It is fair to say that no teacher will ever forget the sleepless night before they stood up for real in front of their first class and the sheer feeling of unmitigated terror when they actually had to do it. Ok, I’m exaggerating but you get the point, sweaty palms and extreme nervousness was the norm for me and this was equally true of the first online lesson I ever presented, especially as the head teacher of the organisation “sat in” for the first few lessons.

What I perhaps forgot was that the students were just as nervous as me. This was perhaps exacerbated because I was teaching students from the US. Their big concern (I found out later), was that they wouldn’t understand me and that UK teachers like to shout at students. Both fears proved to be unfounded and we settled down and got on with the course very quickly. I can honestly say and without sounding blasé about it that both classroom and online settings are no longer the daunting prospect they once were. So, to all you new teachers “that” feeling will pass, so how can you accelerate the process of building relationships with students in virtual classrooms?

Introduce yourself:

Its obvious but true if you explain why your there and perhaps what your qualifications are and how you got to be where you are, students will automatically begin to feel at ease with you. They will also see that you are normal person and not some disembodied robot on the end of an internet connection. It is also helpful to give students access to an edited version of your profile Get them to reciprocate as well as to each other and you’re well on the way to forming productive teaching relationships. This final point is also essential for developing your study groups and learning community.

Ice breaking:

Again it’s obvious but supremely relevant but add in some fun and relevant activity and you’ll both feel less nervous. For me I added in a google maps link with the village I live in so they could see where I lived. When I said I lived on a working farm they were convinced I was some sort of farmer, which I am not. The point is you need your students to feel at ease with you and vice versa and there are various teaching plugins you can use to accomplish this. As the course progresses you will find that on Monday when you ask how they are, that students will start to tell you about their weekend and also ask you about yours. You start to build rapport and make jokes and basically enjoy your time together.

Keep in touch and check your courses:

Remember online learning tends to be in a distance learning setting. So as the course progresses respond to emails and do what you say you are going to do. If you are going to be absent let your classes know and set appropriate cover work. Staying in touch is easy I have set up circles and groups for all my classes, so that all students know what is going on. You will find that in the long run that there is productive and positive relationship which is respected by both students and parents. You can be sure that students and their parents or guardian will discuss you and the course, so you have got to get this right. There is no “right” answer just treat your students the way you would like to be treated yourself.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list but merely a few pointers to get you started, only you can actually get to know your students. It is an organic process enjoy it as strand of your overall development as an online educator.

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