, I know those subjects are important, but I’m a little upset at how what a limited vision we have for them. It is as if they exist in a bubble, free of any connection to any other discipline. I don’t think we need to abandon STEM…just expand our understanding of it. Here’s why:

  1. Much of science, and math for that matter, is based on reading. It would help to involve Language Arts teachers when discussing STEM initiatives. Most LA teachers tend to focus on literature since that is where we feel comfortable. Opening up STEM programs and projects to more than just science and math teachers could improve student learning exponentially by improving the teaching they are receiving in all areas. By bringing more science and math into other classes only serves to solidify student understanding in the STEM areas.
  2. Writing is also key to these subjects, but often ignored. I know a few teachers that have students write reports, but outside of coming up with a creative title for a science fair project, writing is largely ignored despite research that shows writing leads to better understanding. Scientists keep logs and write reports; mathematicians explain the processes used. The internet itself was created so that scientists could communicate better…through writing! Yet, we don’t  want to equip future scientists/mathematicians with the skills to truly be successful in thier fields.
  3. These initiatives won’t matter as long as we are focused on content knowledge rather than process knowledge. Science/math teachers are evaluated (either formally or informally) based on how their students do on standardized, multiple choice tests. They are not encouraged to give students the opportunities they need to explore, experiment and create that is so key to understanding the disciplines that STEM is focused on. These explorations could occur in all classes…and would be most effective if they occurred across disciplines.

So yes, I’m upset that after working hard to bring non-fiction into my classroom, use content area vocabulary alongside reading words, create integrated cross-disciplinary plans with the math and science teachers and otherwise connect all the dots so my kids can have an understanding of the big picture…I’ve been left out of the club, a club where I could be of use. A club that doesn’t yet realize it needs me.

When will we learn that it isn’t the content that stays with kids, it’s the connections we make to it.

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