4 min read
Organizing your teaching space
By: Erika Duso on Jan 16, 2023 8:00:00 AM
New and experienced online educators alike stumble when it comes to creating a teaching space. Knowing what accessories are necessary and positioning yourself within the home classroom are among the issues that raise questions. Let's explore some solutions to these questions and ways to add finishing touches to make the space reflect your style and personality.
Location, location, location
An important starting point when creating your teaching space is finding the best location. Although your home may present you with limitations, begin by prioritizing the following three “must haves” when choosing your space.
- As teachers, you need to conduct classes online and participate in a lot of video conferences and phone calls, so it is vital to work in an area that’s free of background noise – the quieter, the better.
- Choose a low-traffic area — preferably with a door — so roommates, spouses, children, and pets don’t wander into your space unintentionally.
- Like a TV studio that flashes an “on air” light, you may want to consider putting a sign on your door alerting passersby that you’re conducting a class. You can get clever with what you write on the sign.
- When you’re conducting online classes and working on a computer for the better part of the day, you want to make sure that you have appropriate lighting. Good lighting contributes to a pleasant atmosphere but, more importantly, it eliminates eye strain and the chance for headaches that leave you feeling less productive on those long days of work.
- Take advice from eye doctors to protect your eyes in your teaching space. There’s no need to waste your money on gimmicky eyewear because scientific evidence indicates digital eye strain is related to the way we use our devices, not the blue light emitting from them.
- Natural lighting is great when you need a break from the computer screen. Looking out a window at nature is uplifting, but you don't want a window behind you or you'll appear in a shadow on camera.
- Most importantly, to be an effective teacher you must be engaging. It's hard to be engaging if your students can’t see you.
- Limiting the number of avoidable distractions in your day is key. It’s so easy to lose focus when too many things are competing for your attention.
- It’s also easy for your students to lose focus if they’re distracted, so remove unnecessary items they might see behind you. Students can be tempted to check out what you're reading or who's in the photo behind you. Strike a balance with items that will appear in your camera's frame.
Now that you’ve chosen your space, it is time to furnish it. The recommendations below will help you stay organized and create a space that promotes interaction with your students.
- Take time to organize and label materials and keep everyday necessities within reach. The old adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” is worth adhering to and will make your day a lot less stressful.
- Invest in storage cabinets, desk organizers, file boxes, sticky notes, and any other products you typically rely on to keep yourself organized.
- Include a dry-erase board to write your to-do list, upcoming dates, or important notes. A dry-erase board also gives you a place to add pertinent sticky notes.
Interacting with your students
- A dry-erase board, a whiteboard, or another interactive board is invaluable for communicating with your students.
- A dry-erase board can also be helpful when providing a detailed explanation. Sometimes it is easier for students or parents to understand what you are trying to convey if they’re able to visualize it.
- Boards come in many forms. You can mount them to your wall if you’re short on space. You can also buy one on wheels, prop one on an easel, or utilize an online whiteboard.
Make it your own
- Add items like plants, shelves with keepsakes, and photos to make the space more of your own.
- The addition of personal items allows your students to make deeper connections with you. It can help foster that teacher-student relationship.
- Be mindful of adding too many extras to your space. Avoid clutter and be careful about the placement of sensitive materials that shouldn’t be visible to others.
Try It Out!
The next step is setting aside time to get comfortable in your new office space. It may be wise to make mock video calls so you can see how your background looks. After a trial run, you may find items that need to be rearranged. You'll know what you need to make your office space more comfortable and feasible to work for you!
Erika Duso has over eight years of combined online and classroom teaching experience. She is currently a Teacher Facilitator for first-grade math and social studies for Lincoln Learning Solutions. Erika enjoys backpacking, reading, and looking for rocks in the Great Lakes.
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