On using social media to teach a broader community

Jonte Lee

Chemistry and Physics Teacher


WHEN COVID HIT, no one thought we would be out of school for 18 months. Our school went virtual, and one day, my principal called me and said, “I want you to do an Instagram lesson.” So I decorated my kitchen with posters, and from there I did my first one. I made a lava monster out of baking soda, sugar, and solid fuel. The kids loved it! I did another one the next week, and the kids invited their friends who invited their friends. Before I knew it, I had students, parents, and teachers logging in from San Francisco all the way to Boston.

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We all—all of us—are a hero to someone.”

I had to teach myself how to use Instagram Live, how to use Twitter, how to use Facebook. I mean, I had the accounts, but I wasn’t very active. Growing up, I would watch Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Captain Kangaroo, so I modeled my Instagram lessons after them. The difference was, I couldn’t talk to Big Bird, and Big Bird couldn’t talk to me. But doing my lessons on social media, I was able to interact live with students, teachers, and parents.

These students are sitting at their laptops for eight hours straight, so how do I make it so they’re not just listening to a lecture or watching a PowerPoint? How do I make them feel part of the learning experience virtually? I had to ramp the energy up. I had to be animated. I had to be dramatic. But when I did this from my kitchen, the students loved it. The first thing every student said was, “Mr. Lee has a kitchen! Oh my God.” Because we don’t humanize our teachers. We see them at 9:00 AM, and they just disappear at 3:30. So for them, knowing I have a kitchen, that right there was the talk of the town!

Jonte Lee

This generation is incredibly smart. They are intuitive. They self-advocate at an earlier age than I could have ever dreamed of, and they have more connections globally than the previous generation because of technology. And they are looking for ways to make things better.

For my fellow teachers who are thinking about trying virtual instruction, I would say, be gentle with yourself. Learn it one day at a time. There’s a whole community out there for support. The best part is that this experience made me a community teacher who isn’t bound by the four walls of my classroom. If there’s a student out there who wants to learn, I am there to help that student. The biggest thing I learned is we all—all of us—are a hero to someone. So don’t be afraid, just jump right on in, and know there is support for you.