For some people, online teaching was a career choice, for others, it very much was not. This year will go down in history as the year when online language learning really took off - and not necessarily for all the fun reasons. If the teachers at your language school are teaching online for the first time as your school transitions to remote learning, you need to do your part to help them feel welcomed into the experience - instead of forced. In this article, we will look at the ways you can help your language teachers feel comfortable and excel in their new digital classrooms. We'll look at:
If your school has moved or is moving online, you have probably considered or already adopted online school management platform. There is a lot of great free school management software available these days, and most of it is designed specifically to be user-friendly. However, not everyone has the same comfort level with technology. If your teachers will be using the school's online platform to do things like deliver classes, schedule and send Zoom meeting appointments to their students, take attendance, and create activities, you want to be sure your teachers are comfortable using the school software on their own.
Instead of sending your staff a giant Pdf for them to read through, consider a group training session. Of course, you or one of your administrators can lead a session to teach your teachers to use the new online teaching platform. Alternatively, consider taking your teachers to the source. For example, here at Demiks, we help onboard all staff members to our school management software to ensure that the transition is smooth for everyone.
The advantage to your teachers being trained by the software team is A) there won't be any questions that can't be answered, B) your staff can help the school software grow by pointing out areas of need, and C) you don't overload your teachers with long staff Zoom calls where it is always the same people talking!
Providing training and skill development to your teachers is a great way to provide some quality asssurance in your classrooms. Bringing other voices and faces to your school staff is a great way to break up the monotony and to make your team feel like they are a part of the transition - and not like it is happening around them while they try to keep up. Maybe more than ever, this year is an important one for providing training to your teachers.
Beyond learning how to use the new school software, your teachers may also need to develop some more specific areas. For example, how to use Zoom for teaching. How to create a great digital classroom from home. How to keep the peace and discipline in a virtual class. Or how to play games in an online classroom.
Remember, too many meetings can be exhausting for educators who already give a lot of time and energy to their remote learners.
We recommend keeping these training sessions short and varied. Invite outside experts to teach a new skill to your group. Maybe you have friends or family members who work in the arts, in video games, or in technology who have some interesting insight to bring. Or why not ask your teachers to take turns leading Best Practices sessions? Each teacher can take some time to share with their colleagues some games, ideas, or interesting lesson plans they have discovered or created.
In an earlier article, we looked at building a strong team at your language school and you know as well as we do that a strong team is a strong school. This is a pretty important subject that we explore more in an article dedicated to the topic of maintaining teacher morale at your online school, but we wanted to include it here as a reminder that a big part of helping your teachers to become the best online teachers possible is helping them to love their job. We all need a little help with motivation these days as so many things have changed in this past year.
Try things like scheduling a weekly or bi-weekly Zoom cocktail hour (or 5 à 7, as we say in Montreal!) or better yet, a midday coffee break. A social occasion that allows you and your teachers to remember that your language school is a team and you are all in this transition together. Water cooler chats may no longer have the water cooler, but that time to talk to colleagues about common experiences, funny classroom stories, or even just a great movie on Netflix this month goes a long way for teachers who may be feeling isolated without their school environment.
As language instructors and language learners, we know that sometimes learning is hilarious! Funny expressions your students invent, improbable pronunciations when an onslaught of syllables get caught in the mouth - there's a lot to laugh about in a language classroom. In fact, laughing about learning is my favourite part of being a language teacher for adults. So why not encourage the same attitude for your online teaching staff? Maybe start an email chain or a slack chat where teachers can share their #OnlineTeachingFails.
Someone burped when they thought they were on mute? Sent the advanced quiz to the beginner class? Coughed into their hand on camera? Jackhammer started up during a student presentation? No, these aren't best practices, but these are a part of our reality too, so let your teachers have fun as the students that they now are.
Encourage laughing about our little digital oopsies so your language teachers don't feel frustrated when they flub, they feel human!
Let us know your tips for helping your teachers transition online in the comments. If you have any questions about language school management or free language school management software, don't hesitate to drop us a line.
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