In a previous post, I shared my personal story about how I made the switch from teaching in a brick-and-mortar school to the virtual classroom. In short: I Googled “can I teach from home?” and the results landed me a job!
So many of our readers have reached out asking about my experience that I thought I would put on my helpful hat and talk about the pros and cons of online teaching. Just as soon as I take off my diaper-changing hat …
Done! Now I’m ready.
Flexibility: With a few exceptions of standing appointments, I can pretty much make my schedule work for me. I don’t have to miss my kids’ school activities, and if we want, we can hit up the library for noon story time. That kind of flexibility, especially with young children, is invaluable.
Professional connections: I had worried that the lapse on my résumé would work against me when I eventually tried to reenter the world of teaching. I planned to go back to teaching once my kids were in school, but working from home has allowed me to not only eliminate any résumé gaps but maintain and build additional professional connections.
Impact/help youth: We teach because we want to make a difference, and I feel like I can do that in my PJs now. #Winning.
Workout for your brain: Teaching my 10-month-old to wave is fun … for the first hour. Then I need some intellectual stimulation. I am fortunate that my profession provides plenty of that.
Career growth: In a brick-and-mortar, there is one option: full-time teaching plus any and all extras you choose (or do not choose!) to participate in. Online teaching affords me the opportunity to teach part-time, full-time or even three-quarter time! I have moved into different positions over the past few years—Content Lead, which is akin to Master Teacher or Department Chair, and Student Mentor, which is similar to a guidance counselor. I am certified in four different states, and I feel like if I keep growing my professional repertoire, I will eventually take over the world. OK, that’s a stretch, but I am making myself a valuable asset to my company.
Comparable benefits and insurance coverage: The benefits and insurance coverage are similar to what I would have if I still worked in traditional schools. Things like co-pays and various discounts (gym, day care, etc.) are actually better through my current company than they were at my previous brick-and-mortar school. That said, I can’t really speak to the specifics as well now, since I’m currently on my husband’s insurance.
Savings: I no longer spend money on work clothes, classroom supplies, gas, car maintenance or other job-related expenses. And as a working mother, I don’t have to pay for child care for three kids, five days a week (holy break the bank, Batman!); I’m actually saving money by working from home!
Sanity: So remember a second ago when I was all, “I’m saving money by working from home!” I am saving cash, but my sanity? Not so much. Parenting and teaching in the same space at the same time is not easy. Worth it? Yes. Easy? Negative.
Not “really” teaching: I don’t say this as an insult to online teachers, but we do not instruct very regularly. Online teaching is more assessing student work and providing constructive feedback, while striving to maintain communication with all stakeholders, i.e., parents, school districts, etc. The days of creating mind-blowing lesson plans and of witnessing those “lightbulb moments” are few and far between in the virtual classroom. *Sad trombones.*
Technology can be frustrating: As in, sometimes it doesn’t work. I used to freak the freak out when I couldn’t log in to a class or was repeatedly kicked out of a meeting. Then I adopted the “it happens” policy and have since been much calmer in the face of technological difficulties. It also bears mentioning that my company has a fantastic tech department full of helpful people with a great sense of humor. I should know—I call them daily. …
Missing IRL interactions: For those of you who had to ask your tweenager what IRL means, let me help: In Real Life. I like my co-workers, mostly because they don’t corner me in the faculty lounge and beg me to buy whatever their Boy Scout is selling this month, but I don’t really know them. I kinda miss knowing the people I work with.
No longer part of a union: Online teachers work for a company, not a public school. This is a huge shift for someone who lives in Pennsylvania and used to be a part of its solid teaching union.
Changes in retirement plans: Please see above. My original retirement plans have been turned upside down as a result of working for a company rather than a PA public school. I’m saving for the future with help of a 401k, but as teachers, we know it’s just not the same!
Not fulfilling, rewarding enough: Because we don’t get to know our students the way we would in a traditional setting, and because of the aforementioned absent “lightbulb moments,” I tend to feel more disconnected with the kids in my class. That’s not to say I don’t have a solid relationship with them, but having a computer between us can certainly impact the heart-felt part of this gig.
Less money: Your salary will undoubtedly be less as an online teacher as opposed to one working in the public school system. However, teachers starting out in private or parochial schools make salaries comparable to those of online instructors. But don’t forget about what you’re saving (see above!), especially if you would have to rely on child care for your little humans!
Listen, here’s the real talk: Working from home doing anything is fantastic. Until it’s not. There are days that are so overwhelming you’ll want to hide under your bed, ignoring both family and work. Despite spending gads of time in the house, it will inevitably look like a bomb went off and all you can do is sift through the rubble because Lord knows there is zero time to clean it up.
And those kids who don’t need day care? They need YOU. And it’s hard juggling a baby on the boob while presenting in a Professional Development series. I often feel the Mom Guilt set in when I have to deny my 3-year-old’s request for a tea party because I have to make phone calls, and don’t get me started about how professional I sound with a hangry toddler hanging on my leg shrieking, “BUT MUMMY WHY TAN’T YOU PLAY WIF ME?!” in the background.
But ya know what? Crazy days exist in the classroom too. Weigh the pros and cons, think about what your family needs, and then you can make the decision about trading in the traditional classroom for the virtual one. Good luck!
English teacher Stephanie Jankowski loves words, hates math and has a penchant for finding the funny in everyday life. Find more of Stephanie on her blog WhenCrazyMeetsExhaustion.com, Facebook or on Twitter @CrazyExhaustion.