After spending 17 years teaching in a brick-and-mortar school, I was skeptical of moving to an online setting. During my career in a traditional classroom, I worked with students of all ages—from second grade to college. I didn't have any complaints about my job and felt totally fulfilled.
But, after a friend encouraged me to move to a digital teaching environment, I decided to give it a shot. Initially, I thought working for a virtual school would be a temporary arrangement, with the goal of finishing out my first year and moving on to another traditional classroom. I had a very negative view of online education and did not think it would be the right fit for me or my teaching philosophy.
However, after a few months, my outlook began to shift. I was shocked to find that the online classroom allowed me to reach students in ways a traditional setting couldn't offer. I had been completely wrong—this was not a negative situation at all.
Meeting Students Where They Are – Even at the Eye Doctor
For context, many of my students have a different set of needs than their peers in a traditional school. A virtual platform allows me to meet my students and their families where they are, rather than confining them to the constraints of a physical building. I can email, text, call, and see my students in person if need be—and at times during the day that work for them.
If my student needs to stay in the hospital for a period of time or work a job during regular business hours, they can—virtually—bring me and the classroom with them. Obstacles that would prohibit my students from attending a traditional school are just a part of life in our online classroom, accommodating seemingly impossible circumstances on a daily basis.
In my first few months, I taught a student who was experiencing homelessness in St. Paul and another who was training for the Olympics in the Duluth area—in the same classroom.
Another student of mine hated reading, though he couldn't pinpoint why. So, he took his laptop—which included the classroom and me—with him to the eye doctor. By interacting with the platform, the doctor figured out that my student was suffering from a physical eye issue. After being diagnosed and treated for his condition, this student learned that he actually loved to read. My student wouldn't have been able to mobilize a brick-and-mortar classroom in the same way, which ultimately let him discover the root of his problem and his affinity for a good book.
More often than not, my students are passionate about learning. Their desire to persevere and achieve their ultimate goal—walking across the graduation stage—is inspiring. I'm committed to doing everything I can to get them there.
Though I see the value in online education, I also understand that there is plenty of room for improvement. It's not a perfect system. But, I'm so proud to be surrounded by a community of online educators who are willing to put themselves out there. We're constantly looking for ways to improve—and we're committed to overcoming roadblocks.
For us, no challenge is too great to tackle because we share a common goal: helping our students overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams. Today, I can only express how happy I am that I made the switch.
KEYWORDS: Constant Improvement, Flexibility, Innovation, Personalized Learning, Student Support, Teacher Engagement, Unlocking Potential, Teachers, School Options