Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Teaching Virtually (as opposed to virtually teaching...)

I teach online part-time in addition to my full-time teaching position. It's not really even the money, although it's nice to have "extra" money to buy toys like motorcycles and kayaks, but the appeal is more the challenge of doing something different and....well....challenging.

It has its headaches, of course, just like everything else. Like "paperwork" (in the form of electronic documents) and "meetings" (which are online, but we can talk and hear each other in addition to chatting in a text box). But some days I absolutely love it. I get to meet students from all over the state, and although I never see them face-to-face, sometimes I think I get to know them better than my "bricks and mortar" school students.

Last spring, I had a student who saw that I was online and sent me a pager message (sort of like IMing), and she asked if I could help her. Naturally I anticipated a grammar question or something about a piece of literature or about how to complete an assignment. Instead she launches into this heart-wrenching problem of being overweight and other students picking on her, and her best friend was going to get in a fight with some kids in the cafeteria for picking on her..... It was pitiful in a way, and it was touching in another way. It was heart-warming to think that I had built up a relationship in an online environment, typically isolating and cold, to the point that she thought she could bring her problems to me. (By the way, I steered her toward her real-life, face-to-face counselor at school and cautioned her about getting into fights at school. Sigh.)

During the summer, I had an online meeting from my daughter's house in Jacksonville. (That's another of the tremendous benefits of teaching online. As long as there is internet access, you can do your job! I won't even go into being in the casino in Las Vegas a couple of years ago...) Anyway, in this meeting I was going over expectations and requirements, and I saw that a student was typing in the chat box. I waited to see what his question was.......... He said, "I could have sworn this was going to be a 'click....click....click....next' class." I laughed so hard. He wound up being one of my favorite students, because he had a tremendous sense of humor and didn't mind speaking his mind. I'm not one of those teachers who get offended if a student questions why an assignment is useful. If I agree that it's not particularly useful, I tell him so and tell him to get over it and do it anyway. If I think it IS particularly useful, I explain why and tell him to get over it and do it anyway. This same student later emailed me one day and apologized for turning some assignments in late because his family was moving and he was trying to access the internet in the airport. I asked where they were moving, and he said....Chile! Like he moved from South Georgia in the summer to South America in the winter all in one weekend. I guess you could call that a benefit of TAKING an online course. It was the last course he needed for graduation, and his family had to move because of his father's job. But he was able to complete the course and graduate, and I hope live happily ever after.

Tonight I had a meeting with my 4 students in Contemporary Literature. Because I was trying to multi-task (always a dangerous undertaking), and they are so conscientious, a couple of them got into the meeting before I did. They were having a ball, drawing on the "whiteboard" and chatting back and forth. I showed my PowerPoint presentation and went over the things I had planned, and we were through. They asked if I would leave the whiteboard up for a few minutes so they could draw some more. For some reason, I just thought that was so cute.

I am enjoying that course, Contemporary Literature, so much. In the past I have always taught English Literature, usually the last English course students need before graduation. I have had a high failure rate, due I think to last-ditch efforts to get students graduated and school officials placing students in online courses who can't handle the discipline and the rigor. But I digress.

This semester I got to teach Contemporary Lit, and I love it. Not only is the literature more interesting to me because some of the writers are still alive, but the course is an elective. The students who are in the course chose to take it because they WANTED to, not because it was required. Some are home-schooled; some just wanted an extra literature class. Either way, they are diligent and serious about their work, not just doing it to get a credit and move on.

This online teaching thing is going to be a GREAT way for me to make money and stay busy after retirement.


susan said...

I looked into online teaching, but Tennessee is not so advanced in this. The school I was at last year had occasional online message boards, but that was all. I'm not certified in any other states, though I'll be looking into that in the coming weeks. It would be handy when we move from here to already be certified.
Also, I need to take my Praxis in French because I could be certified in that also.
Also, did you do any rides this weekend? My dad drove down for one in Rome, Ga.

Bragger said...

I haven't ridden at all lately. Too much else going on, and a severe lack of motivation on my part. :)

Some states have reciprocity as far as teaching credentials. I know Fla. and Ga. are reciprocal. You might check into that; it could be surprisingly easy to be certified in more than one state.

Lynn Rambo said...

Of course THIS is why you're so exhausted!!! - lol