Advice for Newly Online Teachers
Has the coronavirus outbreak of 2020 or another situation forced you to try your hand at online education? Truth be told, teaching online can be a rewarding experience. However, the skill set required for an online teacher varies somewhat from the skill set for a classroom teacher. Don't worry! In this lesson, we offer you advice to make the transition as smooth and as frustration-free as possible.
While working at home has its obvious perks, such as not having to drive to work, and the ability to eat a tasty homemade sandwich on the couch in front of the television, it has its drawbacks as well. Having more freedom requires the self-discipline to avoid distractions. This is why having a set schedule may be tantamount to your success each day. Therefore, go to bed , wake up, eat meals and take breaks at the same time each day. In other words, pretend you are still working at your school.
- Your online classroom is going to lack the actual comfort of the brick and mortar surroundings that put you in your comfort zone. You might feel 'Lost in Space' in your new online setting. However, you can alleviate your anxieties quite a bit by creating as much structure as possible. Examples include:
- Grade tests and quizzes as soon as possible
- Have set office hours, but be willing to meet with a student at other times as well
- Keep pop quizzes that surprise students to a minimum, or avoid them altogether
- Let each student know 'your door is always open', although in this case they would contact you by email instead of knocking on your door
- Post daily or weekly announcements related to subject matter
- Post online introductory videos when introducing a new topic
- Set up an online forum where you can answer pertinent student questions
- Remember, at first your students might be just as nervous as you. Use some lighthearted humor, but never tell inappropriate jokes. When teaching online, pretend the school superintendent and school principal are with you at your house.
You won't get much done if you stop to pet the dog every fifteen minutes, or eat snacks at your workstation, or play computer games, or have a television in your line of sight. In advance, set up your work area so that it resembles your work area at school, with only the necessary essentials readily available around you.
This advice to be flexible might sound like a contradiction of the previous advice to be as structured as possible. However, the world is a rapidly changing place from day to day, and your life and your students' lives could be chaotic at times. Expect a lot more students to miss or skip classes, so be sure to post the replay of your lectures online as soon as possible. Also, don't forget that different students could live in different time zones, so always clarify all times you post will be listed in your time zone only.
Anxiety and Stress
Doing something new can lead to extra anxiety and stress. It might be wise to clean up your diet, add some additional fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercise more. Your students might feel more anxious and stressed too, so encourage them to live a healthier lifestyle as well.
Do third-grade students have superior computer skills than you? Can you only operate a landline and a fax machine? It might be time to spend evenings and weekends studying to improve your technology abilities. There exist plenty of online computer courses to bring you up to date. Doing this will give you a boost of self-confidence that you are not a dinosaur, and that you can thrive in the modern online world, too.
We all know technology has a way of failing when we least expect it. It might be a good idea to purchase an extra microphone and an extra set of headphones and keep them handy. Also have a backup plan such as phone numbers to contact your students, as you might not be able to reach them online. In addition, you might want to considering upgrading your online speed, as millions more people will be at home and online due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Once again, since you are not actually physically present in a classroom setting, you will probably find it challenging at times to feel as if you are connecting with students. Some ways to keep in touch with them, as well as allow them to keep in touch with you and each other include online:
- Bulletin Boards
- Discussion Boards
Get the Students Involved
Now that you are more involved, you will want to make sure the students are more involved, too. Some ways to do this include:
- Allow students to grade each other's assignments
- Allow them to have student-run discussions
- Allow them to lead online forums
- Ask students to critique your performance
- Assign individual, pair, and group activities and projects to complement book learning
- Critique your students during the year with online progress reports
- Discussion questions on a particular topic are a great way to get students to think from varying perspectives different than their own
- Divide students into duos or small groups for ease of learning
- Encourage after-school activities to continue just as if students were still in school
Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself. You're probably not going to go from being a great in-class teacher to a great online teacher overnight. After all, every newly-taught skill has a learning curve, and this is no exception. Remember that just about all the other teachers are dealing with the frustrations of the transition too.