Pandemic Post #8: How I Prep for Virtual Teaching

May 28, 2020

Just like the rest of us, I’ve taken a crash course in virtual instruction over the past 8 weeks. While I’ve hosted some online courses in the past, this is the first time I’m looking at the bulk – or all (eek!) – of my classes being online for awhile. I’m not an expert (though I did hire one at first!), but I still thought it may be helpful to share how I prepare each week for my virtual classes.

Practice, practice, practice. This one is probably no surprise, but this whole conversion took me some practice. The Together Team is using a combination of Nearpod (for visuals and collaboration), Zoom (for faces and chatting), and a dedicated Google site (for samples and homework). Shifting between these three modalities, remembering to record, and even reminding myself to put on my headset, all took some serious practice. My team and I held practice sessions almost every day leading up to our launch.

Plan pacing extra carefully. My online classes are shorter than my IRL classes, but this doesn’t mean I can be lax with pacing or notes. On the contrary, I’ve realized I need to plan even more tightly. I’ve edited my clipboard document, and I include backup plans if Breakout Rooms need to run longer or an activity requires additional time. And our lesson plans look a little different now because my co-host needs clear instructions on what to chat and when!

Review rosters in advance. I’m a well-documented extrovert and I MISS traveling and teaching. A lot. I miss connecting with participants before a workshop begins, giving hugs to former colleagues, and chit-chatting with people about their Togetherness hopes and fears. I already hop on my virtual classes early to talk informally with people, but I’ve also found that reviewing my course rosters ahead of time helps me say hi, remember where people live, jot emails, and generally just warm myself and others up. You can read lots more on building adult culture virtually in this excellent post written by my friend Lisa.

Set up space, sound, lighting. After a conversation in early March with my author buddy Elena, I had a hunch that things were going to be changing.  When we made the decision to cancel our March events, I ordered this convertible standing desk, this excellent headset (Logitech for the win), borrowed this web cam from a neighbor (because everywhere else was sold out or price-gouged to $500!) and purchased a second large monitor. And EJT convinced me I needed one of these too! I already had a laptop stand and a wireless keyboard and mouse. But now I feel like my house is set up for live TV production! #togetherrealityshow?

Prepare for comfort. This one’s all about hydration, shoes, and bathroom breaks! We are all familiar with my IRL long-standing beverage stations, but did you know I’ve converted them to my virtual teaching life? Though less money than Starbucks, making it upstairs with this much stuff on a tray is no easy feat. When I emerge at the end of the day, my children are like, “HOW DO YOU HAVE SO MANY MUGS, MOMMY?” Additionally, while my comfort shoe line is typically a Dansko, I’m in Birkenstocks most days. But I often put on the fancy ones for teaching! PS I bet you are wondering about restroom breaks. Indeed, when we are in Sample Review Time with video off, I make a mad dash for a bio break!

Whether you are teaching adults or kids, how do you prepare for online instruction?