Teaching Online & Content Mastery – A Wrench in the Works Part I
How to keep cool when things do not go as planned.
There are many resources that deal with how to work out plans in preparation for teaching lessons and courses online, finding teaching aids, and developing online assessments. Often there is discussion concerning best practices and methodologies, and connections to various resources designed to produce the best plan possible for teaching students are provided.
FAILING TO PLAN MEANS PLANNING TO FAIL
However, there can be no true advancement in educational standards and efficiencies unless there is a willingness amongst educators to talk about what it means to be an effective teacher, and sharing open and honest discussions concerning pedagogy. It only makes sense to have this kind of openness and sharing amongst peers in education, because experience and first-hand anecdotal evidence informs theoretical discussion with proper context. And this type of context can only come about with candour and honesty, including the development of individual plans to improve one’s own teaching skills and educational philosophy. After all, if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.
Success is not achieved by accident and educators must be willing to talk about what works, and what does not. However, what may work in one scenario may not work with another, and even then, it only works when things go according to plan. And any teacher who has had any experience at all knows very well that this is rarely the case.
KEEPING COOL UNDER PRESSURE
But how do you keep cool under pressure when things do not go as expected? Having confidence in your teaching is the key, particularly having confidence that you can persevere through any obstacles that you may encounter when things do not go according to plan. And to achieve this confidence, you need to have knowledge, preparation, and honesty.
Thankfully, the first piece of the puzzle is well within your grasp. As an online subject matter expert, knowledge is definitely one resource that you have an abundance of, so you can use that to your advantage. Since you have so much previous experience working with your subject matter, your comfort level with the material should be second-to-none, and this allows you to be flexible and able to focus on correcting the situation that may be going wrong for you.
For example, those that may be required to teach a class about a topic that they have never taught before, will be relying heavily upon their lesson plan and may struggle to find a balance between remembering content and trying to solve issues that come up outside of the lesson plan. Flexibility is not often a viable option for these teachers, since there is little to no comfort with the material prior to delivering the lesson – at least not to the level that you as an expert in your field will have with your subject matter – and any setback that this teacher could potentially encounter would only be exacerbating their predicament.
As a subject matter expert, you will not have this challenge, since you will already have a thorough knowledge of the content that you are teaching your students. You know your material inside and out, and you will not need to rely on cue cards, lesson plans, or any other pre-prepared documentation or resources that you may have created for your lesson- delivery. Any lesson plans that you have – and you will have them, since that is one of the hallmarks of an effective and efficient teacher – should only serve as a “bookmark” for you to keep track of where you are during your lesson, and not as a crutch. Therefore, any unexpected issues that may come up (i.e. technical issues, audio-visual problems, unexpected questions, etc.) can be the focus of your attention, since content mastery will not be an issue for you.
In this way, the wealth of knowledge and experience you bring to your students is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to you too! To read further about how to remain confident when things go wrong, refer to A Wrench in the Works – Part II.