Are you nervous about putting yourself out there as an online teacher?
If so, you’re not alone.
I speak to a lot of English teachers who want to move online, but fear is holding them back.
I know how inhibiting this can be: it affected me for a long time. In certain ways, it still does. It’s scary creating something that is centered on you, especially when it has the potential for the whole world to see and judge.
Overcoming this fear is important; if you want learners to take lessons with you online, you’ll need to put yourself out there.
Learners want to be able to connect with their teacher before signing up to lessons or courses, and the best way to do this through your words, pictures, and videos.
I’m going to have some advice for you if you are apprehensive about all of this, but before I do, I want to quickly share my story.
My Battle With This and How to Overcome Fear
I’ve gone from someone who was really apprehensive about posting a photo on my site – you couldn’t really see my face on the first photo that I posted – to someone who now creates videos and does live webinars.
Looking back, getting started was scary. I was nervous about what people would say about my pictures, my voice, and my content.
It took me a long time before I made videos, started an email list, and really got things going. I think the following explains why:
– I was worried that my content wouldn’t be good enough
– I was worried about what my old friends would say if they saw my videos
– I was scared of it all failing
– I hated hearing my own voice
– I was worried about trolls
However, I managed to slowly overcome these fears, and now I want to share my experience and some advice for you if you are apprehensive about moving online.
What to Do to Overcome These Fears
I’ve been asking teachers in my recent interviews if they felt nervous when first putting themselves out there.
If you have watched these interviews, you will know that all the successful teachers that I have talked to were apprehensive when first starting out, especially when it came to posting videos.
They had the same concerns as I did. But what did they (and I) do?
They wrote their first post/created their first video/recorded their first podcast for those who they wanted to serve, and built on this initial post.
Baby Steps and Improving Over the Long-Term
Something that I think is really important to know is this: your first homepage/article/video is not going to be perfect. It takes time to find your voice and make something that people enjoy and derive value from.
But keep in mind the following:
– You don’t need to publish your first draft
– You can get feedback from others to help you improve on what you have
– You’re going to get better if you keep doing it
When I created my first video for English learners, it took about ten takes for me to be content with it. My website for English learners has gone through about 12 redesigns. I have edited/proofread this post on five separate occasions.
You are going to get better, and it will all get easier, but you still have to start.
If you’re really nervous about publishing that first post, send it privately to a few learners first and get the validation you need to share it publicly.
Putting Ideas Out There
I was a little nervous about starting this blog as I was talking about something that no one else was at the time. Putting ideas out there is scary too, especially if what you’re talking about can be divisive (input vs output in language learning, vegan vs paleo, religion etc.).
In my opinion, it’s all about gaining the confidence that your ideas and materials for English learners are going to help others. And the more you teach, write, and do, the more you will have to say, and the more you will improve.
Focusing on one area of English (IELTS, pronunciation etc.) will help you create things that others are going to really like. You will become an expert in this area, and therefore, the articles on your website, your videos etc. will be of higher quality.
Another concern that I’ve heard from other teachers, and something that I definitely felt, is when you see what is already out there, you might think that your materials won’t be beneficial. Making comparisons can be paralyzing.
But what you offer is unique, especially if you have one area of English that you enjoy teaching. The right mentality to have is to think about the problems your learners have and solve them. Don’t worry about what others are doing and how your materials compare, especially at the beginning.
If you dedicate yourself to this, then you will soon have valuable and unique content to share.
Dealing with Trolls and Criticism
I was really worried that I would receive a lot of comments from others who just want to be negative.
This hasn’t happened that often (there is one guy who uses has troll in his usernames and turns up every six months or so), and when it does, it’s not that much of a big deal. Sometimes, it can affect you, but this feeling doesn’t last long.
One of the best things about your site, YouTube Channel, and social media profiles is that you can delete comments and ban users. That is what I do now if someone is trolling: I delete it, ban them, and move on.
It’s very easy to get sucked into what they ultimately want you to do: feed them. This happened last week, actually. A guy emailed me with a bunch of abuse. I responded to his first email in a very brief way (mistake), he replied with an essay of attacks, and I was into my second paragraph when realized what I was doing was a mistake. I discarded the draft and moved on.
Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is different. It’s great to get feedback from others, and I encourage you to ask for it. I ask my learners what posts they like, what posts they don’t like, and how I can better help them, and this feedback is invaluable.
Fear of Failure and Committing to Success
Something else we all have an issue with is fear of failure.
I’ve talked to a lot of teachers inside TEOC and over email, and fear of failure is holding a lot of people back. The thought of investing yourself in something like creating a site for your English lessons, making videos or even a course, and then for you and everyone else to see it flop, can put you off starting.
One thing that I’ve been working on in this area is to see everything as a learning experience to detach myself from the results.
It’s easier said than done, but the idea is this: if you commit to making a success out of teaching English online, work through the obstacles that are put in front of you, and are willing to learn and pivot as you go, then you will get there.
If your first website doesn’t work, make it better. If your first video is terrible, rerecord it. If your student doesn’t show to the trial lesson, email them and do something to find other learners.
Success isn’t based on your first attempt – you may get it right early on – but on committing to this for the long-term. It’s beautiful seeing someone embark on the journey and making improvements over the weeks, months, and years.
Over to You
This post is based on my experiences and conversations with online teachers and online teachers to be. And as you will have picked up, the main theme running throughout this article is to get started, focus on your learners, and improve the content you produce as you go.
What I want to know is if you are nervous about putting yourself out there, and if so, why? Also, if you have overcome this fear, please share your story.