For the past seven years, I’ve been working remotely in a virtual school with students and colleagues states away. Though grateful for the gig, I do miss certain things about my traditional teaching position.
For starters, my wardrobe was much more—what do the students call it?—on fleek when people could actually see me doing my job. These days, I sit on an exercise ball in my living room “office” rocking an oversized sweatshirt and yoga pants. Looking like a vagabond is small potatoes compared to what I really miss, though …
1. Face-to-Face Conversations
I like to watch a person physically react while we communicate, and that’s rarely possible in my current position. The majority of my interactions are over the phone or email. I miss seeing a student’s face light up when he suddenly understands Shakespeare! And I’d be lying if I didn’t confess I also miss rolling my eyes with coworkers when our drunk-on-power administrator walked down the hall.
2. A Sense of Community
My company does a really nice job of creating a welcoming environment, and I basically force my colleagues into my life by regularly oversharing. This helps recapture a small part of the traditional sense of community I was spoiled with in my brick-and-mortar, but there’s just no replicating the coworker who bursts through your classroom door like Kramer with the next GREATEST IDEA EVER. Which brings me to …
Quick conversations in the hallway or observing fellow teachers in their element have a way of inspiring us when we least expect it. It’s those surprise moments, those quick mood boosts, that make me long for my brick-and-mortar days. Very little in the virtual environment happens spontaneously; from scheduling meetings to accommodate multiple time zones to planning everything twice (always gotta be prepared for technical glitches), next to nothing is left to happenstance.
4. Getting to Know Families
I’ve actually gone an entire school year without ever speaking to some of my virtual students’ parents! It’s not that I didn’t try, but when given the choice of whether or not to answer a phone call, some of them choose the latter. Building a positive rapport with families is such an integral part of the student’s success, and I miss having moms and dads visit my classroom for conferences or to deliver their homemade Christmas cookies. Maybe I just miss the cookies? I’ll get back to you on this one.
5. Bumping Into Students Around Town
When I was in sixth grade, my family and I ran into my teacher Mr. Dale at a restaurant. It was like bumping into a celebrity! I remember stealing quick glimpses of him sipping a beer, giggling because OMG my teacher drinks beer!, which I’m sure wasn’t creepy at all.
I know, I know—most teachers dread this! I used to, until it became an impossibility. Having been out of the public school game for so long has reduced my status to that of Paris Hilton’s: This generation is all, who?
I’m not longing for the spotlight, but I wouldn’t hate rounding the corner at the grocery store to find a familiar face who once sat in the third row, fourth seat back, can’t quite remember her name, but she’s doing really well in college and isn’t that fantastic?! Yeah, that would be nice.
In short: I miss the people. These days, my brainstorming sessions are to the tune of Daniel Tiger as I bounce engagement ideas off of my toddler. The built-in collaboration and community of a traditional school are irreplaceable, though getting to wear slippers and sip wine at my virtual faculty meetings does make it a little better.