Six and a Half Tips to Make Virtual Volunteering AWESOME!

By Anna Kuang, FCSN Teen Volunteer

You’ve heard from your friend how amazing FCSN is. You’ve read on this blog the many joys that volunteering brings. You feel encouraged by the pictures of smiling high schoolers and the beaming kids next to them. You’ve finished the Volunteer orientation and chosen the program you want to volunteer for.

It’s 10am and your first ever lesson over Zoom is going to start in four hours. And for the first time, it hits you: that wave of anxiety and the thoughts of “Am I even ready for this?”

What if you run out of things to say to your student? What if you run out of things to teach? What if you student gets bored or gets frustrated or isn’t listening to you? What if…..the worst of the worst….the parents don’t like you? An avalanche of questions is burying you and you don’t know how you can make this work. Well I want to tell you, never fear, this blog is here! Let’s jump right in!

  1. COMMUNICATE. Communicate your needs, when you’re available, and make sure you know when your student is available and where they are at in terms of skills. If you have any questions, shoot an email to the parent or program coordinator. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
  2. Write a schedule of what you will be doing. Your student will much appreciate it if they know what they will be doing and for how long. It also gives you a confidence boost because you won’t be flailing in the dark! At the start of every class, let your student see the schedule and read it out with them if you want. As you progress through the class, feel free to refer back to the schedule and say, “Now, we’ll be singing songs!” A good example of a schedule would be: 4 minutes for greetings, 6 minutes for two songs (don’t forget to list the titles!), 10 minutes for a story, 6 minutes to go over some picture flashcards, and 4 minutes for another song and goodbyes. Super easy, super simple, but extremely effective.
  3. Be responsible and consistent. If you say you’ll be meeting them at 2pm, have the Zoom meeting started at 1:55pm. Don’t be scrambling to finish writing the schedule or choosing activities. I’ve done that before, and trust me, my class that day was rather rocky…
  4. Be creative. If you’re teaching them to identify pictures, you can show them pictures of animals and plants every time and that’s fine! Nobody’s going to complain. However, instead of asking them to just identify the color and what they’re looking at, you can ask them to count all the red t-shirts from several different colored t-shirts. Or count how many red AND blue t-shirts there are. Or list prices under the t-shirts and ask them if the blue t-shirt is more expensive than the red one. Not only will you get a kick out of designing lessons, your student will also be able to exercise more skills in one class. The possibilities are endless if you get those creative juices flowing.
  5. Don’t be afraid to connect. Now what does this mean? Let me explain. Sometimes, I am so nervous and focused on what I want to do in a lesson that I forget that my student is here to learn but also to HAVE FUN. Before class, you can make small talk, and ask them some questions. It doesn’t have to be the boring “Was your week good?” For example, once I asked my students about pets they had. They shared that they had goldfish, or no pets, and I took this opportunity to tell them a funny thing that happened to me and a stray cat. We all laughed super hard and it set a light happy mood for the rest of class. Now, don’t overdo this and completely forget about your lesson. Everything in moderation. However, a little laughter goes a long way.
  6. Accommodate and adapt. Sometimes your student may be having a hard day and they can’t really do everything you ask of them. Okay. Adapt and switch to a more relaxing, chill lesson. During the class, let your student take the time they need to answer the question fully. Don’t try to rush them or move on to the next part of the schedule. It’s just human decency.
  7. IT WILL BE FUN. This isn’t so much advice as it is reassurance. The first few lessons are going to be nerve-racking. You’ll sit at your desk with the Zoom meeting open and just watch the clock tick closer and closer to the scheduled time. Your palms will just sweat and you’ll check and double check and triple check to see if everything in your lesson will run smoothly. And then you see your student in the waiting room and you know there’s no going back now.

You know what will eventually happen?

You’ll sit at your desk with the Zoom meeting open and just watch the clock tick closer and closer to the scheduled time. You’ll check and double check and triple check to see if everything in your lesson will run smoothly. And then you see your student in the waiting room.

The moment you admit them and they appear on your screen, a smile will automatically spread across your face. You’ll feel the purest bliss and excitement ever and wonder why you were ever nervous before. You’ll feel excited to share with them all the songs, all the stories, all the flashcards you have carefully chosen. But most of all you’ll feel great know that you and your student will have a BLAST.

So that’s it! The six and a half tips to make your virtual volunteering awesome for both you and your student! If you are genuine and open with your student, you will reap the many rewards that your friends have been waxing poetic about.

Open up that Zoom meeting and straighten up your shoulders. I know you’ll do great.

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