Our very own Courtney is a teacher over at Well Trained Mind Academy. I asked her to write up some guidelines for both students and parents who may be considering online classes there or anywhere else. It’s not too early to be thinking about next Fall. –JN
My Ideal Online Student Would:
- Read the syllabus. Most teachers put lots of time and effort into their syllabi. I provide a week-by-week breakdown of assignments, allowing students to plan their entire year in advance. Also, since I’ve been doing this for a while, I try to provide an answer in advance to most of the questions I receive in an average school year. This year is 2/3s of the way completed, and I’ve yet to receive an assignment question that isn’t already answered on the syllabus.
- Provide me with valid contact information for both themselves and their parent (I teach middle/high school). Online classes mean that most communication takes place by email. I faithfully update the parents of my students on their progress every week, but I inevitably receive emails from blindsided parents who provided no email address, a wrong email address, or never check their email.
- Reach out when they have difficulty. I don’t see these students every day to give them side eye when they fail to turn in their daily work. I can’t stop them after class for a quiet chat about paying attention while completing homework. I’m not across from them at the dining room table when they’re frustrated. I want to help–it’s my job to help–but I can’t help unless the student tells me there is a problem.
- Create a personal study schedule, and stick to it. Just because the Well-Trained Mind Academy caters to homeschoolers, and these are online courses, doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t take them seriously. Online classes quickly fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Even my 6th – 9th graders often require parental support in scheduling their study time and class attendance.
- Familiarize them with the online user interface. Most online learning systems have a significant learning curve. Blackboard is the most widely used software (over 1/2 of all K-12 students, nationwide), but it’s not necessarily intuitive. I provide an orientation session and work hard to establish a routine at the beginning of the school year so as to minimize confusion, but I inescapably have students who email me 3 weeks into the semester to ask me how to turn in their work.
Last, but not least, I treasure all my students. I attempt to establish a warm, professional relationship with my students and run my classes so that they have clear but reasonable standards and expectations. I deliberately schedule assignments so that students have less opportunity to forget about their classes. I offer daily office hours so that students can have one-to-one assistance. I answer my email after dinner and before breakfast to help my students. Every student matters, and I hope they know it!
Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000 while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncts, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats