Our new online high school, serving students in 9th and 10th grade in Central California, has now been officially open for two days. At one point on Tuesday, I was instant messaging with a student on my computer, talking with a parent on my office phone, and text messaging on my cell phone with another student. Life in an online school is definitely different, but the excitement and challenges are the same as any new school opening.
Students were all trained in face-to-face meetings about how to do an online course. We showed them how to log in, how to click into the Moodle courses, how to write on a word document before turning in assignments, and how to read the teacher blogs. Students had been through an online training module prior to entering the “real” online school courses. Despite all of this, students were still unsure how to do each online course. But, one by one, they are learning. Some are coming to the school computer lab, some are Instant Messaging with their new friends in the online school, some are calling on the phone, and some are continuing to read and figure it out. Like any school and new school year, it takes time to learn how to learn.
All teachers are working in the online school part time, teaching one section of a course in all areas: English, math, history, science, PE and electives. Despite face-to-face training and a week long online teacher institute, they are feeling overwhelmed with student emails, doing online class sessions, grading student work, answering parent phone calls, while also having other full time jobs. But, the first week of school as a teacher in any school can be overwhelming. At any high school, getting students into the right classes, getting students focused on the school work, and striking the balance in teaching is part of the art and passion for teaching. Teachers have been writing in their blogs, meeting online and sharing ideas, setting up their first online class meetings/lessons and replying to student and parent questions. As with any school and new school year, with time, a school rhythm and routine will develop.
Opening an online school is different than a face-to-face comprehensive high school because…well, it is all online…and that is new for most every one. But the importance of student learning and teachers teaching is the same. Our purpose is the same: to provide engaging curriculum (online) so that students earn a high school diploma ready for college and the world of work.