A young student smiles while wearing a headset.

A Day in the Life of An Elementary Online Teacher

Author: Sean Smith; Samantha Goldman

It’s not news that teaching in the K-12 online/hybrid classroom requires a different skill set. The pandemic has taught us much that teaching online requires teachers to think outside the box. Marcia Riggins, a third grade teacher who has taught face-to-face and currently teaches fully online, contextualized these primary differences during her participation in the November CIDDL/CEEDAR Affinity Group - Preparing Teacher Candidates for Online/ Hybrid Instruction.

Simple, but flexible structure of online learning

Reflecting on a career that spans 20 years, Mrs. Riggins described the simple structure of the online classroom.  She does not meet with every student every day. Instead of having her entire third-grade class with her five days a week, she meets the children in a flexible format four days a week. Organized either in the morning or the afternoon, the 18 students she serves are broken into two sections of nine. With cameras on and standards at the focus, Mrs. Riggins works with students to make certain they are building the skills required while fostering relationships and ensuring the learners are comfortable with making mistakes. The emphasis is on a less-is-more approach. She has less time with students, so she maximizes that time and what she focuses on, realizing the online curriculum fosters independence.

Parent/guardian as “the learning coach”

The parent/guardian in the home is critical. Prior to the pandemic, not all parents were able to meet the online classroom’s expectations.  Mrs. Riggins described the role of the parent/guardian as “the learning coach”. The parent had an obligation to be part of their child's schooling. More than just homework, the “learning coach” is responsible for facilitating the interaction with curriculum, making sure required lessons are complete, and students are ready for synchronous sessions. These are just some obligations that are critical for success in online learning.

The teacher is responsible for engaging and empowering the “learning coach” to assume this role. Teachers need to support them in developing these skills and integrating them into their home interaction with their child. The coach is an active part of the process. Unlike the face-to-face classroom, the online environment requires a partnership between Mrs. Riggins and the “learning coach.”

Online teachers like Mrs. Riggings require a very different set of skills that most university coursework does not focus on and online teachers have very different classroom experiences than face-to-face teachers.

Further the Conversation

Tell us about your experiences with online teaching and elementary school. 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!