What I Did on My First Day as an Online Teacher

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Like much of the country, today marked my first day as an online teacher. And like many other teachers out there, suddenly switching from the physical classroom to the digital one is only one small piece of what I am grappling with as I try to best prepare for the tumultuous weeks to come.

With that and the profusion of resources flying around right now (I do love how educators are sharing with each other, though the sheer quantity has been overwhelming at times), today’s post is short, but I wanted to share what I did with my students today on my first day as a digital teacher in the hopes that it might help others. It is short, but the results were both meaningful and helped me tremendously as both their teacher and in my own journey through this suddenly brave new world.

I simply had the students write me a letter. Regular readers will know that I love letters and normally do this at the midpoint of the semester anyhow, but this time I adapted it for the situation. Here it is:

My Check-In Letter. Here is a pdf of it

Writing a letter is hardly a revolutionary idea, but I find that in times like these my instinct is to fill the uncertain space around us with reassurance and advice. And while reassurance and advice are both really important right now, for me starting with asking the students how they are managing this feels like it has created a solid platform from which to teach from in this new space. So many students have already been thankful that a teacher was asking after them and taking their thoughts, worries, and needs into consideration, and many have offered some of the best suggestions I’ve seen so far. Plus, even more than usual when I have students write me, I’ve gotten a number of surprising answers that have helped me to understand just how varied student reaction to all of this is and how I might best be able to help them through it.

I hope this helps to give you ideas, and I hope everyone is doing well.

Yours in teaching,


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7 responses to “What I Did on My First Day as an Online Teacher”

  1. […] week I wrote about how the sudden transition from being a brick-and-mortar teacher to an online one had left me unsure […]


  2. […] It is not that I’m out of communication with my students (here is what I focused on during my first and second weeks of distance learning); it is just that I am used to the noise of the hallways, the […]


  3. […] my students, who are experiencing this pandemic in dramatically different ways as well. Thanks to a series of letters I have exchanged with them, I know that some students are finally getting lots of sleep after years of not sleeping enough due […]


  4. […] Letters: Regular readers will know that letter writing was a huge part of my strategy to maintain connection with my students when the school shut down. It was also, in my opinion, my […]


  5. […] readers of the blog or my book likely know that I already have students write me letters, set goals, and reflect regularly, but what Zerwin does so well is that she sets up systems to […]


  6. […] a lot of letter writing. I’ve mentioned the importance of letter correspondence before, but I now have more specifics about my plan for the year. Normally, students write me a letter […]


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