A man watches a video on his laptop using headphones.

A Day in the Life of An Online Secondary Teacher

Author: Sean Smith; Samantha Goldman

In the November synchronous Affinity group on Preparing Teacher Candidates for Online/ Hybrid Instruction, Lauren Elkins, a high school math and physics teacher, discussed a day in the life and what it means to prepare, plan, and teach all students in the online environment. Effective planning for online teaching requires teachers to plan and design differently than a face-to-face (F2F) teacher. Mrs. Elkins offered examples that illustrated the need for current teacher preparation programs to alter their efforts to prepare for the future K-12 F2F and online classrooms. Mrs. Elkins emphasized that teacher preparation programs needed to support professionals to plan for learning differences, facilitate home-based learning environments, and communicate with adults in the home. These skill sets are especially needed in the current online teaching experience.

Plan for Learning Differences

Although Mrs. Elkins is not a special educator, she leads with planning and designing her instruction for learning differences, specifically thinking about the accommodations she needs to identify, develop, and then implement. For example, she ensures that transcripts and/or captioning are available for any video she uses. She also balances out the value of screen time for student engagement, persistence, and the instruction at hand – with – resources, activities, and instructional experiences that can be completed off-line and thus, away from the device. It allows her to occupy the seat of her students to determine when too much is detrimental to their learning and overall development.

Facilitate Home-Based Learning Environment

Mrs. Elkins also shared the value of the homeroom model of online instruction. She has 20-40 students that she meets with regularly. This offers a chance for her to assist students with executive functioning skills and facilitate their ability to self-regulate learning. Moreover, it also helps Mrs. Elkins identify areas for improvement and determine strategies to assist. Having homeroom students has actually improved graduation rates for her and others’ classes across her virtual school.

Communicate with Adults in the Home

Finally, she highlighted a significant difference in teaching online as she is a teacher and counselor for her students and their parents. This is not something she was prepared for when she began her online instruction. Parents need direction in how to support their child, plan the instructional day, organize their child (and often themselves), and so much more. Mrs. Elkins supports the adult in the home to further facilitate the online instruction for the student and needs to empower the parent as they work to support their child in their home learning environment. According to a study, teachers can empower parents through open communication, identifying their strengths, and taking into consideration the home routine and schedule when planning daily activities.

It Takes a Village

There is a need to collaborate with other professionals and stakeholders to support students who are engaged in online learning. Collaborating with a colleague who is also remote offers some significant challenges, like how do you co-plan, how do you facilitate student engagement and cover the variety of content related areas together, and how do you divide and conquer, where appropriate. Some suggestions from understood.org include making sure that both partners have access to all the online platforms and continuing to regularly meet.

Tell us about your experiences with online teaching and secondary education. What did/ does your “day in the life” look like? Hop on over to our Community and visit the “Teacher Preparation for Online/ Hybrid Learning” group to be part of the conversation!