Teaching online can provide a great deal of flexibility in a workday. You can teach anywhere and anytime; all you need is a computer and an Internet connection. Many online adjunct faculty find the flexibility to be one of the biggest benefits of the job, and some are willing to accept lower pay in exchange for the flexibility. Staying home and earning a paycheck is an attractive proposition, so attractive, that many people are trying very hard to get into the online teaching job market. There is one drawback to staying home and teaching-people who do not think you are working.
I will admit when you see me at 10:30am, still in my sweat pants and duck slippers, cat on my lap, sipping coffee, and tapping away on my MacBook, it may not look like I am working. However, one look at my screen will show windows full of student papers, discussion questions and statistics assignments.
The list of non-believers in my world is long. My teenagers are always needing things from Mom, clothes washed, feeding a forgotten pet, a ride, money, or food. I am home, I should have time-right? My husband is also guilty. Since I am home anyway, can I iron a shirt, find a birthday gift for his dad, run an errand, and water the seeds that he just planted? Neighbors have been known to ask if I can feed Fluffy or walk Fido since I am not at work. I am even a favorite stop for a local church lady who has figured out that the corner house has a daytime occupant.
I have tried various techniques to show others that I am working, some have been more successful than others. I tried literally wearing a hat, when it was on, I was working. The “nice hat” comments from my fashionista daughter and her friends proved too distracting. Moving the car down the street to the the park and sneaking back home on foot is rather successful until the phone rings with a student question or the dog wants out. I have benefitted from the walks to and from the car with some well-needed exercise. An occasional trick that works well is keeping the blinds closed, staying in pajamas, and working from bed; throwing in a few coughs and sneezes for good measure. Fear of catching the flu keeps the family away. Use this trick sparingly, as the family may insist on a doctor visit.
Two necessities of teaching online are a notebook computer and a wireless Internet provider. I personally find the $60.00 I pay monthly for my Verizon Wireless USB Modem to be the best money I spend. With this handy device, I really can work anywhere. I have yet to find a place without coverage (my husband did lose coverage in Denali National Park, but the rest of Alaska was connected). With my handy mobile office, I really can work anywhere. When the house becomes busy and noisy, I escape to a park bench, the library, or a local coffee shop. I now spend so much time at the coffee shop that people think I like the coffee and I receive many gift cards for the shop on holidays. Most of my coffee shop visits are now at no cost to me. When I head to another location, I can say “I am going to work” and mean it.
The one problem with working in public is curious strangers. People will often ask me what I am doing or what I a working on. If I mention that I am teaching online, people often ask about how it is to be an online student, tell me stories of their own online learning experiences, or ask for advice on online schools or online teaching jobs. There is a whole new set of distractions and people not thinking of it as working when I am out of the house. I still find that the change of scenery is good and I often get more accomomplished in public than at home, even with the distractions.
Strangers too can misunderstand that I am working when they see me working on the computer. On a recent visit to my favorite coffee shop, an older woman I sat down next to asked me what I was doing, Rather than open the door for a conversation, I just mentioned that I was working. “In that case Dear, could you please refill my coffee?” was her response….