I was feeling good about all that I had accomplished, and then a student asked, "Mr. Grossman, are there any black scientists?" I quickly pulled up a picture of Neil deGrasse Tyson and explained that one of the most well-known physicist of today is black. However, I realized at that point that I had failed. I may have given my students great experiences in science and increased their understanding of science, but I had failed to introduce them to role models in science, people who could help my students see themselves as scientists. I hate to say that the only scientist most of my students were exposed to in my class was Albert Einstein. While he's the classic example of a scientist, he's not someone that most of my students can relate to.
I have spent some time since that event reflecting on where I went wrong. What I realized is that part of our job as educators is helping students explore possible career paths. Many times they can't envision themselves in careers without role models. As I librarian, I considered this in purchasing books to make sure all of my patrons could "see" themselves in the books in the library. However, as a science teacher, I hadn't considered this. I had not worked to make sure all of my students could see themselves in science careers by seeing a variety of real scientists. As I begin planning for next year, I'll be looking for more ways to incorporate scientists into the curriculum. Next year I will deliberately incorporate Skype visits from scientist in the field as well as readings about current and past scientists from a variety of backgrounds so that all of my students will be able to "see" themselves as scientists. Obviously not all of my students will become scientists, but I want the career paths to be open to them through in-depth understanding of science AND through the availability of scientist role models.
What will you do next year to ensure that your scientists can "see" themselves in careers in science?