Running an online school - part 13

Finding out what’s special about yourself

This may seem a bit strange to some, particularly those not given to introspection, but it is a necessary aspect of working for yourself, particularly working only by yourself. You need to find out what is different, what is special, and what you are offering that is good.

My assumption is that if you want to teach your skill to people then you are good at it. The second part is – “Can you teach?”.

Teaching ability

Unfortunately not everyone can, at least not well, as your own school years will bring back to you. I am sure you had some bad teachers. The most obvious quality for a teacher is patience. You have to stay with students until they master the area they wish to master. Some are quick, some are slow, some become excellent, some only mediocre. You have got to appreciate that many people enjoy doing things they are only average at, witness all the football teams, the sports people, the hobbyists, DIYers, etc., all enjoying their pleasures week after week at a low level. Often they take a class knowing they will only get a little bit better at something, to gain some new tricks or tips or even to fraternize with similar people. So patience is essential.

Running an online school: Teaching ability
Running an online school: Teaching ability

What else do you need?

Assuming that most of you out there will be teaching to a general audience and not elites, then what else do you need within yourself aside from knowledge and patience? You need empathy, the ability to put yourself in your students shoes, understand their frustrations, and how they see things. If you have this, it is a great asset. You need to remember what it is like at the start, trying to learn.

You need to be flexible and adaptable to cope with students learning at different paces, particularly with beginners. If there are various levels in what you teach then incorporate a placement test before you start to ensure students are approximately the same level to avoid experienced students becoming frustrated with novices and getting bored. One great advantage with Vedamo is the ability to separate students into discrete groups (breakout rooms) and that may be a way of coping with students at different levels. You could give one group an easier or harder task as a way to stop one side getting either bored or frustrated.

Show enthusiasm

You need to be enthusiastic about your subject and project that enthusiasm. Students always respond well to passion and it makes teaching easier. Staying on top of your field, being aware of new advances because of your strong interest is also very useful. Students like knowing that their teacher is very aware of their discipline and the skills they are learning are up to date. Join the good forums, events and conferences to keep in touch with what is happening in your field and impress them with your knowledge.

How do students like to learn?

Another area is trying to figure out how people like to learn. Do they prefer written instructions? Demonstrations? Step by step? Visual and graphics? Doing it by themselves and the teacher only intervening if they are doing something wrong? Everything to be very logical and mathematical? There are tests in this area like Howard Gardner multiple intelligences test, and they can help you figure this out. It can be useful at the start of your first class if you feel that it is important to your style of teaching. Also the students can gain awareness of their preferred learning styles. You can tailor your teaching methods to reflect this information.

Running an online school: How do students like to learn?
Running an online school: How do students like to learn?

Teaching to the elite

If you only want to teach to people who want to become a master like yourself, then you must make that clear in your sales pitches and your ads. If you get annoyed because students don’t reach a high level then that must be recognized by you. There are students out there that will respond to holding them to a high standard, pushing them hard, and being tough on them. However, they must know that first before they sign up, otherwise they will leave very quickly. It is like training elite sportspeople, they will put up with anything to achieve their goals. If you can teach to the elite in your field, then you can carve out a niche for yourself as they will tolerate a high level of push and accept a discipline that average people won’t. You do need to accept, however, that average students won’t stay on your courses. Understanding yourself is the key to teaching.

Work on your strengths and weaknesses

So, these are some of the areas you need to look at yourself and figure out where your strengths lie. Knowledge, patience, empathy, flexibility, adaptability, enthusiasm and how you like to learn and teach. If you have all of these I am sure you will be fine. If there are any areas you don’t feel strong in then perhaps you could work on them or find a way to do without it, like, as previously mentioned, if you don’t have much patience, then teach only those who will allow you to push them hard. As this particular blog is about running a one-person operation, you don’t need many students to survive or prosper.

If you are strong in the above areas then incorporate them into your sales pitches and ads. Do not hide your light under a bushel. People only want to be taught by people they feel confident in. Be confident in yourself and your students will respond.


Related articles:

Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
VEDAMO Virtual Classroom
For the past six years we have been providing a platform with all the functionalities an online tutor needs.