Anatomy of an Online Teacher
Have you ever considered teaching online? Most brick-and-mortar teachers cringe at the thought, and, perhaps, that is because they have a mistaken idea of what it’s all about. Let’s set the record straight. But before we do, let’s get a few common misconceptions out of the way.
1. Online education is not a place where lazy students go to get an easy A.
2. Online courses are not founded on “canned curriculum” that doesn’t engage students.
3. Online learning environments are not places where burned out, untalented teachers go to make a buck.
4. Online educators are not lone rangers when teaching, nor are they isolated from their colleagues or other educators.
So, what makes up the anatomy of an online teacher, then? Above all else, online teachers must be passionate about education, teaching, and their students. They are good communicators with strong classroom management skills. They have a sense of humor and are flexible with an engaging personality that connects with students.
Online teachers must also have a deep understanding of the content and subject matter they teach, and they must be able to explain those concepts in a simple manner that students can understand. They have a solid understanding of curriculum standards and their importance, which translates into high expectations for all students.
Good online courses provide a competency approach where students are required to apply what they are learning to practical or real-world scenarios. Simply stated, online educators believe in foundational knowledge and skill sets that require students to put knowledge to work.
Online teachers are very good at time management, and with that comes a freedom from the distractions that can be present in brick-and-mortar schools. Their classroom is wherever they are in the world. I’ve taught my classes while flying across country, scrunched up in that middle seat between two massive strangers. I have also held online office hours live on a beach, watching the whales play off shore.
If you’re thinking the qualities I’ve described sound familiar, even if you are not an online educator, you are right! The qualities I’ve mentioned are those of all great teachers and educators. There is no one right way to grow, learn, or attain our goals and, thankfully, online educators have realized that for a long time now and have worked hard to change that paradigm.
As an online educator, I have been able to touch the lives of students who felt like failures until coming into the virtual classroom and finding success. I treasure the emails from them as they thanked me for caring about them and helping them to succeed.
I’ve watched some students overcome great obstacles, like Maria, who, at the beginning of her senior year, suffered the loss of both parents within a month of each other. The flexibility of online courses, coupled with online educators who could work with her in a way that specifically addressed her loss and her needs, allowed Maria to graduate and go on to college as she had planned.
The life of an online teacher is both rewarding and challenging. It takes hard work and discipline and a desire to continue to hone the skills and knowledge you have, while learning new skills. It is, quite simply, the life of an educator, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be!
Phyllis Tuttle is a Health Teacher Facilitator for Lincoln Learning Solutions. She has more than 35 years of experience in education with a focus in Science and Health. Phyllis has 10 years of experience teaching online and writing science and health courses for online education.
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