Diary of an Online Educator – April 24th 2020

So, this just happened today!!! It’s probably hard to see because I was sneaking a picture DURING our department meeting but that’s a slide all about ME! My principal surprised me by recognizing me in front of all the English teachers in our high school! I had to WORK at holding back the waterworks. I didn’t want to bawl in front of my peers!

This school year has been a particularly difficult one for me. I started this 19-20 school year teaching 4th grade in a brick and mortar (B&M) school and it just wasn’t the right fit for me. Even though I had dreamed of teaching 4th grade since I was IN 4th grade, it just wasn’t working out. That’s putting it mildly.

So, in December I took my secondary English exam and started working at Indiana Digital Learning School (INDLS) as a 9th grade English teacher. From the moment I “stepped through the door” it just felt right. Do you know what I mean? Like when you snuggle down into bed at the end of a long hard day kinda “right.” But, because of my previous experiences I really just didn’t want to get attached. It didn’t work. The longer I’ve been here, the more I love it. Every day brings new joys and I’m forced to love INDLS even more than I did the day before. From the fact that I can go to MY fridge and get a drink any time I want. To the way that the students light up my day with their jokes and laughter at my silliness.

When COVID closed the schools my heart BROKE for all my B&M teacher friends I’ve made through the years! I feel SO BAD for the terrible conditions they’re being forced to deal with. All while I sit here with my primo online experience. I’ve felt GUILTY for enjoying my job during this time. But that wasn’t the only thing I’ve felt. As some of you may have noticed, there’s been a bit of anger that’s gone through me as well. I had to back WAY off on my social media intake because I just couldn’t handle all the negative posts about online education. Here was this thing that saved my sanity this year and all I was reading about it was how awful everyone thought it was. It was killing my spirit to see so much negativity surrounding something I love so much.

And yet, even with all that love for this platform, I was still holding out for next year. Was INDLS really the place for me? Should I consider a B&M position next year if one comes up?

I was pretty convinced that yes, INDLS really was the place for me, but today solidified it. This parent, was especially appreciative of my efforts with her daughter and went so far as to write an email to our principal about how she feels about me.

In short, this parent wrote that her daughter had been attending INDLS for 2 years now and up until this semester was seriously considering taking her daughter back to B&M because she just wasn’t being successful for a couple of reasons. Then she wrote this:

“While the changes [made by other teachers at INDLS last semester] were beginning to make a difference for [my daughter], she still was feeling very dejected and like she wasn’t smart enough for school. [She] has always wanted to be a nurse and by the end of first semester this year, and by her grades, she had lost all confidence and hope of making this dream come true. So much so, that we had her spend a day at a local high school and were ready to change her back to a brick and mortar school for next year. Then came the WONDERFUL Mrs. Knochel!! She had been really paying attention to [my daughter] and talking and listening to her. She then reached out to me and really asked what I thought helped [my daughter] learn best and what motivated [my daughter]. I was able to explain our concern with [my daughter’s] diminishing self esteem and confidence and Mrs. Knochel took this information and poured into our [daughter]. She encouraged, inspired, and cheered [her] on. She convinced our daughter that she was capable, she could do this, she did have what it takes to be what she wants to be! She cared so much about our daughter and her success that now [she] has an A in English! Her other classes have also been effected by the effort of this wonderful teacher. [My daughter’s] grades are A’s and B’s. This is an amazing change! We are so grateful for Mrs. Knochel….and because of her, [my daughter] is excited to be staying with INDLS next year. 1 teacher can truly make a difference in a child’s life and Mrs. Knochel did this for our child. I just wanted you to know what an amazing group of educators you have in these 3 ladies. We are forever grateful that they made a difference in our daughters education.”

Can I just say, WOW! Talk about a blessing of confirmation! I am definitely right where I am supposed to be! But that’s not why I’m sharing this with you all today.

I want to encourage all you teachers out there who are STRUGGLING to wrap your brain around online education. You’re NOT alone!!! Did you notice in that letter that there is ZERO reference to my amazing and captivating lessons? She doesn’t mention that I make the most beautiful slides or that I am a whiz with this technology platform. None of those things mattered to her! What mattered to her was how I connected with her daughter. Her baby girl who was STRUGGLING to wrap her brain around education in general started flourishing when I started pouring into her as a PERSON.

Now I know that for most of you this is basic teaching 101. But I think maybe you need reminded of it today that education is SO MUCH MORE than our standards. You might be feeling like a mega failure with this platform. BUT, that doesn’t mean that you ARE one! The line in this mom’s email that struck me the hardest and MADE me share it with you was,

1 teacher can truly make a difference in a child’s life”

YOU might be just “1 teacher” struggling to keep your head above water right now.


that DOESN’T mean you’re not making a difference in your student’s lives right now! Honestly, if you’re still showing up and plugging away at this school year, then you’re WINNING in my book! Most days we, as teachers, have NO IDEA how far our reach is going! We have no way of seeing that far ahead into the future. But that’s just it! No matter what your lesson plans are for today, or next week, or the rest of the school year. That’s not what your students are going to remember about you! They’re not going to remember your slides, or if your makeup was perfect for your Zoom shot, they’re going to remember that you were THERE for them when they needed you. They’re going to remember that you walked them through this tough time. They’re going to remember how you made them FEEL. Respected.




You name it because that’s what REALLY matters right now.


Categories: teaching | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Diary of an Online Educator – April 24th 2020

  1. Brenda J Milthaler

    Hi Tamar:

    I’m finally getting caught up on my email. I’m so very happy for you! I forwarded this on to a friend of mine who teaches at White River Elementary. She has had some very difficult years with troublesome students. She told me on the phone that she feels that having to go online really helped her continue on once she was able to get with the technology.

    Have a blessed day, In Christ, Brenda

    • Brenda, that’s EXACTLY where I was too! For me, the physical distance is EXACTLY what I needed! We’re three weeks out from our last day with students and I’m DREADING it! I love these kids SO MUCH! I actually have three of them who asked if they could come back next year and help with my weekly study sessions!💖 Online school has been a tremendous blessing in our lives!

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