Teaching Middle School Science Online
“How do you teach middle school science online?” I get that question a lot and answering it isn’t always quick, easy, or painless. I love my job teaching for Insight School of Kansas and Kansas Virtual Academy, and to me it is obvious why other teachers and students like it here as well. However, I am often faced with defending my school, my students, and even myself as a teacher. In order to dispel rumors and preconceived notions, I wanted to address some of those most frequently asked questions head-on in this article.
Admittedly, the transition from teaching for four years in brick-and-mortar classrooms to teaching science online wasn’t easy at first. Over my seven years teaching online, I’ve found innovative ways to connect with my students, including live synchronous classroom sessions. Using my webcam, I conduct just as many demonstrations in my virtual classroom as I did in a traditional setting, but now I do them from my kitchen counter instead of a school laboratory with the same science kit as the one mailed directly to the students’ homes. I do utilize technology for virtual labs and videos as well. There are some amazing virtual labs and virtual demonstrations that I used even in brick-and-mortar schools.
“Don’t they miss being with real kids?” I think a very important practice for online teaching is to create a community in your classroom. Teaching live classes all year makes it a little easier for me. I am able to start off with icebreakers or warm up activities. I’ve found that middle school kids love sharing information about themselves. Giving them a few minutes before class starts to chat with each other goes a long way. Each of my students is a “real live kid” and I work closely with them to develop a close student-teacher relationship—in some cases we build stronger relationships than I did in the traditional setting.