So you’re teaching online and it feels like starting over, but it’s really not. If you’ve managed a real classroom, you can manage a virtual one.
Before meeting my college students online, (student teachers) I asked myself two questions:
1. What rules/procedures would make learning better?
2. What rules/procedures would make me a happier and more effective teacher?
Here’s what I decided to tell my students:
“Learning online is hard because it’s hard to feel connected to one another. I want to connect and communicate with you and I do that best if you are closer to the camera and I can see your eyes.”
(While saying this I watched them all move in closer. I saw their eyes, and I immediately felt that connection I was craving. I think they felt it more too!)
“I’ve also noticed that I can’t pay attention to what’s most important if people are typing in the chat box while I’m teaching, so I would like for you to raise your hand like this if you need me and I will be happy to hear you out. There will be times when I ask a group question and I want everyone to type their answers in the chat box, but I’ll let you know when those times are. If you understand, can you nod or give me a thumbs up?”
(I got lots of smiles, thumbs up, and nods.)
“I’ve also learned that if you all stay on mute, it prevents feedback, so if you’re not already on mute, go ahead and click your microphone icon to mute yourself.” (Only one person hadn’t already done this. When he muted, I thanked them all for being on mute.)
“Also, remember that because you’re muted now, you’ll have to remember to unmute if I call on you when you have a question or when you have a comment.”
(I got lots of nods and thumbs up without asking this time.)
“Lastly, I know I’m a better teacher when I can tell you’re listening and learning AND when we’re communicating well, so if you like something, smile! If you agree, nod your head vigorously! If you prefer to click thumbs-up icons or clapping icons, feel free to use those too! All of them feel like encouragement to me and let me know you’re listening and learning and I love that!”
(My sweet students starting clapping and nodding and smiling. I’ll be honest, it was awesome! I almost felt like myself again.)
See, that’s what’s missing from virtual teaching/learning. It’s connection! So teach your students how they can connect to communicate better with you and ultimately each other too. (More on that later.)
After that, I taught my lesson. At the end I asked them what they learned about me that they would take away with them. I told them to type it in the chat box and they almost all typed, “You love communication/connection!”
I have to be honest... it surprised me that I felt so connected to them with all of us spread across the state.
It felt good to feel like a teacher again!
Just teach your students what you need. Their enthusiasm and loving encouragement may surprise you.