Carolyn Fabis teaching at IDVA
My students: The students I serve at Idaho Vision High School — an accredited alternative program offered through Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) — were looking for a place to succeed and earn their H.S. Diploma. While they have different life circumstances that brought them to our school, one thing they have in common is they want an education delivered in a personalized, unique way.
My students continue to impress me with their educational progress despite living through difficult situations where schooling is not their number one priority—which may be caring for a new baby, working full-time to pay bills, or a personal or family illness. Just last semester a 12th grade student who became displaced due to a fire in her home continued to work on her studies from her hotel room. Here’s what she has to say about her experience at IDVA:
“The classroom experience that I have valued the most is the ability to go at my own pace. With Idaho Virtual Academy, I have the option to slow down or work ahead. It has been a huge learning experience for me to be responsible for when and how I will be getting my work done. I have learned how important diligence is through this experience and I value it deeply.”
I get to be part of 21st century education. Online teaching and learning gives both those learning and teaching the ability to gain digital literacy and technological skills in tools needed for the 21st century. The high school online learning management system allows me to see how much time students are spending in unit lessons, quizzes and tests. In the brick-and-mortar model, I could only guess how much effort was being put forth outside of the classroom. The data gathered by using a digital learning system can help me individualize assistance plans for each unique student.
It’s a GREEN job. Online teaching helps me reduce my carbon footprint. My students and I have no need to get in a car and commute. Since switching from brick-and-mortar schools to online schools, I have reduced my use of paper too! No more photocopying worksheets for every student in the class. All materials are online with the students’ choice of printing. If they do print, they often use scrap paper in the printer. All assignments are submitted digitally, saving a whole lot of trees in the process.
Relationship-building taken to new heights. Building relationships in a face-to-face setting is authentic and valuable. I often get asked, “How do you know your students when you can’t see them?” In an online setting communication becomes one-on-one with students and parents often resulting in 45-minute phone conferences.
My “back-to-school” conferences do not take place on one night in a gym. Can you imagine 30 to 45 minutes for each family in one night? Instead, I make welcome calls to each of the 50 to 80 students placed in my homeroom over a one to two-week time-frame. On these calls we discuss learning styles, time management and scheduling, individualized learning plans and goals, materials check list and any other information the family feels we need to help their child succeed in our school. This is noted in our internal information system for all teachers to access and get to know their students. Further relationship building occurs through live class connect sessions and asynchronous assignments where I can see student work and responses, free from judgement of their peers. Online discussion forums remove the need to compete for air time in a face to face setting and allow thoughtful responses from every student in class. The anxiety is lifted for many students who usually don’t interact in a crowd. In the online environment there are many ways of engaging with the class at a level of comfort for even the most anxiety-filled student.
Carolyn Fabis is a social studies teacher at Idaho Vision H.S. – Idaho Virtual Academy.