Self-improvement can be a daunting task at the beginning of the year, no matter your occupation. Online teachers are no exception. While you are struggling to get back into the swing of work after break, your students are nearing the end of their first semester. Meanwhile, administrators are already preparing for the following school year.
Being prepared for the year ahead is important, if not for your own sanity, for your student’s success. Here are some tips that will help you glide into the new year with newfound confidence.
You may be thinking, “If I could get organized, I would have zero issues in my life. That’s common sense.” I’m not going to disagree with you. Almost everyone strives for organization until about the second week of January when life picks up again, and you are drowning in survival mode.
Organization is one of the toughest tasks for anyone to take on each day, but it’s one of the most important. To make the task more manageable, try focusing on one area to organize each day.
For example, on Mondays, clean your computer’s desktop. It can fill with clutter quickly, (you know, the student assessments you rushed to grade, announcement drafts you want to save for next year, and spreadsheets galore).
Take a few minutes and find a home for these files. Your system doesn’t need be flawless, but it will help to make your week feel a little less overwhelming. Here are some other ways you can get organized:
Clear your space
Whether you work in an office or in pajamas with your dog beside you, your workspace needs to be more than a wall of papers and sticky notes. Shred the paper and keep the digital copies. Ditch the sticky notes in favor of a planner or digital note-taking program.
Clean out your inbox and establish an effective calendar system
Create folders to store emails or simply move all emails that do not require action in one folder. Your search tool will help you find anything. Also, add everything you need to accomplish to a digital calendar. Digital planners that sync with all your devices give you access to your calendar wherever you may need it.
Take a closer look at your gradebook
While this is something you should be doing daily, all online teachers know that it’s difficult to maintain a steady pace when there are constant assignments to grade, emails to answer, and parents to please. Monitoring your student progress and communicating with them regularly is vital to ensuring their success.
Engage, Engage, Engage!
It’s no surprise that engaging students from a distance can be challenging. Of course, you are doing the best you can with the tools you have, but could you be doing more to make the content engaging and valuable for all your students?
Believe it or not, you should be nodding yes. Here are a few general methods for student engagement that you can easily adapt based on learners’ needs:
Make contact early, often, and in various ways
Welcome new students and gain their trust. Eventually they may tell you a little about themselves. Then, cater your communication and content delivery methods to their needs.
For example, outlines and videos may help some students, while simple emails may give others the encouragement they need. Students will be more engaged in the learning process when you personalize your approach.
Utilize meaningful discussions
While discussion boards may be on their way out the door, they are still great ways to engage learners through relevant discussions. Create threads that are current and fun. To engage your students, you need to know what they want to discuss.
Know and be there for your students
Getting to know your students is often easier said than done in an online environment, but it is vital to learn their interests. Use surveys or simply ask questions.
For students who are struggling to participate, look at their previous assessments to gain insight. This approach may not work based on certain assessment types, but it can make a huge impact on a student’s engagement level.
Make Learning a Priority for Yourself
Never underestimate the power of learning new skills or brushing up on old ones. Being up-to-date with trends, techniques, and requirements is a must for all educators.
I consider myself a technologically savvy person. However, when it comes to social media, I just can’t wrap my brain around all the different modes of communication. My students can, though. That means I need to learn as much as possible, so I can relate to them, which will engage them in the learning process.
Learn about something that you love. Are you a history buff? Take a survey course. Are you creative? Take a sculpture course at your local community center. Just as we encourage our students to learn using their interests as a catalyst, so should you, no matter the subject. It will only make you a better teacher.
Create a Support System
Everyone needs a support system, even online teachers. They make us better and stronger. It is easy to feel shipwrecked on a deserted island with your laptop as your only life preserver. When you feel the sharks closing in, try these methods for coping with workday stress.
Work closely with the subject matter experts at your organization to get ideas for new and engaging content.
Join an online community for teachers. Sometimes chatting with like-minded individuals makes a world of difference.
Ask for help if you feel you are drowning. Oftentimes, you just need someone to listen. It’s even better when they can give you suggestions for tackling your problem. Speak up.
Breathe and Reflect
You may not think so now, but reflection is the most effortless yet significant resolution. Try taking a few minutes each day to sit quietly, be as calm as you possibly can, and reflect on your day. Identify moments for which you are grateful. Think about ways you can improve upon tomorrow. It will prepare you to be the best “you” you can be.
Janeen Petrisko is the Director of Instructional Services at Lincoln Learning Solutions and has been with the organization for more than 10 years. She started her educational career teaching Secondary English and Communications and has a Master of Science in Instructional Leadership. Janeen is a proud fur-mom of a handsome greyhound named Henry. In her free time, she enjoys reading nonfiction, binge-watching her favorite TV shows, and working on projects in her very old, very quirky house.