8 Teacher Must Haves for Virtual Teaching

I've been a virtual teacher for the last 3 years.  During the school year, I teach 3rd grade for students in a virtual school in my home state of Florida.  On weekends and during the summer, I teach ESL children in China with VIPKID. Virtual teaching definitely has it's perks!  No commute, no "classroom" with ALL the things, some flexibility, to name a few. (Don't get me wrong- my teaching job during the year is just as much work as when I taught in brick and mortar school, just in a very different way.)

Here are 8 essentials I feel you need when teaching virtually in any setting:

1.  Headphones & Microphone
This is essential for virtual teaching!  I use MPOW Headphones that have a built in microphone.  When I teach with VIPKID I always use my headphones because they help cancel out extraneous noise that my happen since my own two kids are home during that time.  During the year, I use these about half the time I'm teaching and my webcam with the built in mic the other half.  I feel when I wear my headphones I am a little more focused on the lesson and teaching.  Plus, I am doing a lot of typing for whatever reason during a lesson, I like that these cancel that typing noise that is definitely there.  When I am typing and just using my webcam mic you can always hear that "click, click, click" which I think is distracting for students.

2.  Webcam
I teach most of the day from 8:30-2:30 with my 3rd graders, so a good webcam is essential!  This is also super important with VIPKID as well. I love this inexpensive Logi webcam because it has a build in microphone that works really well and my laptop does not have a reliable mic.  If I am using my headphones I do usually use my built in webcam in my laptop, but I will have this hooked up as a second camera to show books, model actual writing, etc. during lessons.

3.  Portable Dry Erase Board
I actually have about 2 or 3 handheld dry erase boards that I use every single day!  Sometimes you just need to show something on camera and you want to be able to write it down- and not use a mouse on the computer screen.  I use mine to work out math problems, write important words, draw something we are discussing, display rewards, and the list just goes on.  It's a serious must have!  I have one that is 11x14 and one that a bit smaller and is magnetic.  The magnetic one is more useful for VIPKID to display rewards I use. Here is a similar version to the one I currently own.

4.  Laptop stand
I use this adjustable stand every single day.  There are a few benefits to using a laptop stand that I've figured out this year.  First, it keeps your laptop able to ventilate and stay cool when you use it all day. Second, it props up your camera to keep it at a more flattering angle when you are on camera.  Lastly, it makes typing so much better since your hands are more ergonomically correct. This stand I use is sturdy and doesn't wobble at all.  It's also super easy to move if you feel like teaching in a different place, plus it's completely assembled when you get it!

5.  Good Lighting
It goes without saying that if you are going to be on camera, you need some good lighting!  I don't use anything professional.  I actually use a desk lamp that I got from Costco that has a fan built in it too.  What I like about this lamp is that it allows you to choose the kind of light you want (warm, bright, natural), so you can pick what is best for you and the time of day.  Just make sure you put the lamp IN FRONT of your face, so that the light shines on your face.  A lamp next to you or behind you on the desk isn't going to help for video.  Some people also get small selfie lights that they can hook to their computers. Also, lipstick goes a looonnnggg way in making you look alive on video!  I don't worry so much about make-up with my everyday classes.  But, when teaching my VIPKID classes I always put on a bright pink lipstick that I would NEVER wear in real life.  But, on camera, it looks fantastic!

6.  Fun student rewards
In my 3rd grade class, I use digital rewards as well as rewards that I mail my students.  I regularly use Class Dojo to reward my students for participation and hard work.  I also find small things that I can send in the mail like stickers, erasers, sticky hands, slime, etc.  I get some of these things from Oriental Trading.  I love the sticker scenes especially, like in the photo below.  Other stuff I find in Target dollar spot and random places.  I also make simple reward cards using my Bitmoji to send along with the little treat.  My students love getting these in the mail!

7.  Mouse Pad with wrist support (plus a wireless mouse)
So, when I first started virtual teaching all day, I actually started getting pain in arm from using the mouse so much.  After googling my symptoms I diagnosed myself with "mouse elbow".  (Google it- it's real!)  I realized I needed some more wrist support with a mouse pad that had that gel wrist support pad attached and the laptop stand for my keyboard.  Made a huge difference and now I am pain free!

8.  A 2nd computer monitor
Last, but not least, if you can swing it, a second monitor is a huge help in virtual teaching!  It allows you to easily multitask while teaching.  So, you can have the virtual classroom/camera on one computer and use the other monitor to pull up videos, websites, etc. that you need during class.  I have an Acer monitor that is great.  Check out my "classroom" set up from my first home office below!

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