My #TeacherStrong Strategy: Overcoming Doubts to Teach Successful Science Labs Online

This post was written my 4th & 5th grade math & science educator Sonia Myers.

When we went to distance learning in the spring, it was crisis management mode. I felt as if everything I did in the classroom couldn’t be related to distance learning. Having the summer to look at different platforms and do professional development and talk to other teachers, I realized I can do all those things I was doing before, it just looks a little different. 

My #TeacherStrong strategy is to carve out time and space for students to engage in the process of experimenting, engineering, design, or troubleshooting while they’re online with their peers. I bought students their own motor kits that they could be working on together online. It’s a solo project but they communicate while they’re creating. They’re feeding off each other instead of having an assignment that they’re working on asynchronously, troubleshooting alone, and building alone. 

That piece they’re all missing from the classroom is collaboration. I want to open up that space for them to build and co-create even when they’re separate. It helps us hone in on patience and purpose. We’re being in the moment and provoking questions, not just looking for the answers. 

I’m also going to take time to work with small groups. That was really missing from the spring. I’m going to set up a space where students have a Zoom meeting to work in their small group — 20 minutes per group where I’m meeting them and making space for them. Instead of building solar ovens on their own, for example, they can troubleshoot them together. Students will be leading activities as well. I’m trying to almost take myself out of the equation most of the time. 

Giving students this space gives them a voice. I want to instill empowerment to lead to advocacy. If I don’t create that space or that opportunity for them to think on their feet, troubleshoot, ask those questions, have that voice, then solutionary work doesn’t happen. I see my role as this facilitator of their opportunities. In giving my students the opportunity to feel empowered, I hope they become solutionaries. 

I also say to myself, “Slow it down. Try to be in the moment.” It sounds so cliche, but there is such an urgency — we have this idea that we have to get through the lesson, finish it, move on. We’re forgetting that it’s cyclical. If students aren’t engaged, it doesn’t matter how much information we offload. They’re not going to get it. Slow it down, engage them, and they’re going to get something out of it.

It’s so easy for us teachers to get tunnel vision. It’s easy to get into your classroom and forget the bigger purpose of why we’re doing this. If we don’t have a motivation, we forget and the daily pressures can get a hold of us. I wanted to share my #TeacherStrong strategy because I really want to share the idea that education is a tool to make change. It’s not just assessments. We’re going to save our planet building this knowledge!

#TeacherStrong is looking at the perspective of others in different situations and making connections. We have so much more in common than we think. It changes the narrative of what it means to be a human. 
What does being #TeacherStrong mean to you? If you’d like to share your own strategy, check out the #TeacherStrong toolkit. You’ll learn how to create one and share it on social media to share what you know and what you need with your fellow teachers. Come join us! 

2 thoughts on “My #TeacherStrong Strategy: Overcoming Doubts to Teach Successful Science Labs Online

  1. The more I read about educators and children the more I realize how we have cut ourselves off from who we are. Many educators may find this indigestible, but consider your roles in exploration and how to excite young minds, how to get them from thinking about their own insecurity within the immature framework of their minds. Nature, what is there and how it works is the gift of a subject that can never stop giving and we have hardly scratched the surface. It is young minds that will explore and find the answers, but first. We are designed to be complimentary to one another – not isolated nor restricted through the narrow tube of an iPhone connection. Bringing young minds together is the greatest compliment we can give them, a never ending game of exploration. None of us are equal, but all of us are equally important – this is the beauty of our human nature, our diversity, it is the mosaic or the pixel in the beautiful pictures that humanity must paint. Each one of us has a purpose. The time to recognize this is now – not when we have reached the end of a life of frustration. Children excel at having a purpose and all we need to do is to channel the energy, not stifle it. Each one of us is immensely greater than the limitations of our bodies. How an athlete breaks records is in their minds first and then they train their bodies to follow suit. Our spirit helps us and motivates us to achieve the impossible. Teaching is an immense responsibility, but probably the greatest gift of all. The satisfaction is knowing you have helped create the wings upon which our children fly.
    Randal Agostini

  2. I agree with your opinions, Ms. Myers, about allowing students to interact during zoom whether in a breakout room or just with the entire class in general. Peer learning is an important aspect of developing connections. I was subbing last year at an elementary school and also realized that some of the students that attended zoom classes whether they opted to stay completely remote or chose hybrid format of learning, were really feeling isolated. Some students would eagerly use the opportunity of the zoom class to socialize with their classmates, showing off their pets at home or talking in detail about what they did the evening before or share pictures that they had drawn. The schoolteachers that I interacted with also mentioned that they allowed students to interact more freely during discussions or during Q &A sessions as that was the only way, some of the remote kids were getting to see their classmates. Some of the teachers also mentioned that though online teaching gave them some flexibility, it was a little cumbersome and frustrating when the technology got glitchy. Flexibility was good but then it was hard to stop working at a specific time. Doing the required PD to learn a new platform (for some teachers), preparing lessons ahead of time, and uploading them on the school sanctioned LMS, then grading and making sure the students are accountable to finish the work was quite overwhelming. So, for that I think, exercising self-compassion and self-care should also be a crucial part of #TeacherStrong mantra.

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