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Best Practices to Avoid Anxiety as a Virtual Instructor

Anxiety has crept its way into our lives, and now more than ever, we see anxiety in teaching. In layman's terms, 'anxiety' refers to a combination of uncertainty, overwhelming thoughts, fear, and/or pain. It prevents someone from giving their best and can hinder them from performing their duties.

Educators have realized that anxiety is no stranger to the virtual teaching domain. As we address and understand the problem's meaning, let's look at some of the best practices to reduce and avoid anxiety as a virtual instructor.

Learn the Virtual Tools You're Using

Learning the virtual tools you are using might seem obvious, but many don't give much attention to their programs being used. Applications, programs, and website tools come with various options to use to your advantage when teaching. Check with your school administrators to see if there is a premium version of the program or if it's in the school budget.

To best learn the tools you are using, focus on the audio muting and un-muting, video sharing, user adding, slideshow, document upload options, etc. Practice, again and again, to get things right. This will give you the confidence to try more programs and improve your virtual teaching skills.

Only Use Current Versions of Programs

Almost every organization is trying to redesign its products to suit the present demands of virtual teaching; the chances are that the virtual tools you use to teach students can and will malfunction. To avoid this, make sure you are using the most current version of the programs and that your students are doing the same.

You may need to troubleshoot new versions of programs and teach your students new features as they become available. Learning these updates before your students will improve your virtual teaching and reduce anxiety while teaching live.

Help Your Students Feel Connected

Realize that your students are anxious about virtual learning just as much as you are. Whether or not you realize it, their stress affects you. Reach out to your students frequently via email, online forms, chat, one-on-one meetings, etc. Let your students know that you are available to help with technology issues just as you are available to help with the material.

As you work with your students personally and get to know their situations, you can combat their fears about virtual learning, and your anxiety will lessen too as you get to know them.

Check-In with Parents and Guardians

Connect with the parents and guardians of your students. Your students may be shy or unable to communicate their fears and anxieties about virtual learning. Creating a relationship with the parents of your students will help to enforce the importance of virtual education.

Encourage Group Work

Divide students into various groups so that they can help each other with the subject matter. You still want your students to bond and develop social skills in your classroom, so utilize group work when possible. Working as a team will help reduce student anxiety, and when you see your students working together effectively, your anxiety will lessen.

Set Clear Boundaries

Just like when you are in a physical classroom, you need to have set rules and limits for your students. Some students can cause trouble and disturbances to the class. Just because you are a virtual teacher does not mean that you can be easy on your students. Breaking the rules and being disruptive will have consequences. Be clear and upfront at the beginning of the class to eliminate your anxiety when dealing with troublesome students.

Provide Resources

Students will get more comfortable with virtual learning as time passes, but some students need extra help to understand, complete, and perform well in their studies.

Identify those students by conducting weekly or bi-weekly online tests or scheduled interviews with the students. But remember that you don't necessarily have to do spend extra time on this. Make use of approved third-party programs, apps, and resources to give them the extra support they need.

Vary Lesson Plans

Students will get easily bored sitting and staring at a computer screen all day. Find ways to make your lessons exciting, upbeat, and even interactive. Using pictures, videos, games, at-home worksheets, group work, student presentations, etc., will get students involved and keep them engaged longer.

Don't Give Up

What works for one educator might not work for another. To reduce workplace anxiety, ask for advice, read books on the subject, read blogs, watch tutorial videos, and experiment with your ideas. If you keep trying to improve, you will. And your anxiety will lessen over time as virtual learning becomes second nature to you.

Ask for Help

Seek advice from your fellow educators and administrators on how to best teach in a virtual environment. Ask one of them to attend your classes so you can get feedback from an outside perspective. They can point out the good and not-so-good aspects of your virtual teaching at the end of the session. Then they can offer insights and techniques to help you improve.

And don't forget to ask your students for feedback too. They're with you each day, and they may have some ideas on how to improve the lessons and keep students on track and engaged.

Journal Your Experiences

At the end of each day, record what worked and what didn't in a journal. Recoding your thoughts and concerns will help you analyze your teaching techniques and reduce your anxiety levels for future classes.

You may also want to include that student feedback in your record for future reference too.

An Unconventional Tip: Be Ready to Mess Up

Preparing to fail or feel stressed may seem like something you want to avoid, but Voltaire said, "Perfect is the enemy of good." Stressing and worrying over your classes can make your teaching worse—the kids pick up on that. Focus on the good you're doing, and don't be too hard on yourself. Striving for perfection will cause more anxiety when teaching virtually.

Virtual teaching may look and sound intimidating initially, but you can master it if you put in the effort. You can reduce anxiety with virtual instruction with training and practice.

Written by S. Kumar

Education World Contributor

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