As a middle school teacher, I need to be up to date on all of the subject matter that I am teaching to my students. However, once you’re out of grade school yourself, that material can be easy to forget! I was hired at my current school with a three year intern license, and was recently at the point in my career where I was applying for my teacher certification. At the same time, my school also asked me to step in as a science teacher, but before doing so I needed to up my competency in Chemistry, Physics and Statistics.
I was overwhelmed with the idea of adding to my existing student loan debt, and also needed to find a way to take courses that were manageable with the workload of the first years of teaching. I heard about edX from a friend, and was so excited to see all of the great AP and science courses available free to try.
Over the past two years I have taken:
- Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics from Columbia;
- From Atoms to Stars, How Physics Explain our World from the National Research Nuclear University; and
- Preparing for CLEP Chemistry Part 1 from Cooper Union.
I also took Sharks! Global Biodiversity, Biology and Conservation from Cornell. While that course did not count for my teacher certification, it was fun, and I was able to use that experience for my required professional development goals as a teacher intern and for curriculum in my classroom.
For example, this summer, instead of traditional summer reading assignments, my incoming 8th graders have science learning log options – one of them using a resource that I found in the sharks course, Ocearch.org. I had so much fun following a shark through this course that I knew kids would have fun with the same assignment, and want to learn more about one of the ocean’s coolest creatures. I can’t wait to see how students did, and I am grateful for the experience in the class that led us to this enrichment opportunity.
I was able to be successful in these classes due to the self-paced nature of the courses. As a teacher, we have weeks that are wildly busy with projects, grading, grades closing, and more. I was able to power through coursework on my light weeks and snow days, and put it off when I needed to. I felt like was able to do coursework when I was rested and ready to learn – something that is not true of traditional courses. The classroom format was easy to use and the videos were great for visual and auditory comprehension. Now, I can even balance a chemical equation, which was a skill I struggled with in high school!
The most exciting benefit of completing the edX courses and earning my teacher certification is the opportunity to continue working a job that I love and look forward to going to everyday. While most of the coursework that I completed is much deeper than I will ever include in a lesson plan, it feels great to be prepared to answer the rogue high school or college level question (they do happen in 8th grade!). I am a more confident teacher with the new skills that I gained from these four edX courses and I can’t imagine passing the science praxis without this preparation. It also satisfied a quench for learning, and now I feel as though I have the best resource for my learning goals and curiosities.
My advice to those working toward a career goal is to be sure to infuse your learning plan with courses that excite you and remind you why you are on this journey. Learning should be fun, meaningful, and make you want more! The sharks course really saved me when I was stressed about more challenging classes and needed a boost to get excited about getting to the end goal of becoming a certified science teacher. EdX is not at all a shortcut or an easy way out- you are more accountable for your learning and will benefit from the amount of time you put into your program.