Q&A With New Lower School Science Teacher Monica Dolan

PolyNews was thrilled to interview the new Lower School Science Teacher Monica Dolan about her work at Poly and goals for the future. Read on for our interview with her.

Can you share an overview of your classroom?
When students enter, their journals are already sitting out on these tables. We review the previous lesson, and they can go through their journals and do an assessment of their understanding. And then I introduce the new lesson, they journal, and then they're able to explore. This classroom is wonderful for learning. You can see the bones of how everything works. There’s a lot of natural light and access to the outdoors; there’s a door to the garden, which is really sweet. It's a cool space, and I make sure there are lots of specimens and things are readily available for them to look at and touch and see.

Tell us a little bit about your teaching experience before Poly?
I taught at the Children's Center at Caltech for 15 years. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of preschool education. It was a pretty intense curriculum over there, too. They were the first preschool in the United States that built a real science lab for children under the age of five. One of the scientists from Caltech came in and he said, “this looks exactly like my lab!” Then I was the science teacher at Walden, where I did a job similar to this. I’m very excited to be at Poly.

What are some of your favorite parts about teaching at Poly?
The families and the commitment to education is incredible. I loved the community here, like how the teachers sit and eat together at lunch. It’s a really great communal feel. I love how engaged Paula is with the teachers in the school. I think that's very rare to find a director that is so hands-on with her staff. I feel like the school puts in a lot of effort and research into finding the best way to teach all learners. We're never trying to put a round peg into a square hole. Poly does a really nice job of meeting everyone's needs, which has been really fantastic. 

Tell us about the collaboration within the science department.
I've only gone to one science meeting so far, but it was great. I could hear the perspectives from teachers in all the divisions. It was cool to see other classrooms and what the space looks like, feels like, and what they are learning. 

What are some of your goals for the year ahead?
My main goal is to get to know Poly far better and get to know the expectations of me and the expectations of science, and then figuring out how all of this works together in a schedule. I have so many hands-on activities. There's so much setup in what I do which can be intense when I have first grade one day, and fourth grade the next day, because I basically have to break down everything in the room and then set up for a different grade level, and then do it again the next day. So it's a lot of that every day. But I've gotten in the swing of it already, and it seems to be working really well. Basically just putting all of the puzzle pieces together to make sure that I've got a really great picture of how I want to teach science.