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6 Challenges of Remote Teaching & What Teachers Can Do About It

by Jennifer Rees

You can also read this article in German, Spanish and Italian.

Some of the unique challenges of remote teaching and what teachers can do about it.

Even though teachers faced many challenges in the traditional teaching environment, remote learning has offered many more. Here are some of the unique challenges of remote teaching and what teachers can do about it.

Restricted Human Connectivity

The classroom has for centuries been a site for deep human connection between teacher and students, with room for spontaneous interaction, interactive learning, and personal exchanges about home and family life. These micro interactions are severely limited by the structure of the remote classroom, making it difficult for teachers to foster deeper connections with students.

What teachers can do about it: Even though it requires more time and emotional energy, teachers looking to nurture their connections with their students can be attentive and receptive to their students’ body language and cues during online classes. They can also schedule one-on-one time with each student throughout the month to connect with them directly.

Body Language Is Muted

Even though remote learning environments can be hugely successful, more subtle cues of communication, like facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice can be lost through online education.

What teachers can do about it: Without compromising on their identity or teaching style, teachers can stand to dial up on their communication cues for emphasis and, where important, could even circle back on a specific topic to highlight why it's important. Over-communication is essential for all remote relationships, but for teachers, it's important to strike the right balance so as not to be too repetitive or bore their students.

Authority That Comes With Presence

The structure of the remote classroom can be a significant equalizer in many ways. Even so, it is possible for the teacher to feel like they have less authority and like they have lost control of their own class because of a lack of physical presence and proximity.

What teachers can do about it: Teachers can set clear rules, expectations, and boundaries for the online classroom and communicate these to the students, not just once, but on an ongoing basis. Keeping students’ focus and attention is also key.

Dealing With Remote Classroom Software

While digital tools and software were increasingly popular in the traditional classroom, the rapid shift to remote learning has meant that teachers and students have had to adopt new digital technologies sooner than they might have planned. Teachers have the added responsibility to ensure, not only that they have a grip on any new software, but that their students do, too.

What teachers can do about it: Ask for help and offer help. When implementing new software for remote learning, teachers can and should request help from the school's admin or IT department to ensure smooth installation and onboarding for both teacher and students. It's also important that teachers check in with students from time to time to ensure that they have all they need to function with any new tools.

Less Contact With Colleagues

Teachers learn so much from one another and generally thrive in a communal setting where there may be multiple opportunities to connect in a day. Remote teaching has changed this dynamic and can lead to teachers feeling alone, burned out, and isolated.

What teachers can do about it: Nothing can replace spontaneous in-person interaction entirely, but video and conferencing calls can certainly help.

Students Being Left Behind

An emotionally challenging aspect of being a teacher is having students who may be struggling in class, or have little to no access to basic resources or support at home. The remote classroom has made this even more difficult, because it eliminates a lot of the spontaneous connection that could help teachers support their students when they need it.

What teachers can do about it: Keep a close eye on students for any cues that may indicate they are struggling in class or at home. Keep up with regular one-on-one calls with them and create a safe space for them to share their feelings or ask for help.

While remote learning is likely not to go on forever, it's important for students and teachers to stay connected, not just for the sake of keeping up with education, but for the sake of preserving and nurturing their mental health during this challenging time. Even though spontaneous interactions are limited, with some thought, planning, and awareness, teachers still have the power to help one another and their students feel seen, heard, and taken care of.

Jennifer Rees
Jennifer Rees
UX Writer