A Word From The Teachers – Part 1 of 3
Editor’s Note: Flex ED is such a great program, in part, because of the phenomenal teachers who stand behind it. That’s why we’ve created a three-part series to help you get to know the instructors at Flex ED. You’ll meet Christina MacPherson and Lisa Hennessey, and get their take on teacher-student relationships and life with Flex ED.
Part 1: Christina MacPherson teaches Career Education, Practical & Applied Arts, and English to middle year students from grades 7 through 9. Here, she elaborates on her experience as an instructor for Flex ED.
What’s your background in education? What were you doing before you began working with Flex ED?
MacPherson: I have been a teacher for 20 years and mostly in a non-traditional environment. Before I began working with Flex ED, I worked with youth who were in crisis and who were in custody from ages 13 to 18. It’s a different environment when you’re dealing with kids who have a lot of other challenges. They’re not quite like those in the traditional system, who get out of bed, have breakfast, and go off to school.
Why and how did you get involved with Flex ED?
MacPherson: I decided I wanted to do something different. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional educational system, but I felt my skill set could be better used in a different environment. It was by luck, really, that I came across the program online. I had read some articles at that time about the program and thought, “This is it, this is me.” Although Flex ED wasn’t hiring at the time, I wrote to them about a potential position. I eventually heard back from them when they were looking to hire teachers for the upcoming year.
Question: What has been your experience so far with Flex ED?
MacPherson: In the first six months there was a lot to learn in terms of new course material and technology. There was a big learning curve. As I got into the second half of my first year, though, I adopted the mindset: “This is my classroom, and I’m going to run it just as I would a traditional classroom.” In other words, these are my kids, this is my classroom, and there are certain standards students must meet. It’s on me to ensure that everyone is learning what is required. I’m now in my third year of teaching here, and I still have this perspective.
What are the lesson plans like at Flex ED? Do you ever customize lessons for students?
MacPherson: Flex ED has a set lesson that the students follow, along with a timetable. Each student has a specific lesson to do each week, including an online and offline portion.
Having said that, there are times when I adapt lessons to meet the needs of students. If I have a student who is struggling or finding the work a little too challenging, or if a student is in a difficult circumstance, I adjust the lesson accordingly. Or, say, if I notice a student is having trouble using quotation marks, I might give him some extra material to tackle and learn from.
Question: What do you enjoy most about working at Flex ED?
MacPherson: The kids! Kids are awesome. With Flex ED, I don’t just get to know the student, I get to know the whole family. When I speak on the phone with a parent, it’s an opportunity to talk about all of the family and how everyone is doing. Sometimes I learn that the family is going through something, and everyone is affected, including the student.
As a virtual teacher, you still get to know a student’s patterns. One particular story comes to mind. There was a student who did his work consistently all year, and then one day, he just dropped off. I thought, “This is odd. This is unlike him.” So, I called his family, and his mom said, “Oh yes, he’s had a dog since he was very little, and the dog passed away very suddenly.” In that circumstance, I wanted to show compassion and understanding. It was really just a matter of guiding him through it, talking to him about it, and allowing him to deal with it in his own time. This Fall, his mom emailed me and said they had picked up a new puppy. I was really touched.
You build a relationship with your students, and it’s like they become a part of your family. It’s like one big extended family.
Check in next week to read part 2, where Christina MacPherson talks about virtual learning and shares some of her favorite student success stories.