Setting up an online school - part 14

In this blog I will go deeper into how to support newly hired teachers and how best to use technology in so doing, in order to start a successfully online school.

Helping teachers at the start

Over the last blogs Setting up an online school parts 12 and 13 I have covered hiring staff and briefly covered supporting them at the start. Let’s say you have managed to get up and running, have enough work for a second teacher and have hired one. I am hoping you have taken my advice and used the incredible Vedamo system as that makes your life so much easier. If you have hired a technophile then finding their way around Vedamo is easy as everything is quite intuitive and there is plenty of advice on this website. Even if you have hired a technophobe it is still a straightforward system to use. Of course, they will need more help but you will be rewarded with a teacher who doesn’t want to leave as they would have to learn new technology.

Use their experience

I assume you followed my advice also in choosing a highly qualified, experienced candidate, Use that experience. Find out what their favorite area to teach is and boost that on the website. If they love teaching exam prep then emphasize that, that you have an exam specialist on board now. Or if they specialize in financial English, then emphasize that. When I had my physical school, I was asked would I teach the International Certificate in Financial English. I like finance so I said yes, put in the legwork and learned all about teaching it. I was rewarded with being, as far as I knew, the only one who was teaching it in Bulgaria, the country I was based in. I kept getting referrals and still teach it to this day.

Watch them perform

Talk to your teacher and get the benefit of their knowledge. If there are quiet times, use that to pick their brains on how they cope with different scenarios. You can learn a lot as in a normal school you get little chance to observe other teachers. With Vedamo you can sit in invisibly. I cannot emphasize enough that you need to do this. Whether you choose to tell them or not, it should be done. I would advise you to tell them as they will probably find out anyway. You need to occasionally watch what they are doing to make sure that your standards are being applied. With Vedamo there is also a recording of all sessions so you can go over things together and work on improvements.

This again, is key. Continual improvement of your service should be the aim. You do need a teacher who is open to learning and by the way, so must you. If you can’t take a critique then you will never improve. I am constantly learning and I love watching how other teachers do things. I feel I am far better now than when I started.

Encourage them to specialize and be flexible

Your teacher should be flexible and willing to try new things. In teaching English as a foreign language there is an almost unlimited amount of different areas, levels and opportunities to explore. New ones are cropping up all the time. I have taught English for logistics, and there are even textbooks for this. You and your new teacher need to be open to all possibilities. If everything goes well, you expand rapidly and have lots of teachers then, paradoxically, you will most probably go back to them teaching their specialty, the one or ones that they do very well in as that way they get lots of referrals as referrals are the most important aspect of any school. More important than any fancy marketing campaign or advertising.

At the start, you cannot afford a teacher who only wants to teach one area. You cannot afford to turn away students so you have to be prepared to teach areas you haven’t taught before. Make that a condition of the hiring process. Flexibility is necessary.

The importance of Vedamo

I want to talk also about Vedamo again at this juncture. Watching the teaching process for both of you may make you feel self-conscious but you will get over this. However, it is all necessary in the brave new world of online teaching. Embrace it, and use it to get better. It is a great advantage of this new technology, that teachers can interact with each other, help and support each other, which really doesn’t happen in the physical world.

A weekly, scheduled session in which you go over recorded classes and try to improve everything is something you should strongly consider, no matter how big you get. Always stress how important it is to give the optimum service to the students. You won’t go out of business by offering a top service. Bring all staff onboard with your vision of how you will use the technology in a positive way, to help, to guide and yes, to teach you how to be better.

Next time, I will go through the necessity of a strong needs analysis when getting new students.

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Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
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