Musings on Teaching Online vs. in a Physical Classroom

u201cu2026 if Iu2019ve learned anything major from my students or from this job, itu2019s that the world is far smaller than we think it is!u201d

By Lauren Amrhein


The power of technology

Who would have thought fifteen years ago that we could live in North America, teach in China, but not actually be in China? Working abroad can be complicated, both for the teacher (administrative struggles!) and the employer (even more administrative struggles!). VIPKID grants students contact with foreign teachers from a young age, and gives us teachers an u201cabroadu201d experience without having to uproot our lives.

Before VIPKID, I feared technology like the plague. Thereu2019s so much that I donu2019t understand! In a physical classroom, if my whiteboard or Internet crashes, I can still use an old-fashioned blackboard and lead class discussion. But when my classroom is technology and thereu2019s a problem, sometimes thereu2019s no class or no student. Luckily, the Firemen are always there to help troubleshoot. Iu2019m certainly less technologically challenged now than before!

Classroom Management

Most of the time, my students are wonderful. Of all my past teaching experiences, the VIPKID students are the most focused and dedicated learners Iu2019ve seen. However, theyu2019re still kids; sometimes theyu2019re distracted. If I get doodlers or kids clearly surfing another site, I canu2019t walk over to tap them on the shoulder or stand behind them in my best commanding mountain pose. Getting their attention requires extra u201ccrazy.u201d The face-making/ hand-waving/ song-and-dancing/ clapping that works via video would be a bit u2026 excessive in a physical classroom! But, I wonu2019t complain; itu2019s easier to grab the attention of one distracted student than that of ~twenty distracted students!

No Commute

Commuting equals time and money that employees arenu2019t compensated for. Not to mention, itu2019s a headache! I just have to walk to my desk- no gas, no traffic jams, no subway delays. That being said, after several hours of back-to-back classes in the same room on the same screen, Iu2019m often ready for a bit of outside-world interaction, and am quite happily ready to walk the dog.

u201cIrregularu201d Hours

Iu2019m not a morning person, so 6 am classes can be rough. How obvious is it to this kid that I just woke up? How can I creatively suppress this yawn? Luckily, it only takes a strong cup of coffee plus the smile of my first student to help me reach my top teaching energy level. I can often say by 10 am that Iu2019ve already done a half dayu2019s (or full dayu2019s!) work. When I taught at a public school, it was hard to find time to go to the doctoru2019s or to my bank because of my working hours. Now, while my students sleep, I can do all of this, and maybe even take an afternoon nap myself! I have time for other things in my day, like working towards my Masters.

A u201cComfortableu201d Barrier

Itu2019s safe to say that from 7,000 miles away, my students canu2019t smell if Iu2019ve worn my orange shirt one day too many, or if I ate garlic for dinner. Iu2019ve worked with young learners in physical settings and if accidents happened or someone was sick, guess who cleaned it up? With VIPKID, Iu2019m off the hook!

Overall Impressions

Iu2019d never taught online before VIPKID, but itu2019s been eight months since my first class, and I feel just as much a u201creal teacheru201d as I did when I worked in a physical classroom. The positives far outweigh any negatives, and if Iu2019ve learned anything major from my students or from this job, itu2019s that the world is far smaller than we think it is!