by Joni Kuhn, RRVWP 2019 Summer Fellow
|Joni is at the center of Lavanya (L) and Alan (R)|
In 2008, I had been substitute teaching in the public school system for about six years and I loved it! Being in the classroom was like oxygen to me! At that time, I had also been an adjunct instructor for Rasmussen College for two years, teaching one or two online courses each quarter. Suddenly, I was offered a full-time position with Rasmussen, working remotely, 100% of the time. I remember thinking, “40 hours a week? All online?” I was excited, but feeling really overwhelmed, because around that same time, I had started homeschooling my youngest son, who was eight years old. I was not sure how I was going to do it all. However, that was 14 years ago. I homeschooled my son for 5 years and I am still teaching online, full-time, for Rasmussen.
Today, as we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of teachers who were used to teaching in-person, find themselves needing to teach online. To top it off, many are home with their own children, because, of course, schools are closed across the country.
Here are just some of the tips and tricks I learned along the way:
1. Your schedule will be different and that is OK. Some days you might have to do a bit of work in the evenings. Other days, you won’t. Whether you are using an existing curriculum or writing your own lessons and content, you will need to figure out which times of the day are the best to complete certain types of tasks. For example, you might discover that you can more easily respond to emails at night, instead of in the morning. If you have children at home, you might discover that when you plan to get some work done from 11 am to Noon, that won’t work and you’ll have to set that time aside for playing a game with your kids, instead. Being flexible is crucial when teaching online.
2. It helps to make a full list of all the tasks you need to complete in a day. Then, think of each hour in the day as a “block.” Fill in the blocks with certain tasks. There might not be a logical order to them at first. It might be easier for you to focus on getting only four of fifteen tasks completed on a given day. Completing those four tasks is a “win” (Don’t worry- over time, you will increase the number of tasks you are able to complete each day). If you are able to complete ten of the tasks, that’s great too.
3. Use a kitchen timer or the timer on your phone to “time” your tasks and see how long they take to complete. I used to often over-estimate how long it would take me to grade a “stack” of papers, thinking it took much longer than it really did. Knowing the amount of time a certain task will take you, will help you to plan your days more efficiently. You will likely not master managing your time within a week, or even two, and that is perfectly fine. It has been my experience that there are great days/weeks/months, and there are not-so-great days/weeks/months. Don’t worry that you have to manage your time really well, every day. You don’t. Take a deep breath! You will get better at it. It’s very important to give yourself a few weeks to adjust. Time-management is a continual work in progress.
4. More than anything be available to your students, no matter their age. Return e-mails, texts or phone calls within a couple of hours, or sooner, if possible (of course all of this depends on the age of student you have). As you know, when teaching online, there is an automatic “disconnect.” The more your students know that you are right there to help support them, the better they will feel and, in turn, the better YOU will feel.
5. Teaching online will take more time. You will now be communicating through writing and you’ll have to proofread, carefully, to make sure that what you type comes across as you intend it to. Since you don’t have the luxury of seeing your students’ facial expressions in real-time, it’s much more difficult to know if they are understanding things. Something that helps is using emoticons to convey your tone.
6. Connect with your colleagues and talk about how things are going. Share strategies of ways you are all learning to get things done. Share struggles and successes.
7. Finally, cut yourself some slack. Be flexible. Focus on accomplishing a few important tasks each day.
The comedian Lucille Ball once said, “The more you do, the more you can do,” and she was right. It will take some time and you will not be perfect at it at first, but that is just fine. You CAN do this!