Telecommuting is nothing new in corporate America. For some professions, it is even becoming commonplace. The Sales Rep who lives in Texas, but has their corporate offices in California. But for teachers, the idea of working in the comfort of their own home is finally becoming a realistic opportunity. No more rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn to commute to work. Teachers can stay home, teach, and even tutor while still wearing their pajamas.
Most online schools offer full-time teachers the same benefits as teachers who work for traditional schools. Some online schools even pay for all their equipment. Tutors tend to be contracted or work on their own. Either way, there are plenty of students who need online educators because of their individual needs or extracurricular activities.
One on-line school, California Connections Academy is a charter school that operates the same as a traditional K-12 public school, but everything is online. Established in 2004, the school is free and includes student financial help for online equipment and materials.
Jenny Weller has been teaching at the Academy in the comfort of her own home for four years. She teaches US History to 200 students on a laptop and a second monitor. Both are provided by the Academy. She and her students use Connexus to login into their library and meetings while the students use Pearson-Connexus Online and Blended Learning for their curriculum.
There are times Weller wears pajamas to work but it depends on the day because once a week she teaches “Where in the World” using a webcam, “My kids see me being somewhere that I have been when I’ve traveled. They are trying to guess where, so I look more presentable.”
Working from 7 am – 3:30 pm, Weller says, “I do change most days. I feel if you just roll out of bed and go to work you’re not really prepared for your day. I try and make it a habit. Get ready, eat breakfast, and get my day started as I would be going to a regular classroom.”
Since Weller is an employee, she receives all the benefits of a teacher who would otherwise commute to work and teach in a classroom. Scheduling breaks throughout the day like in a traditional classroom is the hardest part of working at home. She sometimes finds herself at two o’clock in the afternoon without taking a single break. “I have been so wrapped up with calls to students or with helping kids, grading, and the structure of my day gets past me because I am so engrossed in what I am doing.”
Weller really enjoys her days and getting to know her students, “I have a lot of students doing amazing things like being on very elite sports teams, theater arts, and other students just kind of looking for a friend and someone to chat with. I really enjoy my days when I am able to connect with my students. I don’t see them every day. Still being able to have those net relationships via phone, email, things like that. It’s a little different, obviously.”
The North Dakota Center for Distance Education (NDCDE) is an accredited, non-profit, distance education school. Its first high school diplomas were issued in 1944. NDCDE offered World Geography, its first online course, in 1996, and now has over 320 online semester-length courses available with a fee.
Barb Meidinger is the school’s secondary principal since 2005 and started working for NDCDE in 1999 as an online math and computer science teacher. The school’s main workplace is located in Fargo, North Dakota. Teachers who live outside the city have a home office. Meidinger explains, “Teachers who live in the Fargo area have an office in the workplace. They can choose to work in the office every day or work some days in the office and other days from a home office.”
Teachers basically use an encrypted laptop and a smartphone while others may also use a tablet with a stylus for writing on a digital document. They are equipped with Office 365 Suite, PDF Annotator, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Genius Student Information System, Buzz Learning Management System, LastPass Password Management, and various programs needed as a state agency. If a teacher works from home, they need to provide their own printer and copier.
Each NDCDE teacher has his or her own virtual classroom where the teacher and student can interact in real time via audio, video, and sharing of desktops.
Full-time teachers can work with up to 120 student enrollments while part-time teachers work with up to 60 student enrollments. Students directly contact their teachers and the teachers work one-on-one with the student to overcome any obstacles. Teachers also contact the students directly if there is something that they need to address. The feedback and the instruction that the teacher gives is directly related to the work the student is producing and is specific to each individual student’s skill sets.
Teachers who are looking to supplement their income become part-time online tutors because the hours are evenings and weekends. They can stay in the comfort of their own home and tutor. Some teachers leave teaching and begin tutoring online as a full-time job.
Jen Henson is the owner and founder of Jen Henson ACT Prep an online test prep, and tutoring program. She was Ohio Teacher of the Year in 2014. She taught in a regular classroom for 22 years before moving to full-time test prepping in May 2017.
Henson sets her own hours and works mainly on her iPhone S8 but uses her computer when she is conducting a group review. For online sessions, she uses FaceTalk, Skype, or Zoom. She primarily works one-on-one but on the week of each ACT test, there are 20+ students on one call. “I offer a whole-test review which any student may join. So, my ‘regular’ students invite friends, and I post on social media, working through a 50-page review packet together.”
Henson wears pajamas with a sweatshirt over them when she is working at home. She works both from home and public ‘offices’, such as Panera, Starbucks, or local coffee shops. “I can literally tutor from anywhere. Once, I met a student in-person at the cafe in Nordstrom’s and had an online client immediately after. Well, the Wi-Fi wasn't working, so I kept having to walk around to find Wi-Fi, which happened to be in the Women's restroom lounge. Now, it was Nordys so the lounge was super nice, but the whole thing was hilarious! The twins I tutored thought I was crazy.”
Teaching and tutoring online give the opportunity for both the instructor and student to work in an environment that caters more to their personal needs than traditional schooling. Some educators are ready to make the change to working at home. For those who are just starting in the field, you may want to consider starting as an online teacher and tutor. Particularly, those who are more interested in working outside the traditional classroom, and want to work with students who need an education in the comfort of their own home. Which will you choose?