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  • Bethany Huebner

The 3 things you MUST be doing in your virtual classroom



Star date 2004.12…day who knows of quarantine during Covid-19. We all have lost our minds.

“Mommy, I’m not wearing any underwear…” says my 3-year-old son.

Now this wouldn’t be all that out of the ordinary and for those of you who have or have raised boys…you would most likely concur. In fact, since potty training, underwear seems to be a suggestion more than a necessity especially because he thinks silky shorts should be underwear too. No, no, no….saying he isn’t wearing underwear isn’t abnormal…but it can still be pretty embarrassing when it occurs in the middle of a Zoom classroom meeting with 47 of my favorite graduate students.

Ahhh….our new normal…our new life. Parenting while working while teaching while cooking while consoling while worrying while staying at home. With all that double dipping there is also newfound fun in the middle of the day, cuddles that no longer have to wait, and so much more. This time has been interesting and also highly informative in making me aware of what is necessity and what isn’t. I’m so thankful for my job and the blessing of being able to teach and lead future physical therapists…in fact more than ever am I feeling blessed. I have seen so much resiliency, determination, and flexibility out of our students and our faculty. We have all come together to make this mess work and work well for all of the future patients our students will interact with.

I don’t know about you, but I have been experiencing more feelings of inadequacy than I typically do. I normally always have a low-level audio cue playing in the background of my head, “You aren’t good enough. You don’t know enough. You aren’t helping anyone.” It plays on a loop typically at a low enough decibel I really have to pay attention to hear it and most of the time I don’t pay attention. Most of the time I block it out with positive affirmations and positive interactions. But this is not most of the time and this time is not like any other.

Shifting a whole curriculum that is based on being face-to-face and utilizing kinesthetic learning with students to a virtual environment has been nothing but a crazy undertaking. Figuring out how to teach manual therapy, palpation, gonimetric measurements, special tests, etc. through a computer screen has had its challenges. No less than anyone else right now, so I am glad to know we are not alone. I hope as you read this you aren’t hearing me complain, because that is not my intention. This movement has been a challenge, but the right kind of challenge. The kind that makes us stronger and makes us better. The kind that helps our students grow and helps us grow as faculty. The kind that shows us what ways we can improve our curriculum in the future and what things are must haves to be face-to-face.

My negative sound bites have been much louder these past few weeks as there are so many suggestions and articles to read on what is the best way to teach this content online. I’m overwhelmed with all the resources. I totally have paralysis by analysis. Here is just a sampling of my reading:

  1. You need to be teaching asynchronously…all of your students are on different time zones, their parents need the internet, and all of this is so stressful that they need to have the flexibility to learn whenever they can.

  2. You need to be teaching synchronously…all of your students need to cling to structure and routine, keep as much as possible normal so all the other abnormal doesn’t feel so stressful.

  3. You have to use flipgrid, it’s the only way to engage your students.

  4. If you are using flipgrid, you are missing the boat. Your students don’t think your cool, in fact they feel sorry for you.

  5. Doing activities on Zoom is the way to go, you get to see your students and they get to see you in real time.

  6. Don’t do activities on Zoom, it is too cumbersome and confusing for students to utilize. Use discussion forums to support engagement.

  7. Every instructor needs to have a cool Zoom virtual background and you need to change it every class period.

  8. Students need to see your normal surroundings, if you have a pile of laundry back there show it off…normalcy is better.

The list goes on and on…always with a dichotomy of viewpoints. My head is in a constant tailspin. What is best for my students and how can I still strive for excellence in teaching? After 3 weeks of whittling it down, here are my top 3 things you MUST be doing in your virtual classroom:

1. Just be you.

This is first and foremost…just be you. This is hard for all of us. We all have our difficulties during this time, don’t make it harder on yourself by trying to be something you aren’t. You are an excellent teacher and whatever your ideas are to transition to the virtual classroom are exactly what your students need. Whatever you are capable of and whatever you can handle is just perfect. You are fit for this job and you will rock it.

2. Don’t strive for perfection…strive for learning.

As an Enneagram Type 1 – The perfectionist…this is now on a constant loop in my head. Don’t strive for perfection…we don’t have all the resources and we aren’t in the environment to be perfect. But, we do have all the resources and the perfect environment for learning. We can all learn something and teach something with what we have. Yes, the floor is not an ideal place to try and teach lumbar spine assessment, but it is what I have. It is also what my students have. The floor or the couch is where they will be practicing, so why not do my demonstration on the floor or couch? You don’t have to have all the typical tools and bells and whistles…your students won’t have them either. What they do have is their brains which will allow them to learn if you teach them.

3. Have and share grace.

If there is ever a time for grace, this is it. None of us are operating on all cylinders…and if you are, bless you! The wick to my frustration level is so short that I think I burst out into yelling about 60 times a day (that may be a bit of an exaggeration…or not). Do you feel that way too? Please tell me I’m not alone. Feeling like I am only doing ¼ of my normal level of performance for each person in my life right now is hard. I feel like my husband, kids, students, and peers are only getting a small portion of my best because I have to multi-task it all at the same time. And we know from research that we actually can’t multi-task, but instead quickly move our attention from one place to the other. We aren’t always going to be our best, but with grace we can give forgiveness to ourselves and those in our lives who are dealing with this new normal in the best way they can. Giving grace is a beautiful gift that we all can share.

I hope this comprehensive list of the MUST dos in your virtual classroom is helpful. I know it is a list I keep referring back when I begin to think I’m not enough or I’m not doing enough.

What are you doing in your virtual classroom that is working well? What isn’t?

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