Challenges of an Online Teacher 

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Joanna Malefaki
Joanna Malefaki

By Joanna Malefaki

I have been teaching online for more than 3 years and now I am a full time online teacher. When I started off, I thought my biggest challenges would be how to deal with tech issues or how to turn a Word document into a Pdf file. In fact, when you read about challenges of teaching online, you usually read about how hard it is to find students, how there may be technology problems, how difficult it is to start, and so on. I know about this because in the beginning, those were the “obstacles” I had to overcome. But those, in my opinion, are not the biggest challenges of teaching online. For me, the difficulties go beyond work and actually affect me as a person.

Rarely do you read about a different sort of problems a teacher may have when teaching online: challenges of being on your own, working from home, or how easy it is to become a workaholic. That’s what I want to focus on in my post, because if you ask me today, 3 years after I first started teaching online, what the hardest thing about it is, I’ll tell you it’s anything that has to do with psychology and well- being.

Burnout

Most teachers work and then think about work. When you are not teaching, you often think about work. You take work home. When you teach online, home is also work. Working from home of course has its benefits: you work from the comfort of your home, you save money on commuting, and so on. At the same time though, your office, your work space is at home, too, which means that you do not physically leave any building to “go home.”  Having boundaries and knowing how to switch off is extremely difficult when you are an online teacher because your work is staring you in the face. Allowing you to leave “work” and go “home” – probably a different room – is extremely hard. This can easily lead to burnout… because work is everywhere!

Isolation

Another challenge of online teaching is the feeling of isolation. When you go to a school or an academy to teach, you have colleagues, someone to talk to exchange ideas about work, complain, and have a laugh during the break. When you teach online and work from home, you do not have that. You are on your own. Sure, you can use Facebook or other social media to connect with teachers, but the truth is, you are on your own, there is no human contact and you do miss the “office.” In fact, there may be days when you do not even leave the house!

Any suggestions?

As much as work is important, drawing the line is essential. An online teacher needs to be very disciplined about that and try to find reasons to draw the line and avoid turning into a workaholic. You, the online teacher, need to say to yourself that you will spend X amount of time in front of your computer and that’s it. After that time, you need to leave your “work.” It is also necessary to find reasons to leave the house. Most people go from work home and vice versa. In your case, you do not do that, so you need to find hobbies and activities that will make you leave the house.

Connecting with people who also teach online and using instant messaging may give a sense of not being “isolated.” Let other teachers know you teach online and start forming connections with people in the same position as you. You will definitely find that you share some of the same challenges and maybe something helpful will come out of this.

Whilst teaching online can be challenging, it still is a great way to do what you love – teach. You just need to be more focused about getting out of the “teacher zone.” Happy teaching!

 

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Joanna Malefaki

My name is Joanna Malefaki and I am a teacher in Greece. I have been teaching for almost 20 years now. I teach mainly EAP, Business English and exam classes. I hold a M.Ed in TESOL and the Delta. I blog quite regularly at www.myeltrambles.com and you can find me on twitter at @joannacre.

3 thoughts on “Challenges of an Online Teacher ”

  1. Hi Joanna! Thank you for this post, thank you for being open about the personal challenges. I’ve been teaching online since 2008, so I know most of the things you’ve listed.

    I think it’s important to note that there’re advantages and disadvantages of any job. While teaching in a traditional classroom may be advantageous from the standpoint of being able to “leave it”, online teaching is hard to move away from completely, and that’s its disadvantage.

    At the same time, you can’t but notice the advantages, such as not having a boss, reports, long meetings and reams of unnecessary paperwork.

    Since I’ve been running an online business for quite some time (and by the way, I want you to join my group on facebook so you don’t feel lonely: http://www.facebook.com/groups/optedout), I know that burnouts are common.

    They are frequent specifically when we teach 1:1 and draw the majority of our income from that. This is an exhausting model, and I’ve been encouraging online teachers that I coach to move away from it (not overnight of course).

    Our success as teachers and individuals is growth, and in the long run skype lessons (1:1) with students we don’t like will stifle our growth and make us miserable.

    Delegation is another important part of running an online teaching business. It lightens our load and helps us focus on what really matters.

    Thank you again for this post!

  2. Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for your honest thoughts. A possible solution is to combine online teaching with some face to face work as well. Like you I love my teaching. I also fully understand how important interaction with colleagues is as it’s something I’ve been used to and maybe taken for granted for the past 30 years while I’ve been teaching full time.
    Definitely a good idea to link up Elena. If it’s ok with you I’ll also join the link.

    Best wishes,

    Gerry
    Expert Language Tuition

  3. Thank you Joana for sharing some of the challenges of online teaching. I ‘d like to share with you and Elena some other challenges such as health related problems due to long hours of sitting in front of a computer, putting a pressure on the wife and children by asking them to keep quiet, not to slow the net , or not to receive guests while I am teaching. It is so embarrassing when close friends or relatives come to visit during my teaching time.

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