Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Teaching Partnerships in Distance Ed.

Hi All,

I  have always felt it was vital to have an 'open door' policy in my classroom to ensure that parents felt included in their child's education and to encourage a good rapport with myself.  Because let's face it we've all had a student go home and only tell their side of a story and I wanted my parents to question whether what their child was saying was actually a true reflection of me and my actions.

However, when I moved from mainstream schooling into Distance Education two years ago I quickly came to realise that I was really only comfortable with parents being involved on my terms.  They could join in as long as I remained in control of the curriculum, learning activities and behaviour management.   It became very obvious, very quickly, that this approach was not going to be effective in my new working environment.

The reason for this was that I was no longer the primary educator anymore. I was now working in a 'partnership' with a home tutor.  I went from being the planner and deliverer of 25 hours of content a week to maybe 12 hours in a week depending on the Distance Ed school you work at.  This year I am responsible for 2 half hour reading groups a week, an hour of English a day for my Year 2 and my Year 3 classes, an hour of Maths a day for my Year 3 class and a half hour contact lesson, per Year 2 student, per fortnight. 

The primary educator in this learning environment is in fact the home tutor and it is my major responsibility, as the teacher, to support them to teach the students in my class.  Now if you are lucky the home tutor will be a trained teacher but typically they are a parent or a young governess who only have their own high school education behind them and usually have more than one child to teach.  It has nearly taken me two years to get a grasp on what is the best way for me to help and support my home tutors. 

For the past two years I have done up a 5 Week Unit Overview which outlines the units and lessons being taught and the days on which to do them. (See the example below).  I also did up a Handy Hints sheet which would identify any preparation and reductions that could be done for each lesson.

5 Week Unit Overview
Now this format is perfectly fine if you are working with other teachers but it is quite heavy to process if your are new to teaching and have multiply students who each have one of these outlines every five weeks.  This year I have created a set of weekly planners with a monthly calendar which allows my home tutors to put all their planning, preparation and to do lists on the one page.  It is also a great record to show their employer of what they are doing daily and to plan for any special events coming up in the community or on the property.

Another daunting task for any teacher, or home tutor, is setting up a daily routine.  After many years of working in the early years and with children who have autism I have found that a visual timetable not only helps the teacher, but also the student, as there are no surprises in the day and everybody knows what is coming up next. Because there can be up to 5 students in a classroom, doing different subjects at the same time, I created several version of the visual timetable to ensure each child has their own to refer back to during the day.  The visual timetable is also a great way to build up independence in the young learner by allowing them to add in brain breaks, game times and free time.

Finally, as experienced teachers know a lot of precious time is taken up by the tedious job of sorting and labelling workbooks.  To free up a few of those minutes I have created subject title pages and editable book labels for my students.  Although the title pages will need to be glued in the, book labels can be printed straight onto address label stickers and attached to the front of books.  I also use these labels to give each student 'returned work' zippy bags so that finished send-in sheets and assessment tasks can be kept together and delivered straight to me for marking.  I have created versions of the title page for Prep to Year 6 and these can be downloaded through my TpT shop.

              Year 2 Subject Title Pages                               Year 3 Subject Title Page

              Australian Animal Book Labels                               Animal Book Labels

My next post will be about setting up first day learning experiences when you don't have a classroom and you won't be meeting your students until a week after the new school year starts.  Till then,



  1. Wow Leonie thank you for sharing your hard work! As a teacher who is currently teaching my own via Distance Ed (year 2, Prep and a two year old to entertain), all I can say is I wish my kids were going into your class!! All the best for the year ahead - I look forward to following your blog.

    1. Hi Brigid. It's wonderful to meet you. You definitely have your hands full. Just let me know if there is something particular you need, I'm more than willing to help.

  2. Wow Leonie, a wonderful sharing of your discoveries at Distance Education. Teaching in our environment is definitely a balance of child education and adult education - all at the same time. Everyone is at a different point in their learning and it is all about identifying what that point is and how to assist the individual to move forward. Love your blog!