Brick-and-mortar schools are not accessible for all students. That was true before the pandemic, and it will continue to be true. There have always been reasons why students don't have access to the physical classroom, including health concerns and doctors at home.
I've always worried about these students getting the education they deserve, and a few years ago, I began to flip my classroom to ensure that students had access to learning at any time. Virtual teaching naturally follows the same concept. Students can learn in a way that is best for them.
Virtual education provides access to education in all environments.
We know that brick-and-mortar doesn't work for all students in virtual education and should be an accessible alternative for students who may benefit from instruction online.
As a neurodivergent educator myself, virtual education was better for my mental health. I struggle with work-life boundaries, and I recognize that if I continued at a brick-and-mortar school, that would never end. Virtual teaching gives me a chance to work my contracted hours, fulfill job duties, meet the needs of students, and not feel obligated to do more than I can.
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about virtual education is it is impossible to build relationships with students on the computer. Kids are more plugged in than ever, and they have genuine virtual relationships with folks if they have never met. They have thoughts, feelings, and opinions about their favorite YouTubers. Educators can tap into the same passion for the online community that our students already have. There are many virtual tools that we can use to help build those relationships with students across the computer, including digital check ins using the wheel of emotions, meme mood boards, take a break room, mindful organization units, and more.
How to Find a Virtual Teaching Job
Virtual teaching positions are out there! It might be a little more difficult to find them brick-and-mortar, but they do exist in our hiring in every state. At my school, right now there are six open special education teaching positions. Finding a job is easier if you are a special education teacher because we see an influx of special education students enrolling in virtual education. My school’s enrollment is slightly down from last year. However, the special education population has increased by about 33%!
I work for a nationwide company that owns several hundred schools throughout the country called Stride Inc. My school is public and educates students all over the state. I was offered a position at ACCEL schools and they have many great options. Some other great options to check out are Connections Academy, VIPkid, Outschool, teachaway.com Edmentum, Elevate K-12, Girls Who Code, Kaplan, Pearson, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s also a good idea to look at a search engine such as Indeed (how I found Stride) ZipRecruiter, and flexjobs.com.
Most virtual schools will have an application process that includes a test of your Wi-Fi connection and a video of you teaching and class with no students. Just record a lesson and pretend that there are students on the other end. It can be a little awkward at first however, that is what virtual teaching sometimes feels like sometimes. Virtual teaching positions do have a longer application process because someone does have to watch the videos, and there's quite a bit of screening involved.
Pay & Benefits
Many people who are concerned about switching to virtual teaching worry about benefits such as health insurance. Some online teaching positions are a 1099 contract where you would have to provide your own insurance and account for taxes. This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but you need to consider that part of finding salary during the negotiations. When I was considering going in that direction, I simply asked for $XXX more than they offered to cover my insurance expenses. However, I recognize that I'm privileged with little health concerns.
I am fortunate, and I work for a company that offers insurance for myself, and my domestic partner is able to be on my plan as well. This seems to be more common with virtual teaching positions as more positions become available.
In my current teaching position; I get paid slightly less than I did at my brick-and-mortar school, but the pay difference is enough to make up for the fact that I don't have to buy gas and drive to work every day. There is a national teacher shortage so do not be afraid to negotiate your salary even in a virtual position. Teachers are needed everywhere.
Teacher expectations are not difficult at my Virtual School. We are evaluated at least twice a month. Here’s what it looks like
The daily routine that I now have as a virtual teacher has saved my mental health.
I am contracted to work from 8 to 4. I have 8 to 8:30 to prepare for the day and catch up on emails. I then teach five classes for 50 minutes each
with a 10-minute break in between and a 40-minute lunch. I have prep from 2-4 daily. That’s right- I have 2.5 hours of prep every day!
At 4:00 I can shut the computer and be in my own space.
Even though we are a virtual school, my students know what my classroom looks like and can tell a little bit about my personality based on the decorations in our virtual classroom. Virtual classrooms are very common for educators in the pandemic, and I use them daily. Here is a Google slide presentation of over fifty virtual classroom starters for free!
My daily routine isn't that different from brick + mortar. I start every class with a mindfulness check-in,
then we talked about what we are going to do that day, I teach the lesson, students interact with the learning, check for understanding, in the last part of the class is spent with students in their individual breakout rooms working on any assignments that they need while sharing their screen and I jump around from room to room assisting. I use personal learning plans to stay organized.
As a special education teacher, I teach small group classes with my students on my caseload. My school is structured in such a way that those classes are ungraded. I do still teach and monitor progress through our school's tracking system however students don't receive an actual grade for the work they do in my class. This is a positive thing because students show up and are not afraid to make mistakes, however it can be negative because it reduces their motivation to do the work.
Who Benefits from Virtual Education?
Everyone. Students with circumstances that make it difficult to be in the physical classroom now have consistent teachers. This really benefits kids in foster care, military families, students who are chronically ill, students who are pregnant, students who just didn’t fit in at a brick and mortar, students who do better with self-directed learning, and school districts who aren’t able to meet the needs of these students in a building.
Virtual education as an option benefits everyone.
My school has a 96% graduation rate. Some of these students would not be successful at a brick in mortar school. Virtual education can be incredible and it works.