Friday, February 10, 2012

Managing My Online Classroom

As I met with my thesis project advisor this week, we discussed many factors that make my situation unique and different as an online teacher. One of the main challenges of any first year teacher is classroom management. We are generally young and semi-unseasoned in our experiences other than during student teaching where we have a cooperating teacher to step in. High school students have always been my favorite age group to work with and I have always been able to connect with them well and establish rapport. However, I was nervous about managing a high school classroom, as I look rather young. Teaching online negates many of the challenges of classroom management because students are not physically present in a classroom with one another, though we do meet in a virtual classroom once a week. A colleague of mine once said that she has always wanted to work with an at-risk population of students but that in her experiences in the brick and mortar classroom, distractions and discipline took over almost all of the learning time. Now that she teaches online, she is still working with the same types of students but is able to work with them one-on-one and distraction free. I feel the same about this, I am no longer worried about discipline and classroom management, which leaves room for real learning to take place and for me to be the best teacher I can be. I feel comfortable relating to my students and talking to them on a personal level because I do not worry about coming off as soft and opening the door for students to take advantage of my kindness. Students are not constantly being distracted by their peers or frustrated because they want to work hard and their classmates want to cause trouble. Even when students are meeting in our digital classroom, they only have the opportunity to talk to one another when I allow them to through the software I use to deliver instruction, which makes controlling the situation easier than it would be in a brick and mortar classroom. Even when students choose to go on a tangent in the chat box, I find them to be more respectful of my request for them to return to the class discussion than I have experienced in traditional classrooms. From the perspective of classroom management, I feel teaching online is more productive for both my students and I.

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