How to continue keeping your cool when things do not go as planned.
In the previous two blog articles A Wrench in the Works – Part I and A Wrench in the Works – Part II, there was an introduction and further elaboration, respectively, into the concept of professional discussion amongst educators across various areas of online instruction about the best practices in contemporary pedagogy.
Like most professions, teaching online has its own practice of sharing both formal and informal information amongst peers, covering topics that look at the best approaches to specific teaching situations, acquisition of teaching aids and other resources, and other developments in both practical and theoretical teaching methodologies.
SHARING OF EXPERIENCES
Of course, this is a benefit to both educators and learners alike, since the sharing of experiences and knowledge beyond the theoretical allows for improvement in both teaching and learning, regardless of the instructional environment. Although this discourse involves a heavy portion of hands-on experience and anecdotal accounts being shared, the nuggets of truth that come out are still only theoretical, since success in one particular learning environment or situation does not guarantee success in another.
The conclusions that come about are still very theoretical in nature because of this, and therefore untested in less-than-ideal situations. So how can you use this type of professional discourse and shared knowledge when things go wrong in your class? How do you keep calm when things do not go as expected? Simply put, it comes from confidence in your teaching. And as a teacher, you can find this confidence through knowledge, preparation, and honesty.
ENSURE YOU HAVE COMPREHENSIVE KNOWLEDGE
The previous two blog articles that first introduced and explored the source for teaching confidence outlined and highlighted – respectively – the importance of having comprehensive knowledge of your subject matter, and being diligent in pre-class preparations. Here in this blog article, we explore the third and final component in keeping cool and confident when things go wrong while you are teaching: honesty. Being honest with others is often considered a virtue and an oh-so-forgotten aspect of interacting with the world around us, but it is also – perhaps because of its perceived rarity – another tool for your online teaching toolbox. Simply put, you are a human being first and a teacher second (How to Teach Online Courses: Start By Being Human).
Mistakes are made, things go wrong, and we are certainly not perfect. Sometimes things happen that are very much out of our control. This is part of the reality of being a human being. Of course there is something to be said for maintaining professionalism at all times, particularly if you want to be a successful edupreneur, but being professional does not and should not preclude us from being imperfect.
BEING PROFESSIONAL DOES NOT MEAN BEING PERFECT
Essentially, being honest takes the pressure off of you trying to maintain the illusion of perfection. “Professional” does not mean “perfect,” even though we are often conditioned to think that way. If a question comes up from any of your online students that you cannot answer right away, be honest about it. You do not have to say “I don’t know” per se; after all, you are selling yourself as a subject matter expert and the livelihood of your online course depends upon that reputation. But you do not want to lie about it either, because this could be much worse for your credibility than simply not knowing the answer to one question could ever be.
However, being honest does not necessarily mean being candid either, so there is nothing wrong with having a pre-prepared go-to phrase or statement to use when you are asked a question that you may not have anticipated. You can say that you are in the process of studying a particular aspect concerning the question being asked, and that you will get back to the student once you have that information upon further research. And be sure to get back to that student too! If you say you will do something, then make sure that you follow-through with your word. After all, your credibility is at-stake. If something technical goes wrong during your class, be honest about that as well. Openly state that to your students, but also reassure them that you have an alternative plan – something that will be true, of course, because you have already accounted for this type of scenario occurring (A Wrench in the Works – Part II) and have created a suitable contingency plan for just such an occasion! And you are, of course, in the best position to determine the most appropriate kind of “Plan B” for your lesson, because you are the subject matter expert and have the knowledge (A Wrench in the Works – Part I) required to create a flexible, comprehensive, and well-designed course curriculum (Portion-Sized e-Learning).
PREPARE IN ADVANCE AND BE HONEST WITH YOUR STUDENTS
With all of these variables in your favour, you have every reason to be — and most importantly — every ability to be confident when you face obstacles that may arise during your lesson or course delivery. As long as you do not forget that you are the expert in your field, you prepare well in advance before every lesson, and you remember to be honest with your students, you will have the confidence to persevere!