Frequently Asked Questions


In hopes of getting answers to students and parents quickly I have answered many of the FAQs below. Please take a look here before you e-mail or call. If I do get an e-mail with regard to the one of the questions below, I will simply send you a link to this web page.


The questions below address technical issues, class selection, strategies for studying, etc...


1. How come the files won't open on my computer?

- You need a free adobe reader, if you are having issues be sure to download the current version: http://get.adobe.com/reader/other versions/

- If you are still having issues opening files use a different internet browser (Safari browser often has issues) like Mozilla Firefox, free download: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/ or Google Chrome

- Restart your computer after completing updates/downloads.

- Download/save the pdf file to your desktop, then open the file on the desktop to print.

- Click the refresh button, click and wait for it to load, repeat (be patient)...sometimes up to 10 times (this works if you click and get nothing, or type the password and get nothing)

- Many animations/simulations require Java, free download: http://www.java.com/en/download/

- Use a PC (not Apple)


2. What should I do if I miss a day of class due to an excused absence?

If you miss a day of class you should first make an effort to check the web site for the information covered in class. You should also make sure to check for any homework or quizzes that might be coming up. Ask a friend in class for the homework or e-mail the instructor to help with what may be due next class (When you e-mail the instructor, be specific...ie give your name, period, ask for the title of the notes you need, be poliet).


3. I had an excused absence and was unable to turn in my work. How can I turn in my work for full credit? 

Turn the assignment in to the instructor directly, it is always good to follow-up with the instructor when you return from an excused absence. Never ask - "What did we do?"  You should have looked online and have specific questions about assignments.  You have the same number of days absent to make up the work.


4. I am going to miss school due to an unexcused absence (Wedding, Family Vacation, Field Trip, etc.). What can I do to be able to make up the work for full credit? 

In order to have the opportunity to make up the missed work, you must fill out an Absent Notification Form at least 5 days in advance. Once you have filled out the form, turn it in to you instructor and you will be given the opportunity to complete the missed work. Not all of the assignments can be made up due to an unexcused absence (Please see syllabus for absence policy)


5. When can I make up a laboratory if I missed a day of class due to an excused absence?

It is the student's responsibility to schedule lab make-up with the instructor within the make-up timeline.  Laboratory make-up is at the discretion of the instructor.  Please note if a student misses an agreed upon make-up time, they maybe issued a zero - the opportunity to make-up an assignment needs to be given once - it is the student's responsibility to follow-up.


6. What can I do to make up a quiz I missed when I was absent?

No make-up quizzes are given.  If the absence is excused, the quiz will be excused (appear as NA on Aeries).  For mastery quizzes, student will need to complete the mastery assignment to be excused from the quiz.


7. I was absent for an exam, when will I have the opportunity to take the exam?

Schedule to make-up the exam before school or during class time based upon the instructors preference. 


8. Is there any opportunity for extra credit in this class?

There is no extra credit assignment, there will be bonus points on assignments occasionally throughout the term.  Regular credit is offered daily, please take advantage of earning points daily!


9. Can I turn in work that is late?

Late work will be accepted for Laboratory Reports  and Projects Only.  Please review syllabus regarding point deductions for late Laboratory Reports and Projects.


10. My student is struggling!

Did your student meet the pre-requisites.  For example a student needs to have Algebra completed before taking Biology.  If your student does not meet the pre-reqs and is struggling, please follow-up with their counselor. There is a lot of math in science classes, please follow the suggested recommendations.  Please check in DAILY with your student - look at my agenda online with them, ask them to show you their work...yes, they will think it's nagging, but they clearly need support if they are struggling...set a clear expectation...every night we'll review your work for 5 min until you have a 95% or better in HW or your quiz scores are 70% or better (have your student help set the expectation).  Please scroll down to get more ideas on how to help your student.


11. My student is not getting an A!

Please realize that not everyone gets an A.  In the case of Biology - it is often the first time a student has to really study.  Science requires students to read, write, apply science and math skills, learn new vocabulary and content, apply/use the content in new ways - this can be a struggle for many students.  I often hear from parents "my student works so much harder than their friends but doesn't do well" - please don't compare, it is important to support your student's needs...the goal is to help them successful in school and life.


The important piece is having a happy and healthy kid.  Increasing the stress for an "A" often backfires (this is especially true if your student had a board line grade) - a student typically becomes more stress, worried and preforms worse.  Please ask your student the following:

1. Do you feel you are putting in enough effort to get the grade you want? (see below for ideas to focus their efforts, guide their efforts not their grade)

2. What can we (the parents) do to support your efforts? (see below for ideas to support them)

3. What can your teacher do to support your efforts?  (have your student follow-up with their teacher with their ideas)


12. How can I raise my grade in class if I am not performing well?

1.  Make sure you are attending class regularly

2.  Complete every homework assignment (including the textbook reading)

3.  Use class time wisely and ask questions in class

4.  Be an active group member during labs

5.  Make flashcards and bring them to your instructor to review.  Then use the flashcards properly - give yourself a written quizzes using the flashcards...don't just flip through them.

6.  Re-do worksheets for extra practice, you have the answers since they were reviewed in class

7.  Attend tutorial time

8.  Use the agendas posted online to get ahead...ie. complete reading, start HW

9. Use the mastery resources (Mastery Link) - extra notes, resources, video links, websites, extra practice

10. When studying - think "What evidence do have to show Lawless for my efforts?"  - Flashcards with the written answers from quizzes; written summary of notes, RG, key ides; creation and use of quizlets...


13. Do you have suggestions on how to study?

Yes!  Start with your packet, read, review and highlight.  Make a list of key vocabulary.  Re-do worksheets, you have the answers from class...print off new ones and try them again in a test setting.  Write and solve your own questions with a peer or by yourself.  Also, consider making flash cards and bring them to me to review (often I can look over a student's flash cards in class or if more time is needed come to tutorial time).  This allows me to see what the student is studying and to help focus their efforts (ie. toss cards out or help them see what they are missing).  When using the flashcards - use them to give yourself a written quiz, 5 at a time - write answers then check answers.  Watch posted video links.  Use the mastery resources! (Mastery Link)


A key thing I ask student is "written evidence" or "written practice".  It is not enough to just read or quiz orally.  I highly recommend kids give themselves a written quiz using items in their packet and flashcards.


14. My student lacks motivation to do well.

Help them make a 10-15 year plan.  Ask them about careers, where do they see themself when they are 30?  Help them backwards plan to get to where they want to be...help them see the importance of the efforts today will pay off in the future...open doors vs. closing them.


15. What are Mastery Quizzes?

The science department is developing Mastery Quizzes and Assignments for the core classes - Earth and Space, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.  Check out the Mastery Link on the CCA Science homepage, additional information is also in the course syllabus.  The goal is to support struggling students.


16. Do you offer tutoring or have any tutoring services you recommend?

Please check the instructor's website for tutorial hours.  CCA teachers can not recommend outside tutoring services.  Regardless of permission, Mrs. Lawless only communicates with students and parents - not tutors.  You can choose to share information (Aeries and resources teacher website) with a tutor.


If you feel your student needs a tutor.  Please consider the following: Your student has science class 90min/day are they coming to class prepared? Do they ask questions in class?  Are they using the resources on the teacher's website?  Do they attend tutorial time (just because they are dropped off early, doesn't mean they are coming to tutorial time)? Are you following up with the posted agenda to ensure they are completing work?  Do you ask them questions about biology - the posted agendas can help you ask specific questions? Do you follow grades on Aeries? 


17. I am interested in the SAT II in Biology...what do you think?

College prep biology does not cover the depth and breadth required to score well on the SAT II Exam, those students that want to take the exam will need to complete additional studying.  In the past students have purchased an SAT II study book (free resources at http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/lc_two.html) and they bring it in for me to make notes on the table of contents about areas that were not covered in college prep biology.  There are two biology exams, "E" and "M".  "E" is more ecology based and "M" is more cell/genetics based, at first glance the "E" option may appear easier but it is my experience that the questions are very broad while the "M" questions are more straight forward and students have reported they felt they did better on the "M" questions. Check out: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/lc_two/bio/bio.html for more details about the exam.


On a side note, most colleges/universities require that a student complete the Writing, Math (it is suggested that you take the highest math level) and one subject exam - check with the schools that you are interested in before making this decision.  Even if you are a super all-star science student, you can still take the exam in history...the schools are using the exam to look for well rounded students that can perform in a subject area outside of math and English.  So, if you plan to AP History as a sophomore or junior you may want to opt to take that subject exam because you'll have covered more material at an advanced level and will most likely score higher than the average high school student.  Or if you really want to take a science test and are a super all-star science student, take Chemistry and AP Chemistry your sophomore year and take the test in chemistry...or even Physics and AP Physics your Junior year.  AP Biology is also an option as an additional tool to prepare for the biology exam, however, AP Biology is typically a Senior course and it maybe too late for college applications.  As mentioned above, if you want to take the SAT II Exam after completing college prep biology please follow the recommendations above and I would be glad to guide your preparation (also see resources below).


18. Test Prep Resources for AP and SAT II

From the media center: https://www.number2.com/


19. What classes should I take? 

In my opinion, all college prep students should complete at least Biology, Chemistry and Physics.  I always suggest taking 4 of science years total (ie. Earth/Space, QUEST, AP science course...check out the course profiles for options).  Please do not email asking about the prerequisites (I will most likely be pasting this into my response).  The prerequisites are in place to support and set all students up for success, they apply to all students.  Per Ed Code a student can enroll in any course via open access (note College Board has some restrictions on AP class), but please carefully consider our recommendations before selecting courses.  Most students that ignore the prerequisites regret the decision.


Make a 4 year plan, map out the courses you want to take in High School.  If you are a sophomore who loves science/math and is planning a career in science you should be taking Chem and AP Chem.  If you want to take another science course as a sophomore, consider Anatomy/Physiology, QUEST or Robotics.


I often get emails about taking physics before chemistry.   We have carefully discussed the recommended prerequisites as a department.  Chemistry has students use math and science skills to draw conclusions, physics has students apply those skills to discover in an inquiry setting.  Students that complete chemistry first are often more successful in physics then those that do not follow the recommended sequence.  The recommendations are purposeful, students that do not follow these make life more stressful and harder than needed.  Please support your student by following the recommended pathways.


20. How soon should I expect a response through e-mail or telephone from Mrs. Lawless?

I receive on average about 50+ e-mails a day and have to respond to most of them. Please allow me 24 hours to respond to an e-mail, longer over weekend or school breaks.  I may need to follow-up with your student before I can respond to an email, which may delay a response.  If I do not get back to you within the timeframe please feel free to e-mail me again.  I typically return phone calls before school.  Email is the most efficient form on contact, if you would like me to call you please email a number where you can be reached and the topic of concern.  Email will usually generate the fastest response.


Please be respectful - requesting an ASAP response is rude.  "At your earliest convenience" is more appropriate.  I do my best to respond promptly to all emails.


21. What is my grade?

In order to view your grade you must have an Aeries account through the SDUHSD school district. The purpose of this system is to allow you to see grades in real time as they are recorded in the teachers grade book. If you need help getting an account or password please contact the front desk at CCA.


21. We would like to donate to the class, how can we do that?  What is needed?

Please consider donating to the Foundation, we use the funds to supplement our district/department budget for lab supplies.  We have been very fortunate to be able to continue a lab intensive program with the support of the Foundation funds.  We also have a list of science supplies/equipment (click here for the list).  Beyond that, there is always a need for office supplies (pens, pencils, tape, file folders, organization bins or gift cards for these items to Staples, Office Depot, Target) and building supplies (Home Depot or Lowes gift cards we often manufacture some of our lab equipment from building supplies).


22. How can I request a Letter of Recommendation (aka LoR) from Mrs. Lawless?

Read the ENTIRE answer to this question.


I accept request from students, please download Mrs. Lawless' student brag sheet (word file so that it can be typed).  Read and follow all directions on the form, please allow at least 2 weeks for the letter to be completed - remember you are asking for a letter of recommendation - worthy students are respectful and plan ahead!  The brag sheet form is specific for Mrs. Lawless but it could be used when requesting a letter from other teachers, please check with other teachers regarding their policy and information needed.  Failure to follow these guidelines and timelines may result in Mrs. Lawless canceling your request.


Please note, it is often not a great idea to request a letter from a teacher you had freshman year only (check with your college of choice). College letters for students I have only had a freshman will acknowledge that you were a student as a freshman, they can not to address current maturity or academic status.  For college, please consider asking teachings you had junior (or sophomore) year for the most effective and accurate letters.


Please note you should REQUEST a letter (or list Lawless as a reference) - ASK appropriately - do not expect, demand or assume I will write you a letter of recommendation. 

Sample Request format:

Dear Mrs. Lawless,

I am applying for XYZ and I need a letter of recommendation which is due X/Y/20ZZ.  Would you please consider writing a letter on my behalf?  If you can, I will provide  you in the requirements from your website on X/Y/20ZZ.

Thank you,




1. Contact me in person or via email yourself (not your mom, dad, tutor or personal assistant)

2. Give at least 2 weeks notice (that two weeks starts when you get me all your paperwork - including the brag packet)

3. Complete Naviance (for college) request and/or provide stamped envelopes

4. Complete FERPA (This can be found on Naviance or counseling office can assist you.  If you want a letter from me, you must waive your right to view the letter)

5. Complete brag sheet

6. Be in good standing (students with academic honesty or behavior issues please do not ask for a LoR, the answer will be no).


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