7 RULES FOR THE VIRTUAL TEACHER
Whether you’re a young teacher or a mature, experienced one, chances are the recent surge in virtual learning threw some of your how-to-teach assumptions for a loop. If you’re still struggling to teach via computer, try the following tips to make things a little easier.
1. Avoid All Grumbling
Don’t ever start dwelling on the “unfairness” of having to change your teaching style, or the “impossibility” of learning new technology. The second you start down the negative-thinking path, you’re in trouble—and so are your students, who are affected (and infected) by your attitudes.
2. Be Patient
Whether someone is struggling with a math problem or a Zoom connection, snapping at a student for “not getting it” is as toxic in virtual classes as in person: the resentment and self-doubt you generate will only make learning more difficult. Stick to gentle encouragement so everyone will progress more effectively.
3. Practice in Advance
You may be inclined to get impatient with yourself—especially when your class was scheduled to start five minutes ago and you can’t find the Share Screen or Mute All button. If you’re at all unfamiliar with the teaching app, the time for practice runs is well before class time, in a time slot at least twice as big as you hope to need. (Murphy’s Law is particularly attracted to hurried people whose calendars allow for best-case scenarios only.)
4. Practice With Your Students
Contact every student family in advance, personally inviting them to schedule test sessions on your virtual classroom link. Guaranteed to reduce tardiness and truancy at the first few classes of the term!
5. Approach “AWOLs” Empathetically
Even when everyone practices in advance, chances are there will be some “experiencing technical difficulties” absences from the first class. But, especially if some of your students are from low-income neighborhoods, you may also find that a couple of weeks go by and someone doesn’t show at all. There are many possible reasons for this—most of which are painful for the kids and their families—so don’t assume they’re being deliberately irresponsible, and definitely don’t contact them with accusations or threats. By all means check up, but do it in a spirit of teamwork: “We have a problem: can you help me define it and decide what we should do about it?”
6. Ensure Full Participation
The “raise your hand and be called on” approach, so effective with in-person classes, often feels limited in a virtual group. You can help student input run smoothly by:
- Making sure everyone knows how to use the “raise hand” function—and keeping your eye on it!
- If your screen can’t “hold” every face in the class, shifting screens frequently so you don’t miss anyone’s nonverbal language.
- Watching the Chat section, too: some kids who rarely speak out loud turn into “chatterboxes” when given a keyboard.
7. Expect the Best
Most of all, stay confident that you will figure this out and the virtual class will work. Keep up the positive expectations, and life will rarely disappoint you!