Teaching Online for the First Time
I have never taught kindergarten online before, but when my school offered the chance to work from home I was definitely on board. I was nervous about how to keep my students attentive and interested. Games would need to be changed. There would need to be more movement to keep them from getting antsy, but I was excited about the new opportunity to learn a different style of teaching.
Oh, if only I would’ve known.
I painstakingly organised my vocab cards, created a colorful background to pique my students’ interest, Googled fun games to play with the kids, but the funny thing is: teaching was never the problem. Being organised wasn’t either.
No, the problem was technology.
As soon as I signed into the online classroom my co-teacher and I created, I became suddenly overwhelmed by all the kids accessing it; their microphones on and, naturally, being so excited to talk to their friends again. I calmly told them to turn off their microphones in order to listen to the teacher.
There were twelve little ones all accessing one online classroom. Some with parent supervision, others without. I had one kid continue signing out in order to avoid being called on. Smart little kid. Another student would just disappear behind his desk and say “I’m not here”. Or, my favorite, a child saying “bye-bye” while slowly closing the laptop.
The classroom itself wasn’t the greatest technology. I couldn’t even see all their faces at one time. If I clicked on my video in order to see if my portable white boards or flash cards were visible, their little faces would immediately disappear. I wouldn’t have a clue if they were engaged or not. Then the unthinkable happened.
My computer’s fan turned on.
And my microphone was next to the fan.
“Miss teacher I can’t hear you!” came twelve little voices. Their faces suddenly flickering on my computer screen like a strobe light.
“Stop, stop!” I yelled at the computer, but they couldn’t hear me. Parents started writing in the chat room “We can’t hear you.” Children were yelling into the screen, laughing, while I was trying to remain calm and not smash my computer against the desk.
“Can you hear me now?” I leaned into the microphone, my face next to the computer. Like that would really help me….
“Only a little,” wrote one parent.
Thankfully, my precious boyfriend, an IT man, told me to use my Airpods as a microphone.
Or was it?
I got the kids to turn off their microphones once again and we transitioned into singing the Hokey Pokey. Once again, I had no clue if they were following my instructions or if I was dancing all by myself.
“Miss Teacher, I can’t see you,” came one little voice.
I paused. My right hand just about to shake it all about. My one thought: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Instead I asked sweetly, “Can anyone else not see me?”
“I can see you, Miss Teacher.”
“Me too,” said another child.
“I can’t see her,” came another voice.
I took a deep breath and put on my best “It’s ok” smile. You know the one. The one that is barely a smile and merely lips pressed tightly together to keep yourself from screaming in frustration.
“It’s ok if you can’t see me,” I said as cheerfully as possible. “Can you see your friends?”
“Ok, then, just watch your friend. Does that help?”
And that, was my first experience with online teaching.
Since that first lesson, things have improved. However, teaching has changed dramatically. I have to discover a new class management style, email homework and worksheets, explain crafts to parents, and create knew and interesting games.
However, during this time it is best to think of the positive. I fixed my microphone problem, I didn’t smash my computer into bits, and we are still able to do the Hokey Pokey without being able to see “Miss Teacher”.
I think the most important lesson of all this is remaining calm when technology isn’t working and rolling with the punches.