“I think online, you are much more able to meet students where they are, and online learning really creates a space for some individualized instruction ... that can be very challenging in a traditional setting, when everyone is present in the same space.” ~ Ginny Murphy
(Transcript available below)
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Heidi Higgins: Hi there. I'm Heidi Higgins and you are listening to K12 on Learning. I had a surprise visit this week from a high school classmate. We had not seen each other for many, many years. It was so much fun to catch up and reminisce, but it was interesting to me also that the topic that dominated our conversation were the inspiring teachers who helped shape the direction of our lives. A teacher's influence is often generations long. That conversation was enlightening and I'm so grateful for the patience and love that I felt from those influential teachers who helped guide me.
As we head into teacher appreciation season, which should be every day, all day, I wanted to share some differences in the teacher experience from the traditional classroom and the teacher experience online from the teacher point of view. I invited Ginny Murphy back. Ginny has joined us before to discuss reading strategies and teaching methods to use at home. She spent several years teaching in the traditional classroom and several years teaching in an online classroom. Her work now takes this vast experience in these classroom environments to share her passion and her experience to teachers in a professional development setting for the online classroom. Ginny Murphy, welcome back to the podcast. How are you?
Ginny Murphy: I'm doing well. Thanks for having me, Heidi. I'm excited to be here. I am a teacher development specialist. I have had a pretty balanced career considering both environments. So this is my 21st year in education. And I spent the first 12 of those years in a traditional brick and mortar setting. And before transitioning to the online learning environment, which I've been since 2012. And I would say that the biggest difference is probably the most obvious one, which is just the environment in which you do your job. Whereas before I was in the traditional brick and mortar setting, face to face with my students. I had my class of 25 or 26 students. And here I have the same thing. I'm just in my home. So teachers that are working online, most of them are in their homes. But just because the environment changed, what's around you looks a little bit different, the job is still the same. It's still something that we're extremely passionate about. So I would say that really that's the biggest difference as far as comparing the two environments.
Heidi Higgins: So, Ginny, the teacher is not responsible for the physical things, but is still responsible for the environment of learning.
Ginny Murphy: It's more removed in a tangible sense, but I really do consider it my responsibility still to create that sense of a learning community, a learning environment for my students although it looks different. Something that online teachers have to do when you transition into the onlinelearning environment is you develop a different perspective. You kind of create a lens that everything is filtered through because everything that you did before in a face to face setting doesn't necessarily change. You still have to do it, but it looks different. And so you have to be creative in how you go about making it so in the online environment. But it's still very much something that I want to do for my students.
Heidi Higgins: I'm really glad you clarified that. That is very helpful. So what is the teacher's interaction with a student when, and we obviously know what it's like in a traditional classroom, what's it like when you transition to online?
Ginny Murphy: The relationship is still top priority. It still very much matters. And it's something that teachers, that's one of our very first responsibilities, especially at the beginning of the year, when you get your new class of students, we want to begin building those relationships right away. And so to refer back to that lens, everything is filtered through, okay, I still need to do it. I just need to do it a little bit differently. So how do I accomplish that in the online setting? And so we do cameras just like you and I. We still get to see each other face to face. We still have those conversations and they can happen on the computer. They can happen on the telephone. So those relationships are still created.
And it's still really the focus when you're thinking about teachers and students connecting, because we know when we talk about basic needs, everybody needs to feel welcomed. Everybody needs to know that they belong and you need to feel safe doing it. And so just because you're in an online setting, those needs still have to be met. And that's still my responsibility as a teacher. And that's going to come by creating opportunities to connect with one another.
Heidi Higgins: That's a beautiful way to put it. When a student comes to this environment, then and the teacher's doing their very best to create that welcome learning opportunity what responsibility does the student have that might be different than from an in person experience?
Ginny Murphy: When a student goes to a traditional school setting, they're dropped off at the building and school kind of organically happens, right. They know to go to their classroom and class is going to begin. And the teacher in the classroom kind of facilitates the day. And the shift in an online learning environment for students is that they have to kind of intrinsically be motivated to accept responsibility, to make that kind of happen. So they need to be aware of the schedule. They need to know when to log in, where to log in, what class they're logging into. And the teacher guides that. So there's a big sense of independence that students are exposed toprobably earlier than they would be in a traditional setting. But I would say that students are exposed to life skills, independence, organization, time management, and all of those things. Not that they're absent from the traditional school setting, but in the online environment, students really are expected to show that earlier and more so than they would in the traditional setting.
Heidi Higgins: That's what I discovered with my own family is that independence started showing, and it was wonderful to see that being built. What are some things that a student or a teacher might find are better in person?
Ginny Murphy: So, the first thing that I would say is probably better or happens more naturally in the classroom environment is the social aspect of learning because everyone is confined to a space together. And so the social part of learning happens easier, more naturally than it does in the online learning environment. But online it's still important. It still matters. And so there again, I really assume that responsibility to create those situations for my students and to make learning social. And it is possible. We just go about it in a different way. We have to be a little more creative and we do have to also just make sure that everyone is comfortable in that learning environment.
Especially at the beginning of the transition to online learning, there's a learning curve and sometimes it can be steep. And so just knowing that I'm not alone, you're not alone in this process. We're going to walk this pathtogether and we're going to figure it out. Just so that everybody is aware that learning is going to occur. The end goal is still the same. We just might go about it in a little bit of a different way.
Heidi Higgins: Are there things that are better in anonline environment?
Ginny Murphy: I think online, you are much more able to meet students where they are. Online learning really creates a space for some individualized instruction. That can be very challenging in a traditional setting when everyone is present in the same space. And so being able to work with students one on one, because the schedule is a little more flexible for students and for teachers, I'm really able to meet them where they are and address any needs that might be present in the instruction.
Heidi Higgins: Did you also find that you not only knew the student, but the student's family?
Ginny Murphy: Yes. That's a really good point, Heidi, because I'm not just partnering with the student in their education. I'm also partnering with the parents and the families, because a lot of times they have siblings that attend school online as well. And so I get to know the whole piece.
Heidi Higgins: I really appreciated that. My children loved their online teachers. And that was actually a very surprising factor of schooling online. How do students show appreciation to you that you love?
Ginny Murphy: I tell my students at the very beginning of the year, that one of their biggest responsibilities as the student is to come with the right attitude for learning. I want them to participate. I want them to show effort. I don't expect them to know everything. I don't expect them to have the answers because that's why we are here together is to learn together and to move forward, to make progress. And one of the biggest ways that we can make that happen together is that they have the attitude for learning. They're willing to put forth that effort and willing to try new things. That's where I'm at as far as what students can do. It really, really makes my day to see them excited about coming to learn and putting forth that effort.
Heidi Higgins: So it's not so much about the things, but their attitude and what they do. Kind of like a mom.
Ginny Murphy: Yes. Very much so.
Heidi Higgins: It's not the things that you get, but it's the attitude and the respect and the effort to learn. Not to say you don't like a nice note once in a while. How does teaching touch your heart, Ginny?
Ginny Murphy: That's a good question. Teachers have a very heartfelt connection to the profession. We become teachers because we want to be a part of instilling that desire for lifelong learning in our students. And it's not so much what they leave each class with, but it's more about pouring into them as a person, helping them learn about whothey are and what they want to do with their life and who they want to be in this world. Being a part of building that foundation for students is why I do what I do.
Heidi Higgins: Ginny, I don't know anyone hasn't been impacted positively by the acts of ateacher and the good work and the effort that is put in. When is teaching just a job?
Ginny Murphy: There are certainly days that it's just a job. Teachers are people. We make mistakes. We say, "I'm sorry." And there are days the at are challenging. But I don't know that I would ever just say that teaching is a list of tasks that I have to complete. It's always bigger than that. And there are certain aspects, especially when I was in the brick and mortar setting, the bus duty, the car pickup line and thosesorts of things. But even that, it was more about greeting students with a smile, sending them off on their way to go play their baseball game or go to their karate practice and then asking them about that the next morning. So even though there are things that are associated with it that are tasks that we have to complete, I really strive to see the bigger picture and think about how that impacts the student because it's going to play a part in their attitude, in their willingness to participate, in their desire to attend. And so I always do try to see the bigger picture.
Heidi Higgins: So as a teacher at an online environment, it's going to be different with your coworkers. Other teachers who are face to face in a building, or you might have a teacher's lounge where there's time to meet and socialize yourself. What is it like in the online environment with faculty and staff? Do you associate? What kind of relationships are there?
Ginny Murphy: Relationships with staff it's really wild how closely connected you can feel with the teachers that you work with, even in the online environment. We don't have that teacher's lounge, but we still gather in Zoom. and in other platforms where we meet. We collaborate and plan lessons together. We share student work samples and talk about what do we need to do next in order to support our students? And we also get together socially. We have spent a Saturday afternoon, together with a baby shower. There again, it's not that those things don't exist. They just look a little bit different in the online environment. But we still make them happen.
Heidi Higgins: I'm glad. What are some things every teacher wishes parents knew?
Ginny Murphy: I think every teacher wants parents to know that we're all on the same team. We are working together. We want to create a team to support their student because we all want to see progress. And I think the biggest piece to that that teachers want parents to know is communication. We want open lines of communication so that we can clearly understand and share with one another concerns, desires. What is it that you need? What is it that you want? What is it that I as the teacher need? What is it that I as the teacher want as far as what's going to happen next or what needs to happen. And I think that if we approach it as a team and clearly state that communication is vital in that relationship for the student, big things are going to happen.
Heidi Higgins: Do you find that the communication is... Well, it's going to be different when we're online versus in person, but are the parents more free to communicate when we're online or is it better if it's an in person environment?
Ginny Murphy: I think that communication has been a lot better for me in the online learning environment than it was in the traditional brick and mortar setting, because you kind of set the stage at the very beginning. When we are getting everything established, they have questions. I'm trying to help guide them in getting started. And from there, it's a natural, constant stream of connection that carries you throughout the year. And so you do become very comfortable in reaching out. Whereas a lot of times in the traditional setting, you would see each other on academic nights or parent teacher conferences that were scheduled. Teachers certainly do make phone calls. But I think for parents to reciprocate in that piece of the communication happens a lot more freely in the online environment.
Heidi Higgins: That communication is critical, no matter where. But interesting that you feel more free and that it's more free flowing in an online environment. And when I do communicate with a teacher, it's one on one.
Ginny Murphy: Right. Yes. Back and forth.
Heidi Higgins: Right. Very nice. Thank you, Ginny Murphy for joining us today. It's obvious to me that you teach love and really do appreciate that you are now teaching teachers to bring that kind of a special environment into the online classroom. I hope you'll take the time to thank the teachers that have been impactful in your life. There's a campaign going on right now called hashtag teach love. That's spelled teach L-U-V. If you are so inclined and want to make the declaration of appreciation reach a great many, you might jump on there and add your thanks. Your tribute to the teacher who had an impact in your life. Thank you teachers. You do make a difference.
On a personal note hashtag teach luv thank you, Miss Joyce O'Neil for changing my life. Thank you for listening to K12 on Learning. Sponsored by Stride. To learn more aboutonline public schools powered by Stride K12, stride career prep programs that foster lifelong learning or any of the private school or individual course offerings, please go to stridelearning.com or k12.com. Special thanks to Tree K Studios for providing the music for us. Remember to subscribe to this podcast and feel free to leave us a good review. We hope you'll join us next time for K12 on Learning.
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