In 2016, I moved to southern Florida and quickly realized that the educational scene was very different from the abundance of student support that was available up north. Children that needed specialized support were dealing with, what I refer to as, the four-leaf clover effect. There was a lack of certified specialists for these children. In other words, there just wasn’t enough four-leaf clovers to go around. Students were not getting what they needed.
I was being contacted to help some of these students because of my certification. Unfortunately, I couldn’t serve them because they lived too far away. I had one family who wanted to pay for my train ticket to help their children 30 minutes away, but it took up so much time in my schedule. This is how I started teaching online. I saw an opportunity and went for it. I was then contacted by a homeschool family who wanted online support for their children a couple of days a week. I saw a future helping students regardless of where they lived.
During this time, a plane ride to my mom’s solidified this new direction I was going in. During 2018’s Black Friday sale, my mom made a purchase that changed the way I was teaching. One of Costco’s Black Friday deals was a Surface Pro bundle that included the stylus and a keyboard. I happily gave my mom my MacBook and was excited to begin working with the amazing Surface Pro that she gifted to me. Honestly, I don’t think I would have half the business I have now if it wasn’t for the Surface Pro. If you have a plan to teach online, I would definitely invest in one.
You might be asking, why the Surface Pro? It is a touch-screen device that also works as a tablet. Let’s face it, writing on the screen is so much easier. It also allows me to do interactive lessons with my students. When I share my screen with my students, I can still use video. Although I had the best equipment before, I still failed for several months because of my technology set up. A lot of my students use an iPad, so they have touch screens as well. Now, we can do everything we need with our devices working together.
Ikea is your friend
I started to work more from home and that meant that it was time for a new set up. Everything needed to be within my reach and an organization system was in order. I’ve always heard that “An organized teacher is a successful teacher” right?
So, I did what every other teacher does…I turned to Pinterest and found a cheap option through IKEA. If you don’t currently have a Billy Bookcase, run and go grab one (or two)! They are about $30, easy to put together, and customizable. If you don’t stay very organized, like me, you can add doors to keep everything hidden away. This set up was helping me stay more organized, but my work kept picking up. My office needs kept expanding and back to IKEA I went. I purchased another two Billy Bookcases, put two double doors on it, and had even more hidden space. It worked perfectly!
Right before the pandemic, I had an urge to update my home office. At the time, I was seeing a few students in my office and using a corner spot in the room. My online work was picking up, and I felt that I needed more space. So, another IKEA desk made its way into my office, and I do not regret it one bit! An extra perk to this desk, I can hide all of my cords behind it to keep a clean, neat appearance.
Everything Within Reach
Another key element of a successful office set up is to have all of your teaching supplies within arm’s reach. I keep all of my cards and Wilson books right by my desk. My file cabinet is also nearby so I can reach in and grab necessary supplies that I need to teach a lesson. This is especially helpful when a lesson changes direction with a student. I know exactly where everything is, well most of the time, and can grab and teach without much interruption. This is what I call Plan B. My accordion folder keeps games within arm’s reach and are ready for when my kids need something different.
A must for me to have within reach is my InSwan document camera. If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much I love and use this thing! I tried a similar document camera from another company, and it broke three times within a six-month period. To be successful with the document camera, I use a pedestal to elevate it. I found mine at Staples, but you can easily make your own shelf with something around the house. A DIY is always better, that’s my philosophy. (Stay tuned for a fun post on easy-to-do, DIY ideas to help make your space even more ready for your success.)
Make Your Space Inviting
I was making my home more inviting prior to a friend’s visit, and I found myself realizing that I had already done this with my office space. This was right when I bought my desk and it still needed to be assembled, and I had a little more excitement about that project than from the visit itself. This was when I knew my office was coming together in the right way.
Who knew how much time I was going to spend in my office when I first began setting it up? I’m so glad that I invested in it when I did. After I invested in this space, I remember the first time a student came to learn in person. I was so excited to share my desk and have him sit next to me. Previously, my students would sit crammed at the corner desk. With my new space, I was able to help my students more effectively.
After this, the world crumbled. I became one of the many people whose home also became their office. It became important to me to keep it comfortable and inviting, given how much time I was spending in there. Since then, that time has increased and increased. I feel sometimes that I live in there! Do you feel this way about your workspace right now?
I hope this post encourages you to think about how you feel in your office. Hopefully, it also gives you some ideas on organization. Come back next week for another part in this series when we talk about student set ups. Having my materials within reach has been the best thing that has affected my success with online tutoring. I use my document camera the most, and I’m so glad that it is right on my desk and ready for action. Having the desktop cleared off with everything having its own place has made a difference in my productivity. It also makes me feel good that my students’ families can see my clean office when I’m working with their child. This makes them feel like I am in control. And, I am. I am in control of my own success, and so are you!
This week, grab my free "Spring Spin and Spell" activity! Your students will have fun practicing their spelling skills.
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