Blog >> Musings on Teaching Online vs. in a Physical Classroom

Musings on Teaching Online vs. in a Physical Classroom

“… if I’ve learned anything major from my students or from this job, it’s that the world is far smaller than we think it is!”

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 “abroad” experience without having to uproot our lives.

Before VIPKID, I feared technology like the plague. There’s so much that I don’t 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 there’s a problem, sometimes there’s no class or no student. Luckily, the Firemen are always there to help troubleshoot. I’m 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 I’ve seen. However, they’re still kids; sometimes they’re distracted. If I get doodlers or kids clearly surfing another site, I can’t walk over to tap them on the shoulder or stand behind them in my best commanding mountain pose. Getting their attention requires extra “crazy.” The face-making/ hand-waving/ song-and-dancing/ clapping that works via video would be a bit … excessive in a physical classroom! But, I won’t complain; it’s easier to grab the attention of one distracted student than that of ~twenty distracted students!

No Commute

Commuting equals time and money that employees aren’t compensated for. Not to mention, it’s 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, I’m often ready for a bit of outside-world interaction, and am quite happily ready to walk the dog.

“Irregular” Hours

I’m 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 I’ve already done a half day’s (or full day’s!) work. When I taught at a public school, it was hard to find time to go to the doctor’s 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 “Comfortable” Barrier

It’s safe to say that from 7,000 miles away, my students can’t smell if I’ve worn my orange shirt one day too many, or if I ate garlic for dinner. I’ve worked with young learners in physical settings and if accidents happened or someone was sick, guess who cleaned it up? With VIPKID, I’m off the hook!

Overall Impressions

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