Sit down with a group of online teachers to talk students, classrooms, and really just education in general, and it will soon become clear that online teachers are, well, teachers. Although there are definitely unique benefits and struggles, most of the challenges they share are no different than those of traditional brick and mortar schools, neither is the passion they have for their students or the determination they feel to help them succeed.
You will hear terms of endearment, references to “my kids.” You will see the dedication for unique and engaging lessons, and you will hear questioning of how to better use data to drive instruction. When it comes down to it, no matter what the setting, good teachers are driven by student success, and they work tirelessly to see their students achieve.
In this blog, Academic Administrator for Texas Virtual Academy, Sara Baker, Ed.D describes what drives virtual schools to provide students with a quality experience that meets the unique needs of each student. The blog first appeared on Getting Smart Advocacy Partner, K12 Inc’s Blog, ThinkTank12.
As unique and different as online public schools may seem, the only true differences lie in the logistical execution of the school programs. The heart and success of online schools depend upon the engagement level of students, parents, teachers and school leaders. And this, of course, is no different than what drives student success in brick and mortar schools.
Although we may not see each other at local football games, our online schools do create and nurture a virtual community where we are all working toward the shared goal of helping provide choices for our students for their futures. The ultimate goal of education, irrespective of the mode of delivery, is to provide students with a quality education that enables them to choose to pursue any future they would like. We know that reaching this goal requires more than just teachers assigning homework, more than students doing the homework, and more than parents making sure their students “attend” school. It requires that the school experience transcend the textbook and curriculum to engage teachers, students, families and leaders in a vivid learning community where students feel safe to be themselves and motivated to achieve even more than they had thought possible.
The foundational aspects of a school are a quality curriculum, a logical sequence of courses with an achievable scope of content, solid delivery mechanisms for curriculum content and consistent communication avenues for creating and maintaining the partnership that must exist between home and school.
But these are only the beginning of creating an exceptional school experience.
The next step, the one we always work towards, rests upon the power of the vision cast by the school leaders, supported by the school’s programs, and believed in wholeheartedly by the teachers, students and families. When the vision, programs, and beliefs of all stakeholders align, then the online school, or any school, can become unstoppable.
The beauty of the online school is its ability to remove logistical barriers, such as time and distance, and allow families the opportunity to make an individual choice for what works best for their family, for their student, and in their lives. It’s this simple removal that opens up options for the future of students. Education should be a tool to improve the lives of students, not an encumbrance that holds them back or limits their opportunities.
As educators, parents and communities continue to work together to shape the future of public education, it is important that we keep in mind the changing needs of a workplace that is no longer defined by office buildings or geographic boundaries, and that we create unique, flexible educational systems that truly prepare all of our students, not just the ones who can flourish in their local brick and mortar school. Every child has a right to a quality education and it’s up to us to continue working to improve educational options to make that happen.
For more on K12 Inc, Check out:
- Virtual Academies at Work to Close the Achievement Gap
- My Experience as a Full Time Online Intervention Teacher
- K12 Chairman and CEO Nate Davis on National School Choice Week
Sara Baker, Ed.D. is an Academic Administrator for Texas Virtual Academy and served as a traditional campus and district administrator for ten years in Texas schools prior to joining the K12 team.