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I love that “AHA!” moment.  When I was a student teacher there was a time I thought I should throw in the towel, but then it happened.  I was able to help a student figure out exponential relationships using the tale of Alice in Wonderland and exploring how Alice’s eating and drinking habits affected her overall size.  When the student finally understood the concept, his eyes lit up, his posture straightened and a literal gasp escaped his lips.  Not only did he understand an exponential relationship, but I knew I was hooked on teaching.

Many think it is a challenge for online teachers to experience that “aha” moment because we are not physically in the same room as our students.  For me, teaching online does not mean I don’t hear the voice of my students.  There are many tools we use to allow students to communicate with their peers and their teachers.  Students are able to give green checks for approval, or red x’s for a negative response.  Writing on the whiteboard by hand or typing with unique fonts are all ways to hear the voice of the student.

One of my favorite opportunities is our passing period.  In a brick and mortar school students would have 5-10 minutes to move between classes.  In the virtual classroom we have a 5-10 minute passing period where students are logging into the virtual classroom.  This is a great time for students to share special projects they have been working on, their hobbies, and anything else they are excited about.  We use this time to learn about our students and connect with them on a personal level.

Students have the opportunity in classes to use the microphone as well.  Using this picture of my daughter, I remind students that they should do a sound check and have their microphones ready at the beginning of each class.  It is really fun for students to interact with each other in both large-class sessions and smaller break-out room groups for peer-supported learning.  A lot of students have commented that they like hearing other students and it helps them feel connected to each other as well.

Being a virtual teacher also allows me the time to speak to our students on the phone one-on-one.  This is another great way to learn about the student and hear their voice while providing support as needed.

Sometimes I don’t get to physically see or hear the “AHA!” moments- but when I do, it still makes my heart leap.  It’s one way I know I’m impacting students.

About The Author

Katie Hart

Katie Hart is an advanced math and physics teacher at Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA). She graduated from Western Governors University with a bachelor's degree in mathematics education in 2010 and with a master's degree in science education with a concentration in physics in 2011. She previously taught in a variety of school models, including traditional brick and mortar schools, charter schools and even a jail. Having graduated from an online university, Katie understands the needs of the online student from a unique perspective. A passion for life-long learning is the fuel that motivates Katie to help students. She is excited about fostering a growth mindset and empowering students as they find their own passions in learning. Katie also loves adventures with her husband and four kids – anything that brings education to life!

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