When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I teach high school online, I often get some quizzical looks. I want to remind them that it is 2016 so this is actually much more common than they may realize but, instead, I just answer their questions. They usually want to know the answers to these three questions:
1. How does that work?
2. Can the students see you?
3. What kinds of kids is this for?
I also notice that, sometimes, people may misunderstand what it means to work from home. Some are under the false assumption that it means I don’t have to actually work. “Wow, you’ve got it made,” they might say or, “Your house must be so clean.”
I just smile but, if they really knew how much work it takes, they’d realize that it really doesn’t make any difference that I am working from my home. So, for all those who ever wondered what it is like to teach online, here’s a brief glimpse of what happens in my typical day. You may be surprised at how much interaction and work there actually is!
Every morning, I conference with my teaching partner about lesson plans. That takes me to right about live class time. I hold live class daily, and I choose to use the web cam, so yes, my students can see me. After class ends, I stay in the live room and answer any questions students may have. From there, I return any emails or calls that I may have (and there are usually several). I may then spend time helping students one-to-one via the phone or in a live classroom. I have students who I will call each day to help or to discuss their grades. I will also spend some time grading work that has been submitted. I will also review what I am doing in class tomorrow so I am ready for the next day’s lesson.
Oh, and I can’t forget about meetings (I would like to, but I can’t). I will have team meetings, department meetings, and various other meetings. Since students are able to email, call, or submit work 24/7 there is never a time where there is nothing to do. I will also do a check-in in the evening and return messages if a student has a question.
Teaching online comes with a unique set of challenges as well. To me the biggest challenge is working with a student who does not want to work or come to class or return my emails and calls. I can try and try, but I can’t force a student to do their part. This is frustrating to me because I know that if they would give a little effort, I could help them. I am glad to say that this only happens with a small minority of my students.
So, to answer the remaining questions I typically receive: online learning is for all kinds of students, and I have some great ones. Students choose online learning for a variety of reasons. The bottom line is that traditional brick-and-mortar schools, while great for many students, is just not the right fit for all students. My students are bright and eager to learn. I love the fact that, as a teacher, I can get to know my students and build relationships with them even in the online environment. Online teaching is a lot of work and has its challenges for sure, but it is also very rewarding and fun and so I agree with those who think I “have it made” and it is worth having a messy house!