There are pros and cons to working from home as a virtual teacher. The flexibility in the schedule is something I especially appreciate. Depending on the company, you may have total flexibility or some specific requirements regarding your schedule and availability.
Working Schedule of a Virtual Teacher
If you are planning on working for a virtual public school, there will be specific requirements that your administration may require from you to ensure that all public school students are being served. This will vary from district to district. In addition, a public education virtual job will have many additional requirements that an independent virtual teaching job may not have.
In my experience as a public school virtual teacher and talking to many other virtual teachers across the country, I have found that there is generally a minimum number of available appointments you must have open for your students to schedule. Your students must be able to reach you for questions and help. You have to be available for your students within a reasonable amount of time. That doesn’t mean those are the only times available for student contact (they may call/text/e-mail at anytime), but those are times that students can schedule a designated time with you. In addition, you will most likely be expected to have a certain number of synchronous lessons and tutoring times available. After you define that availability on your schedule, the rest of your time may be a bit more flexible, allowing you to complete those tasks at a time during the day that may be more convenient to you. That time will be spent grading (providing clear feedback), creating supplemental materials, contacting students and parents, responding to communication, professional learning communities, etc.
Some school districts require their teachers to work from a district office all week; some require them to work from a district office a few days a week, a few days a month, or none, making them entirely virtual. Depending on your district’s requirements, your schedule could vary tremendously.
As a public school teacher, your district will expect you to work full-time hours (37.5 – 40 hours a week).
Here is an example of a virtual teacher schedule:
If you plan to work for a private company as a virtual school teacher or open your own business as a teacherpreneur, you will have much more control over your schedule.
When you work for private independent companies such as Outschool, Elevate K-12, or Skillshare, you can create your own schedule and decide how many hours you will be working. Of course, your income will also depend on how many classes you teach; therefore, you may feel pressured to offer classes at certain times to meet your quota. Regardless, the decision is up to you. The same thing may occur if you decide to set up your own teaching/tutoring business. Again, you will be able to create your own hours; however, depending on what you teach and your target group of students, you may have to teach after school hours if it’s an enrichment class. Having said that, I know of many successful virtual teachers working for independent companies or opening their own tutoring/teaching businesses.
Work-Life Balance as a Virtual Teacher
As a virtual teacher, I recommend creating a schedule for yourself. This will allow you to chunk out your time and be more organized, so you can fulfill all of your obligations and serve all of your students. Remember that working from home can be challenging; you have to schedule time to give your full attention to your work but not the entire 24 hours on a day. You cannot let your work take over your life, which happens very easily when you work from home. I have been teaching for a virtual public school for the last nine years, yet every year I revise my schedule according to the needs of my students, the needs of my family, and my personal needs.
Before my current virtual teaching job, I worked full-time in the brick-and-mortar classroom and part-time for another virtual public school. As a result, I learned to create my schedule around my priorities while still accomplishing everything required of me as a teacher and fulfilling the educational needs of my students.
Every year I start with a blank schedule, and I make a list under each day of the things that I have to do. Click here to access my schedule template.
The first things I schedule are what I call my non-negotiables. Times that I have to use for myself. For example, time to drop my son off at school, a tennis lesson on Wednesday afternoon, my allergy shot on Fridays, etc.
Then, I take a look at my student list, which varies every year. I am a certified K-12 Spanish Teacher; therefore, I have students in all grades from Kindergarten to seniors in high school. Some of my students are full-time students with us, some are homeschooled, some take the class via a virtual lab from their public school, and some take it as an extra class in addition to their schedule. Because of this, I analyze my student list and decide whether I feel my students would benefit more with morning times, afternoon times, or evening times. In the years when I’ve had primarily full-time and homeschool students, I tend to open my mornings more as they prefer to work late mornings. In the years I have mainly students taking courses after school; I have more availability in the afternoon and evenings to be available to them when they are working on the class.
Then, I focus on scheduling my student appointments blocks, synchronous lessons, tutoring times, and PLC times.
Finally, I schedule the rest of my responsibilities—for example, grading, outgoing calls, returning communication, etc. I am a morning person; therefore, I have no problem waking up early at 5 or 6 a.m. to get my grading done to have little pockets of time during the day. On the other hand, some of my co-workers prefer to do grading and emails very late because they are more night owls. But, again, this is part of the flexibility and your personal choice.
Do I follow the schedule every single day? Absolutely NOT! I try to, but things sometimes come up either professionally or personally. I do my best not to change my appointments, lessons, and tutoring times unless it is absolutely impossible for me to do so. Then, depending on the situation, I may move around the rest of my responsibilities throughout the day. Having said that, once I create my schedule I tend to follow it closely so my parents and students know what to expect from me as well as my own family.
Ultimately, your company will most likely not give you a set schedule, and you are in charge of creating your own within their boundaries. Remember to schedule times for yourself. It could be to walk your dog, do yoga, exercise, or simply a mental break. Your mental health is a priority to be a successful virtual teacher.
Providing Extra Support to Students in Virtual School
After teaching my courses for several years, I know what topics are challenging for students. With this in mind, I create resources that can aid them even when I am not available right that second. This may happen after hours, on weekends, on holidays, or when I am helping another student. Because of this, I create a welcome page on my course filled with a library of resources that they can access at any time. Then, during our initial call, I make sure I show these resources to both parents and students to access immediate help. This ensures that students can keep working and deepening their knowledge. Some of the resources are handouts, videos, written explanations, etc. Then, of course, I always follow up to help, support, and answer any questions that may not have been answered.
Why Flexibility is Everything as a Virtual Teacher?
Flexibility is the one quality that you must master to truly blossom as a virtual teacher. Because your goal as a virtual teacher is to make sure that students are learning the content and can move through it with ease, being flexible as a virtual teacher means you will be teaching, coaching, cheering, reminding, and supporting them through that process.
Knowing the situation of each of your students will help you help them be successful. Sometimes students may need to get a hold of you without an appointment. Remember to be flexible. Your schedule is just a guideline. Sometimes I make exceptions to my hours of availability because I know the personal situation of my students. For example, I once had a high school student attending school full time and working two jobs to help her family. Her availability to do oral exams and communicate with me was very limited and outside of business hours. I documented this information on my school logs and made an exception for her. I completed oral exams and answered questions for her at 6:00 a.m., allowing this student to be successful, learn the content and finish her course on time.
I always encourage all of my parents and students to text me with ANY questions they may have. I prioritize text messages as they allow me to answer them even while grading, planning, etc. I want my students to know that they can reach out to me if they have questions, as simple or as complicated as they may be. This allows me to solve any issue or circumstance that may arise with technology, the content, learning style, etc., before they get too deep into the course. This allows me to set them up for success and avoid frustration.
The schedule of a Virtual Teacher will vary depending on the school, the company, or whether the person is their own boss. Public Virtual Schools will require some specific times within your schedule to meet the needs of all learners; however, there may still be some flexibility within the rest of the hours. Public Virtual School Teachers are expected to work full-time hours (37.5 – 40 hours a week).
Private institutions or self-employed virtual teachers have more flexibility in their schedules, and they may choose to work as much or as little as they desire, but their pay may depend on the times they schedule classes. Working as a virtual teacher allows you to create a schedule that will enable you to have a good work/life balance.
As a virtual teacher, you must remember to make time for yourself, your family, and your mental health. You cannot schedule every hour of the day, and you cannot work every time something comes up. So you have to develop a schedule and systems to work efficiently while still having a personal life at home.