How to Teach Online – and Save Your Sanity!
This school year looks like none I have ever experienced, with more online learning happening than ever before. Some students are learning within their county, but online. Other students are learning in brick and mortar schools. Still, other families are choosing to homeschool.
As a teacher, you’ve pivoted very quickly and learned new ways of teaching and presenting. You certainly proved yourself in March when most traditional classrooms were no longer available to us.
With our current situation, many teachers have become traditional classroom teachers as well as online teachers.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel more comfortable with traditional teaching and feel less comfortable online teaching due to lack of experience.
Teaching online is NOT the same as teaching in a traditional classroom; it can feel stressful and overwhelming at times.
I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or underprepared for your school year, so I’ve compiled some tips for teaching online that helped me during my years at virtual school.
How Can I Be An Effective Online Educator?
Just like in a traditional classroom, you have to be organized in order to be the most effective. If you aren’t organized, you’ll end up wasting a lot of your time.
A super simple way of organizing your online classroom is to use a virtual drive, like Google Drive, to hold all of your resources. Be sure to label them in a way that makes sense to you.
TIP: I like to color-code my folders by topic – that helps me easily identify the folder I want.
Getting organized may take a bit of time up front, but it will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Set Firm Boundaries
Working from home is a tricky business. It can be really difficult to start and stop working at consistent times.
For your sanity and the happiness of your family, you need to set firm boundaries on when your business hours are. Don’t answer those emails as soon as you wake up. Don’t work late hours (unless you prefer to.)
You are the only one who will protect your sanity!
Focus While You Work
Teaching online from home can be really great for some people, and really distracting for others.
Sometimes you need a mental break, and social media is an easy distraction. However, you have to stay focused and get back to work.
If social media or the internet sends you into a time black hole, try using an app that limits your access to those distractors. “11 apps that will help you reduce your screen time” on the Ladders website describes 11 apps that can help you stay focused.
The idea that you’ll have more time if you teach from home is unrealistic for most of us. We all know that our “home to-do list” never ends (laundry, cleaning, meals, etc.)
We know that all of these things need to get done, but we can’t let those things take priority over what we should be doing during work hours.
When you work from home, it is easy to take a 5 minute break to start the laundry or unload the dishwasher. – it helps you get chores done and also get up and stretch.
It might be easier for you to completely separate the idea of being home while you are working.
Planning is key to making sure that everything (school and home) gets completed.
Just like with a normal school year, organize your cooking/laundry/housework chores so it doesn’t crowd your mind while you’re teaching.
And remember, set boundaries and stay firm!
Make A Plan For Your Kids
If you’ve chosen to (or were told to) keep your kids at home with you while you teach, you need to come up with a very good plan for your kids, or else you’ll get nothing done.
Is your spouse also working from home? If so, planning work hours around each other is a great way to make sure one parent is always available for your kids.
Do you have a friend or coworker who you can expand your bubble to so you can work together to watch both sets of kids?
Do you have older kids you can put in charge for a few good hours so you can focus?
You might have to get creative when it comes to your own kids, but that creativity will prevent the chaos from overwhelming you.
It can be really easy for students to fall through the cracks when we teach online.
Knowing this, it is really important to check in with each student individually at least once every two weeks.
Sometimes students will submit work without ever speaking to you. Some students can work this way, but others need more communication and support.
Try using various modes of communication if the first one doesn’t work.
A word of caution: one friend’s son was completely overwhelmed by the volume of emails his teacher was sending. The teacher would write daily emails that were pages long.
TIP: Keep it simple. The kids who crave the personal connection will come to your office hours or live lessons. Kids today do not email, and it can be intimidating to get a large volume of information that way.
Give Feedback as Fast as Possible
It can be tricky to communicate with each student on each submission, but your students need to know how they are doing.
Since you won’t have the organic, face to face conversation as you are handing out papers, be sure to give students as much feedback as you can.
It is also important for this feedback to come in a timely and consistent manner, so students can change the way they are working if needed.
TIP: Make a document of common comments, then simply copy and paste them as needed. It is easier to edit a word or two than to retype it every time.
We as teachers can’t force kids to be engaged, but keeping a checklist of who has shown up for live lessons or turned in quality work can help you see who needs more support.
Just like teachers, some students will struggle with learning on an online platform and may hesitate to submit things out of fear or confusion.
Check engagement and be sure to communicate with those who are silent or seem to be struggling.
What Is the Most Important Teaching Online Tip?
If you do nothing else to prepare yourself to teach online, do your best to find other teachers who are in similar situations as yours.
Keep this group of teachers close (not literally 😂) to you throughout the year and discuss what works and what doesn’t. Encourage each other and keep each other accountable in all that it takes to teach online.
Having a support network makes a world of difference.
Don’t hesitate to ask me if there is something you need to help make this school year easier for you.
Know that I am rooting for you all!