When you picture attending elementary school, high school, and even college, most think of a traditional brick and mortar classroom. However, online or virtual education is on the rise. The idea of online education offers flexibility to students and offers more learning opportunities. As a traditional teacher or speech therapist, the idea of virtual teaching may still be a new concept, but Sunbelt Staffing can help. Knowing how to prepare for virtual teaching and therapy services and your available options can help make the transition easier. Whether you are considering virtual school services as a new opportunity or must turn to online teaching or therapy during a disaster or pandemic, these four tips can help you prepare.
Adjustments and Routine
Working from home can be challenging and requires a good amount of self-discipline and balance. Distractions can get in the way of productivity and, at the same time, working from home can lead to working so much you burn out. Finding the right balance for you is essential. These tips can help you make the transition and find success at home:
- Create a Regular Routine. When working from home, it is essential to set a have a regular routine. While sleeping in may be tempting, having a regular work schedule helps promote productivity and avoid procrastination. Set your alarm for the same time every workday, get up, shower, eat breakfast, and get ready for work. Being awake and ready to start work at the same time everyday helps create a routine and makes the transition much easier. Your workday schedule should include both a regular start time and end time. When the day is over, leave your work until the next day.
- Be Prepared for Distractions. Unlike a brick and mortar school, your home has many distractions. Family members, pets, the television, and your comfy couch that is perfect for a daytime nap can interrupt your work or desire to work. Be prepared for these distractions and figure out how you can combat them. For example, a dedicated office with a door can block out many distractions during the workday. Having a sitter or setting up play dates for young children during your work hours can also help limit distractions.
- Set Limits with Friends and Family. People that do not work from home may not understand that your work from home is just as important as the work you do in a traditional school setting. Because of this, they may call or drop by as if it is a day off. From the start, you must set limits and let them know you are working. This goes back to the first point. Set a schedule and make sure that everyone knows your work hours.
Create a Dedicated Space and Establish a Regular Schedule
One way to address the work-from-home challenge is to create a dedicated workplace. Ideally, you want an office or even a guest room that you can convert to your dedicated work area. You want this area to be inviting, yet also designed to allow you to focus and stay on task. Create an area free of distractions, such as television or other family members. While you may no longer be teaching face-to-face, you still want to work as though you are, and a structured office environment will help you do that.
In addition to creating a dedicated workspace, these tips can help make the transition to virtual services work best for you and your students:
- Only work during dedicated work hours. Working from home can turn into a 24/7 job when you let it. Creating a dedicated office and regular work hours helps you follow a regular work schedule and not let work take over.
- Set up regular school office hours so that your students know when they can get in touch with you. Offer a dedicated email address so students can get in touch with you for questions or to address individual concerns.
- Be ready to encourage participation in your virtual classroom. Online learning can often be very technical and lacking in traditional participation. Plan for things like in-depth discussions or weekly Q & A sessions. This helps gets your students involved.
- Be prepared to get to know your students in a different way. Everyone learns differently and virtual education is no different. While some students will simply listen to lectures, complete assignments, and do everything independently, others may need more guidance, one-on-one help, or additional motivation in order to get the most out of your class.
Gather, Practice, and Test Your Equipment Before Starting
Don’t expect to be able to leave the classroom on Monday and be ready to teach online on Tuesday. You need time to set up your equipment and software. Unlike in the classroom, you will not have tech support right down the hall to help. You will need a reliable computer, microphone, internet connection, and software that allows you to teach and share what you need. Do your research and find a program that works well with your teaching goals and needs. Spend some time practicing with your equipment and software and make sure it works well. You don’t want to start your first class only to have a virtual room of students unable to hear you or unable to access learning material.
Have Sharable Resources Ready
Teaching on a virtual platform is different than the classroom. You can’t simply print out a worksheet or refer to a book that your students can’t see or access online on a whim. Material must be sharable or accessible through online sources. Have a lesson plan and syllabus ready to give to your students ahead of time so they can work on their time, schedule their time to make live classes, and can meet assignment deadlines.
You can create these sharable resources by converting existing material to pdf form. Other possible resources can include:
- Online resources, like Teachers Pay Teachers, offer a wide selection of sharable resources for teachers new to virtual teaching.
- Many free resources, such as virtual field trips to museums, are available online to teachers. These resources allow you to step out of the “virtual classroom” and offer a more interactive learning experience
Consider Online Education Agencies for Teletherapy Professionals
If the idea of virtual teaching appeals to you but you don’t know where to start, consider contacting an agency specializing in opportunities for online professionals, such as Sunbelt Staffing. These agencies partner with school districts or online learning centers looking for education professionals, such as teachers, speech and language pathologists, and even school psychologists. These agencies work with you and your needs to find the ideal placement. These placements offer a wide range of support, including clinical and technical support, often making the transition to virtual teaching much smoother.
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