“I wanted to be involved in something meaningful at some point in a student’s life. It’s not always in the moment - sometimes it’s years later - and they don’t even realize the impact of how people have poured into them, expanded their view, and made opportunities possible for them.”
Melody Wilson turns to reflection whenever she reaches a crossroads in her life. She has always considered her family and future in making decisions that align with her goals.
Melody Wilson has had several successful careers in her life. She served in the military and then worked as an editor before eventually becoming an educator, following in her family’s footsteps. It was another change that came through reflection. Teachers had made the biggest impression upon her while growing up, and she decided she wanted to have the same positive impact on other students.
After 15 years in a brick-and-mortar setting, Mrs. Wilson found herself at another crossroad that required her to leave the classroom. Yet she wanted to continue teaching. That’s when she found Proximity Learning and began teaching from home on a flexible schedule.
Intentional reflection marked Mrs. Wilson’s transition to virtual teaching. “I’ve always been a reflective person and reflective educator. I also try to pass that on to students - the importance of reflection and reassessing at different points.”
On average, teachers in brick-and-mortar schools spend 10-12 additional hours per week supervising and participating in extracurricular activities. As she assessed how much time she spent dedicated to her “at school family,” Mrs. Wilson realized that her own family was falling by the wayside. Knowing that she needed to reprioritize, she intentionally sought an online teaching job to focus on her family. She now has more time to enjoy quiet mornings in meditation and to spend with her husband daily.
She says her priorities are “family and a sense of purpose, which I get from pouring out - that’s the teaching part. But then there are also friends and loved ones who are also a part of my life. That balance at the beginning of the day is oh-so-important to me. It makes sure that I am ready to give out.”
Advantages of teaching online
Mrs. Wilson, who lives in Virginia, teaches students in Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana. She loves learning about their local areas and customs, such as Mardi Gras, and uses those distinctions to connect with her students. But “At the heart of it,” she says, “students are the same. Their experience might be different, and their access to what they’re able to have is different, but the kids are the same [...] They’re hungry to learn and always want to get it right. You don’t lose that when you switch to online teaching.”
Mrs. Wilson recognizes how early exposure to virtual learning prepares students for hybrid college classes and remote work in the future. “I know that it’s here to stay. [Virtual learning] does have its place in education - it is a skill that the kids need. If they’re going to go on in their education, they’re going to need to navigate distance learning. We do students a disservice if we just cut it off completely and say, ‘Oh well, that’s only to fulfill a need.’ I think that it has its place in education as a whole for all students.”
Mrs. Wilson was inspired by her former brick-and-mortar school district’s innovation. Their approach and preparation in acclimating teachers to deliver instruction remotely opened her mind to the possibilities of online instruction. Once she joined Proximity Learning, she was more specifically trained in the software and supported by mentors.
Mrs. Wilson didn’t want to join a company that provided a step-by-step curriculum and lesson plans because she enjoys preparing classroom activities. “I gravitated towards Proximity because I was intrigued at the prospect of still being able to do what I’ve learned to do - teaching and planning. I didn’t want to give up that piece. You’ll find that many teachers don’t want to be so structured that they have to teach the material given to them. We know the content, so we want to have that flexibility and be able to do what we know how to do in our planning. That was a plus for me.”
“I also chose Proximity because they seem super organized and professional. You need that, especially when you’re transitioning to something new. You need people who are excelling in their areas of expertise. That was what Proximity offered. I didn’t know for sure until I came on board, but I’ve been pleased since I’ve been here. I have seen that it truly is an area of excellence. All of those reasons are why I came on and why I’m staying. As [Proximity] grows, [they are] helping us grow. I’m excited about it.”
Reverence for teachers
“I appreciate that we have the support. We have a voice and a seat at the table.”
One of the many aspects Mrs. Wilson appreciates about Proximity is the culture they foster as a PLC (professional learning community). “There is this element of respect, and that’s key. All of us teachers come from different backgrounds, and there are all kinds of administrative models and different experiences. My experiences in brick-and-mortar have been good. For the most part, the administration has been supportive, but if that piece is missing, there’s so much frustration when you don’t feel valued. The turnover that you see is usually for that reason. [...] You need to feel respected as a professional, and I have been pleased about that aspect here at Proximity.”
Advice from a virtual teacher
Mrs. Wilson advises, “Look into the different options out there, but I think you will find that Proximity is the best, the crème de la crème. They’re not all equal, so you don’t want to waste your time.”
Online teaching is inclusive of all. You don’t have to be the most tech-savvy teacher. You just have to be open to learning the programs. They really will make teaching and grading easier. “I’m not a big online presence person in my real life. I’m not the one who’s going to have a lot of social media. Even with my phone, it was such a learning curve. The whole idea of the infusion of - technology interests me.”
“I want to encourage those who find themselves in a position like me [...] where they're in a place of reflection or having to reprioritize aspects of their life. They don't need to feel they have to abdicate their family, health, or unanticipated obligations in their commitment to the profession. They should know there are other options available where they can strike a healthy balance [and] be present for the people they value most while continuing to serve the learning community they treasure.”
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