When everything changed for so many in March 2020 I was fortunate enough to be working for a school that shifted everyone, including the preschool staff and students, to distance learning. In early March we were encouraged to “think about” what we would offer, in the “unlikely” event of a school shut down…. On March 13th Governor Edwards made the call to close Louisiana schools and restrict activities across the state in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19. Thankfully, my co-teacher and I took the news (and numbers) to heart early on and made plans/preparations for how we’d move our classroom and teaching practices to the virtual realm. Her background as a theater actress, educator and OTA student, combined with mine as a video producer, artist and educator made for a wonderfully harmonious shift to this more “performative” delivery of what we’d been doing with our group of twelve 2 and 3 year-olds. ((Living my Mr. Rogers/ Peewee dreams!)) Our first week of distance learning featured three meetings a day, with supplemental activities for children and families who were also trying to figure out how to make the transition to being work-from-home parents. We spent March through May in a similar routine, save for one “Spring Break”. Although these were days filled with so much uncertainty and fear, they were full of joy and laughter. Our class stayed connected through Google meets (and eventually… after getting over the worry of “Zoom bombs”…Zoom) nature, art and the stories & songs we loved. We showcased shared virtual field trips around the city and with special guests who shared their gardens and plants. So much symbolic and actual growth happened during this Spring and this complete immersion method of moving my teaching online proved to be career (and life) altering.
Throughout the Spring, like so many around the world, I worried. I worried about the health of family & friends. I worried about the health of strangers. I worried about what my job would look like in the Fall. I acknowledge (and in no way mean to discount my privilege here) the fact that I even still had a job and the option to continue that job in the Fall is indicative of my (white) privilege and something that I know separates me from many. Regardless, this is my reality. During this period of March through May I continued to co-facilitate Reggio-inspired virtual meetings for preschoolers, and every day I fell more in love with the possibilities for taking my teaching practice online.
In April I began offering the children’s Yoga classes (that I’d taught in-person since 2015) online, meanwhile I was finishing my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in the virtual realm. The combination of the incredible wealth of resources in this YTT program and my existing roster of “Yoga families” helped light the way for also becoming an online Yoga teacher.
The possibility of exposing my husband (who is at high risk for developing complications) to COVID-19 because of my work was (and remains) too high a price to pay for some semblance of job security. I love in-person teaching, but cannot rectify the risk with any of the rewards. In May 2020 I asked about options for continuing to teach virtually in the Fall for my school, and since there were none I decided to move on and attempt to make a go of teaching/working completely online on my own. I formed Bluebird LLC in June 2020, with a vision to somehow move all of my teaching / work online, although at that time I wasn’t entirely sure what that would look like. Thanks to the SBA pandemic relief fund I was able to secure a deferred payment low-interest loan that helped recover some of the income I’d lost from the cancellation of my in-person Yoga classes in the Spring (these classes ran through a school, and they were unable to accommodate moving “after school enrichments” online).
Making the shift to independent 100% online teaching over the summer was a logical (albeit tedious, at times) transition. I enjoyed some wonderful private lessons with families from my in-person teaching during this time, but knew I had to do the work to “spread my wings” since most of these children would be returning to in-person instruction in the Fall. After a few months of teaching Yoga online to families of local once in-person students, enrollments dwindled due to families returning to work/ children returning to summer camps. This inspired me to sharpen my focus on casting a wider net….
Enter Outschool, VIPKid and more Zoom classes.
While engrossed in the work of teaching/ applying & getting accepted to teach on Outschool, & VIPkid/ applying & getting accepted to Graduate school (more on this to come) / creating classes & content/ learning VIPKId content (more on this later…yipes)/ connecting with families online/ getting TEFOL certified/creating & sharing PD content for ECEs/ etc. I also applied for an average of three jobs a week at as many online opportunities as I could find (like so many others…)… thankfully, I was eligible for Unemployment assistance due to my husband’s health needs & the pandemic. In the three months that I took UI I was also working to build my business and my online classes (doing all the tasks listed above + sterile/necessary things like accounting); with the help of this much-needed support (along with stimulus payments) I made the transition to being completely sustained by my classes on Outschool…eventually surpassing what I was earning as an in-person teacher at a private school.
I have a lot to share about my ongoing experiences with Outschool and embracing the role of virtual educator, and will offer more in another post. If anyone is looking to make a go at independent virtual teaching I’m happy to connect!