What’s It All About?

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus lately. It wasn’t an intentional one. It was one of those periods of time where things get so busy and hectic that one by one, things seem to drop off the wagon and I neglect to pick them up. Unfortunately, this blog was one of the things that fell off quite early in the journey that has been this semester and I’ve just know had a moment to pull over to the side of the road and pick up what’s left!

I have been giving the teaching profession a great deal of thought lately. As some of you know (if you have read other posts of mine), I have partially exited the profession, choosing to be a part of the curriculum side of education rather than the student interaction side.

In January, I took on the role of virtual teacher to around 25 high school Chemistry students. I did this because I needed to earn a few bucks and I was also intrigued by the whole idea of online education.

I have to say, I am hooked! If my first experiences with teaching had been through this venue, I believe I would still be a teacher. I’ll list the reasons why I think this is so:

1. I work in my pajamas. Okay, this is a well-worn phrase used by anyone who works primarily online — but it’s true.

2. I am able to give my students one-on-one attention. They are more likely to ask me questions that they would have been embarrassed to ask in front of their peers. They don’t mind communicating back and forth with me via email about things they need help with. In my face-to-face classroom, I never would have had the luxury of the time spent one-on-one with students who need additional instruction.

3. I am able to clearly differentiate for my students. In the classroom, I always had to be aware of the stigmas associated with giving alternative assignments to some of my students. Trying to give them different versions of assignments without everyone else in the classroom giving them (or me) a hard time about it was difficult. In the online classroom, it is a matter of sending them an email with the differentiated assignment.

4. All the interaction with half the classroom management. You might think, if you’ve never taught in an online setting, that virtual classroom management is nonexistent. The truth is, there is still a lot of classroom management, but it is very different. Gone are the days that I was made to feel compelled to take away those cell phones, or continually tell excited students to stop talking while I’m talking, etc. The management tasks that remain involve keeping students current with their work, contacting parents when students are falling behind or absent from class, and, oddly enough, I still have to address issues that come up in my students’ face-to-face classroom. (my students are sitting together in a classroom during one period of their school day – I’m the one who isn’t there).

5. I still get to see the wonderful personalities and creativity that reside in my students. I get to witness their interactions with each other and delight in their excitement at understanding a concept or winning a volleyball game.

6. I finally get to use all the cool tech tools I know about! The first day of class, my students all made Animoto videos to introduce themselve to me and the rest of the class. I make assignments in the Assignment Builder portion of Discovery streaming to help reinforce concepts they need to know. I make use of web-based virtual labs and other interactive activities. Yes, I used these in my face-to-face classroom as well, but I find it much easier to integrate them on a regular basis in my virtual classroom.

The thing is, as I read through this list of reasons, I see that they are all the reasons (except maybe the pajamas!) that I became a teacher in the first place.

Why is it that I couldn’t find these reasons fulfilled in a face-to-face classroom?

Was it because I sometimes had more than 30 students in a science lab? Or maybe it was because the district had a different agenda for my classroom than I did – putting the emphasis on a test rather than on the quality and depth of content acquisition? Could it be because I was so busy trying to tread water while grading too many worksheets, quizzes, etc., that I couldn’t find time to teach the way I wanted to teach?

Whatever the reason, I have found being an online teacher to be very fulfilling. I made a comment once on Twitter that if I could get a job doing it full-time I would. Jeff Utecht replied “Soon…very soon I think you’ll be able to.”

I certainly hope he’s right.

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