Recently I had a discussion with an educator in a brick and mortar high school. The conversation centered on the perception by the traditional educator about our world of online education.
If you have been an online educator for awhile, you probably have heard the misconception of some that certain types of educators, such as online teachers, are not “real” teachers. Or maybe you have gotten a question similar to, “How could students possibly be getting a real education online?” Or you may have heard something like, “What you do as an online educator is in opposition to what I do as a traditional educator – we do not work on the same ‘side.’” OUCH.
As a teacher who has been in both kinds of educational platforms, I can speak to how inaccurate misconceptions like these are. I have learned it is OK to speak up for what I do for my students. No matter where you call home as a teacher or a student I have seen firsthand the caring teachers that create an environment where student success and learning is the mission statement. Maybe you are skeptical, and that is OK. I hope that you read on. These are my experiences and they certainly opened my eyes.
For all educators alike there is an innate desire to defend our profession on behalf of our students. Each of us can tell of 10 stories off the top of our heads in which we were able to see a student succeed. If I could talk to a room full of educators – online, traditional, charter or homeschool – I would tell them we are on the same side. We all became teachers because we love kids and we want to make a difference in their futures.
Just like not every teacher can be a kindergarten teacher, and we all know that there is a special type of teacher that can work with middle school students, we also know that finding your passion as a teacher is key to being a really amazing educator. Some find that passion as a music teacher or a technology teacher or a chemistry teacher. Even more than that, as educators you find your niche. You find what age of student you are best at working with. You find what style of school fits best with your own personal life and teaching style. You try to find the staff that is the best fit for you. You also know what students you have a heart for. I would say that we do that most of all because we truly want to give the very best that we have to every one of the students we come into contact with to inspire and grow and learn.
Being an online teacher has made me a better teacher. I’ve seen it make my students better students. It’s made me go to deeper levels with my students to understand their family, their learning style, and how to help them be successful. Being an online teacher has been the hardest teaching job I’ve ever had and the most rewarding. I have seen students that have been able to thrive in an online school environment while battling cancer from a hospital bed. I have seen teen moms become valedictorians while staying home with their babies. And I have seen students enjoy meeting new friends from around the state and thrive in a social environment where they can focus on school and having friends in a way that is meaningful to them.
In a time where teachers are feeling scared, overwhelmed and disheartened, I want to say this: Go back to the beginning and remember the things that you love about teaching and watching a student have that “ah-ha” moment for the first time. Smile and remember – if you are an educator, you matter, because that student in front of you having that “ah-ha” moment. That is why we became teachers.