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Sharon Harris

What Could go Wrong


Presentation by Sharon Harris, Kathie Stevens, & Marge Porter


Orientation for 2002-2003 TEAs



In the Field

Being ignorant of the research topic. Start preparing yourself now. Get background information, get the basics, talk to your PI to get the specifics. Ask for the proposal. Ask for readings. Talk with the team to gain understanding.


Getting frustrated with delays. When delays happen,  have a plan for something to do, relax, be flexible. Change your socks and change your attitude.....


Not recognizing that you are not in control. You are a team member and the PI is in control. The PI knows their research and their job - do not try to take charge or tell them how to do things - even if you are older and wiser.


Dealing with condescending attitudes of others - they are the attitudes of other people, not yours - expect them, but don't let them get to you.


Lacking ideal medical care. You are in a remote place. This goes with the territory. Note that the medical care, when needed is impressive.


Having communication problems. They happen. Always. Get information on what you should expect to have available - but remember that things break, satellites may not always be available, weather interrupts transmissions, etc.


Experiencing cultural differences. Be aware and be respectful. You may not be coming back - but your PI and their team and other researchers are. 


Getting cold. You probably will as you are in a polar climate. Prepare. Make sure you have all of the necessary gear with you. Ask for information about what to take.

Having your PI expect too, too much. Communicate - before you go. Get clarification. What exactly do they expect of you? What do you expect to get out of the experience? Share your TEA responsibilities with them.  Always remember that you are there to be immersed in research. You can write your journals in the evening. You can miss a journal or two (but remember that you have an audience following you.).  If content expectations are an issue, or running equipment, express this to the PI and get assistance - you don't want to harm yourself or others, or jeopardize the field experiment. If an issues persists, contact Deb or Steph.


Needing to vent. It happens. Especially in the confines of a small research camp or on a research vessel. Don't do it to others in your field team - this will turn into a bitch session and won't be positive. Take the high road. Send an e-mail to a TEA Buddy - you will feel better and they may have some insights.


Needing to take action. If relationships, expectations, etc. are not going well, contact  Deb or Steph immediately - which means before things get out of hand! Sometimes it is just that small things get blown out of proportion and emotions run high in the confines of the field camp and a little reflection puts things back into place. Other times, however, discussion or action may be needed. Before you react, contact Deb and Steph and a TEA buddy. Be patient and get insights - it may take a few days with e-mail. You do not want to confront you PI, NSF, etc. without all of the information being shared through the proper channels. You potentially could do permanent damage to your research team dynamics, and negatively impact future TEAs.



On the School Front

Waning administrative support while you are preparing and after you get back. Keep the administration on board! Sometimes they forget that they signed off on your experience - don't let them!!!   Treat this experience as an opportunity for the school - not just for you. Share how you will help impact the school .


·       Share that parcticipation in the TEA Program can:

·       Increase enthusiasm and energy in the school

·       Offer opportunities for professional growth

·       Better involve students in science (=better test scores)

·       Bring more resources to schools ($, equipment, travel)

·       Build links to universities (=real data, exposure to real scientists)


·       Calm administrative fears about the costs involved.


·       TEA will send a welcoming letter and package to your school administrator. TEA can send additional letters if you feel they are needed to continue support and remind the school of their responsibilities.


·       Educate your administrators about how you can connect your shared experience with your state and national standards and how pedagogy will be positively impacted.


·       Focus your administrators on how you can better bring the process of science into the classroom and assist your colleagues in doing the same.


·       Help find your substitute - a substitute who will be loved by your administration, colleagues, parents, and students - a substitute you can trust! This is paid for out of the supplemental grant - don't skimp! Having a non-successful sub damages everyone.


·       Work with your substitute. Make copies of the lesson plans so that you can answer questions / check in while you are in the field. Educate the substitute about your trip and how to leverage it. Your sub should be an advocate of the opportunities you are offering while you are in the field.


Missing Colleague and Student Enthusiasm

·       Create a Web site for the school to use

·       Have an assembly for the school to talk about what they are going to experience and learn - have your own students lead the assembly so that you are not in the spotlight.

·       Have an open house to share with parents and colleagues.

·       Share press clippings - which always should mention your school and district - talk about your colleagues and how they are involved.

·       Find out how you can help your school and colleagues - ASK them (don't just assume)! Do they want curriculum materials? Materials? Can you set up math problems for the math classes? Can the French class translate your journals? How do they want to use your shared experience in their classroom?


Coping with colleague jealousy. See above for some ideas for "pre-emptive strikes." Sometimes, however, colleagues are jealous of your experience and the fact that you are in the spot light. Share the spot light where ever you can. Ask them for ideas about how to leverage your experience and work together. Be sensitive - but don't stop being active (= no one wins - especially the students!).


Coordinating your district. You may have to help this along. Meet with your science specialist and technology specialist. Share the possibilities and get their ideas. Have some flyers with pertinent information about your trip ready for distribution to other teachers.



On the Home Front

Leaving friends, family, and colleagues at home.

·       Spend "quality" time with them before you go.

·       Share your excitement and invite them to be involved!

·       Create a family Web site, have the family help with a school Web site, or have your children build an Antarctic scrap book of your trip while you are gone.

·       Make it educational; swap questions - every day or two have your children ask you a polar question for you to answer and you ask them a question for them to research.

·       Leave little presents at home with dates on them for your spouse and children to open.

·       Keep in touch. E-mail and phone if you can. Tell folks you miss them!



Coming Back

Be aware that the trip will have been a great high and you may encounter reactions that will make you feel let down.  Often TEAs express that they have been in a setting for an extended period of time in which:

1) they have a single, shared, focus - research - they did not have to file detentions, deal with bus duty, make dinner, or feed the dog;

2) they have been treated as professionals and with respect by essentially everyone they encountered.


Remember that you have been away and colleagues and family have stayed. They may be resentful because they have had to pick up the slack while you were off, having fun!


Explore possibilities in the "Leaving friends, family and colleagues at home" section above. Consider also:

·       Do not go immediately back to school - take a day or two. You will be tired and need to be rested to be at your best. 

·       Plan an evening or weekend away with your spouse right up front.

·       With each of you children, plan some child-specific activities for when you return - do this before you return - add even more anticipation of having a shared time with just the two of you.

·       Listen to what your family and colleagues did while you were gone! Celebrate their activities!