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One of the major drawcards for online teaching is that you can teach from anywhere. This is basically true, but let’s just straighten out a few things so that we’re all on the same page here. What does anywhere actually mean? Barbados, Boulder, Bangladesh? Check, check and double-check. Bathtubs, beds and a beach in Bali? Um… not so much.
While common sense will be a fairly good guide as to what environments are proper and conducive to teaching (as will the fine print of your teaching contract), your general location is pretty much up to you. As long as you have a tight internet connection (no dodgy dial-up) and an uncluttered, designated teaching space with good light, you’re pretty much good to go. After all, the most important part of teaching online is you.
Whether you’re in an Airbnb, at home or on the road, read on for more ways to stay on top of your anywhere.
1. Get the basics down
Teaching online will inevitably require a stable, high-speed internet connection, a headset and microphone and a classroom-like ‘backdrop’ or at the very least a space from which you can teach effectively. And a little maintenance goes a long way in ensuring your dreams of teaching from anywhere are kept alive. Keep abreast of tech and software updates, ensure that your browser is always the latest version and keep your laptop running like a well-oiled machine by not using it as a tray table too often.
2. Step into your role as a teacher, even if you’re trekking the amazon
As a teacher, your voice, personality, mindset, and know-how make up who you present to your students. Always remind yourself of who your teacher persona is, and step into that version of yourself well before every class. By doing this, your choice of location will have no impact on the experience of your students, whether you’re teaching from a beach hut in Goa or a high-rise in Cape Town. To drive the point home, you may see online teaching as a way to teach from anywhere, but your student sees it as a way for the classroom, and all the academic rigor that accompanies it, to come to them.
3. Consistency is key
If you’re traveling and teaching online, aim to keep your teaching area consistent. And by that, we mean to ensure that your props, teaching resources, and tools don’t drastically change from city to city and that your teaching space looks more or less the same each time. Obviously, we’re not against a little variation to spice up a lesson, but if your students are logging into a brand new classroom every time you teach, it may detract from the lesson, especially for younger learners. Stick to similar colors, styles and make sure that you’re always presentable. Parents of younger learners especially will quickly pick up inconsistencies from their child’s teacher, they’re attentive like that.
4. Tips for the perfect classroom on-the-go
If you’re changing rentals, moving house or traveling, there are a few ways that you can keep your online classroom looking top. Portable Wi-Fi is a great option for those weeks when you’re more than just a little mobile. Remember to always face a window when you teach or have a decent source of good, natural light. If this isn’t possible, small bright lights that simulate natural light are a great investment (in case your sun has disappeared with the fall or a developer decided to build a brick wall where the light once streamed into your lounge). Keep a mobile supply closet (or backpack) with light, effective teaching tools. Flashcards, finger puppets, paper-back books and a portable whiteboard (with whiteboard markers) are key. Your background is important too; keep it bright, interesting and light: foldable posters or maps that can be stuck up easily in different locations are always a great idea.
5. Check your Time Zones
This is an obvious point but time zones catch out even the most organized, A-type among us. But there is another element to this, not all countries observe Daylight Savings Time. For example, China does not observe it while the US does, which means twice a year there’s an additional piece of math required to get your class times right. Double, triple and then quadruple check that you’re au fait with your schedule, and make sure that whether you’re going East or West, you’re like a Swiss train when it comes to time.
6. Students come first
If you’re moving as you teach, your students must remain your top priority. If you’re a teacher, you’re in this for the love of education, students and helping others learn. Remember that your performance as an educator directly affects your students, as well as their futures! You have a deep, important responsibility to every student you teach, and your influence may very well resonate for them many years, perhaps even decades, from now! That said, ensure that you’re punctual, polite and that if ever you really have to cancel, you do so well in-advance if possible.
The thing to keep in mind is that geographic location isn’t as important as its suitability to teaching. You might be in the heart of New York City, in a great apartment but have poor internet – now that ‘anywhere’ is not going to work. Understanding the specific requirements of your job as well as checking and rechecking the fine print will make sure that you don’t waste your time trying to teach online when your anywhere disqualifies you from doing so.