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Do Online Teachers Also Need to Wear Pants? – Clarifying Myths about Online Teaching

Online teachingOnline teaching is a new and exciting field that connects students and teachers from across the globe for education and cultural exchange. However, it can be hard to picture exactly what online teaching entails and how teachers not familiar with the online setting will fit into this environment. To put to rest some misconceptions, one of VIPKID’s online teachers answers a series of common questions comparing teaching online at VIPKID and in a physical classroom. Enjoy!

The Classroom
Q: Do you use Skype? Do you use a white board? Can you actually see the student?

A: Teachers and friends often ask me what teaching online physically looks like. While the VIPKID platform incorporates some features similar to Skype, such as video chat, it’s far more interactive. The VIPKID platform provides a blackboard where the teacher uploads a PowerPoint each class that is created by VIPKID education professionals. The teacher and student can both write on the blackboard and participate in activities. The platform also provides video feeds of the teacher and student, a chat box, and virtual stars the teacher can give as rewards.

Just as a classroom teacher creates a welcoming classroom environment with decorations, charts and educational toys, an online teacher brings his or her classroom to life with props, decorations, and personality. I use puppets, toy cars, flowers, plastic fruit, hats, and a range of silly facial expressions to create a fun, engaging classroom experience.

The Teacher
Q: Do you prepare for class? Do you roll out of bed and start teaching? Do you even wear pants when you teach?

A: It’s a common misconception that online teaching is informal when, in fact, an online teacher maintains the same level of professionalism as a teacher who instructs in a physical classroom. I give myself at least an hour before teaching to make coffee, organize my teaching station, review my student notes and take a moment to relax. There’s an unfortunate misconception that online teachers can simply get out of bed (possibly in their pajamas) and begin teaching. This simply is not the case. Just like at a traditional school, if you come to class unprepared, it will show.

The Students
Q: Is it hard to keep students’ attention? How do you get to know your students?

A: The biggest difference between a virtual and a physical classroom is that you are not in the same room as the student. This means you have to use different strategies to keep the student engaged and curious. For younger students, total physical response (TPR) techniques that engage the student through physical motions and repeated gestures can help you maintain a strong presence in the classroom. For example, even a motion as simple as cupping your ear and leaning toward the camera can encourage the student to repeat a sentence or phonics sound.

I like to engage my older students by taking an interest in their hobbies and preferences. For example, one of my students really likes flowers, so every class I try to bring a new flower for show and tell. Another of my students loves to act out songs, so we begin and end class with a song and dance. These are simple gestures, but it proves to the students that even though I am located thousands of miles away I care for their success and happiness just as much as if I were in the same room.

The Troublemaker
Q: How do you deal with behavioral issues in the classroom?

A: The truth is I encounter very few students with challenging behavior. If the student can’t sit still, I find ways to incorporate movement into the lesson, such as mimicking animals or playing Simon Says. But addressing challenging students isn’t that difficult when it’s one-on-one. In a traditional classroom, your attention is divided among 20 or more students, but at VIPKID you only have one student per lesson.

The Sitting
Q: Don’t you get tired sitting all day? What if you have to use the bathroom?

A: Of course you will need to use the bathroom, so make sure you give yourself breaks. I prefer to teach three classes and then take a break to go to the bathroom, eat a snack, and stand up and move around a little. When I’m in a traditional classroom, I'm usually teaching standing up and moving around the classroom. The greatest challenge for me teaching online is that I have to sit. Scheduling in a half-hour break will be a life saver because it’s not just the kids who get antsy!

The Hours
Q: Do you teach normal teaching hours?

A: The answer to this question varies from teacher to teacher because we live across the globe, but the typical answer is “no.” Students typically sign up for classes when they aren’t in school. I live in a neighboring Asian country and my time zone is one hour different from Beijing’s, so I teach in the evenings Monday through Friday. Sometimes I teach on the weekend, but this is personal preference. When I taught at traditional schools, I stayed on campus from 7:30am until 4:30pm even though I only taught 24 teaching hours per week. However, at VIPKID I teach 30 hours per week, but I don’t have to stay on a campus.

The Experience
Q: Do you like your job? Would you rather teach online or at a traditional school?

A: I prefer teaching online. I love the one-on-one attention I’m able to give my students. I love watching their progress from lesson to lesson and level to level. Most of my students are regulars who routinely book me as a teacher, which allows me to get to know them well. I love being able to create my own schedule that allows me to pursue teaching as well as my other passions, such as writing, running, and my own education.

And one last difference: you don’t get sick nearly as often when a screen separates you and your students!

See an example of one of our fun classes at VIPKID:

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About Our Sponsor
VIPKID is an ed-tech Chinese startup that provides online English language classes and the American Elementary school curriculum to young Chinese students via its virtual platform.