fbpx
#136: How to Navigate a Career Change in Online Education

#136: How to Navigate a Career Change in Online Education

This post initially appeared at https://apuedge.com/how-to-navigate-a-career-change-in-online-education/.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education

Is it time for you to change jobs or start a new career? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares tips to help with the transition. Learn why it’s important to craft a strong narrative about your career, build a strong network and be prepared to negotiate.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. This is Bethanie Hansen, your host, and I’m really happy to talk with you today about the potential for changing careers in your online teaching journey. Now, a career change could be a minor thing. It could be, you’re just changing jobs, perhaps you work at one school, and you’d like to work at another. Or maybe the career change is actually in a new direction. Perhaps you’ve been teaching in a face-to-face classroom, and then you’ve had an adjunct role teaching one class at a time online, but maybe you want to just expand that.

Maybe you want to go full time in an online capacity. That does feel like quite a bit of a change, doesn’t it? Maybe you want to leave teaching altogether and go into higher education leadership, or educational administration in the K-12 system. Perhaps you’re leaving the standard classroom and you’re becoming a virtual coach, trainer or consultant.

Whatever type of career change you are contemplating, changing careers can be a challenge. I have changed careers myself several times. And these changes have been interesting, they have been difficult, and in my experience, they have also involved a little bit of identity consideration. For example, when I made my first career change, I was leaving a role of, where I thought, I was a band director.

My job title was band teacher. But we in the band-directing field, when we’re running the entire program, we’re doing a lot of fundraising, we have parent groups and all of those things along the way, we would call that more of band director role versus just teaching. So, I was leaving this role of being a band director, and becoming a 100% online teacher in higher education. That role change involved an identity shift in my mind. I had to stop calling myself a band director, and I had to stop referring to myself as a band director. And a lot of people who knew me did not understand what online teaching was all about, or what I did for a living.

In fact, they kind of didn’t ask about it at all once I told them what I was doing, because they just didn’t understand it. They didn’t relate to that. Now that online education has been around a while, and it has developed into something that is spoken of in the general population, the general public, a career in online education is not as far of a reach if you’re telling someone else about it. Either way, I’m going to give you some steps today that will help you out if you’re thinking about changing careers, either into or out of online education.

Considerations When You’re Changing Careers

The first thing to consider when you’re changing careers is your narrative. The narrative of your career change is really the story behind that career change. One place where we tell that story is a profile network like LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a virtual platform where you have almost a virtual version of a resume. You have a space where you have some paragraphs that summarize who you are, what you’re all about. You also have your jobs listed, what some of the key things were you did in those jobs, what dates they were, where you worked. And you can also provide links to any articles you’ve written, presentations you’ve made, podcasts you’ve hosted, and more. You can add a lot of those things and share them with a network of people that you’re hoping to connect with more fully.

LinkedIn does have jobs posted, and many companies are doing this now, many educational entities also are. So, when you post yourself on LinkedIn, and you really work on your story behind your career change there, and the story of where you’re headed, this can be a helpful place to go.

Develop a Narrative about Your Career Change

One thing to think about in your narrative is why you’re changing careers. You can say it succinctly and diplomatically. That story of why you’re changing careers really never includes the negative judgments you might have made about a prior boss or a prior situation or employer. When you’re telling this story, succinctly and diplomatically as I mentioned, one thing would be to talk about the direction you are growing. The experiences you’ve had in the past and how you’ve learned from them, and now you’re pivoting in a new direction. And what some of those common threads are.

In literature, we call that the “red thread” of your story. So, in my band-directing career, I was helping people grow and develop and transform into adulthood. They were learning musical skills, leadership skills, self-management, all kinds of things. And as I moved into higher education, I was still working on those very same core things. And in my part-time coaching work with people, I also work on helping them develop and change and transform in their direction. So, that thread for me is very consistent, even though the subject matter or the way I played it out has changed over time.

Another thing that you can include in your narrative of your career change would be what transformative skills you bring that are relevant to a new role you’re seeking. For example, if you have primarily taught face to face, and you’re actually just hoping to move into full time online work, you can talk about all of the different methods you have used to communicate with your stakeholders in that face-to-face environment.

If you have led, or attended or developed webinars for people, or presented live, synchronous classes through a virtual mode, like Zoom or something like that, those would be skills that you can bring that are relevant to the new role you’re seeking of being online.

And then, of course, there are past paid and unpaid experiences that might directly relate to the new role you’re hoping to get. And you can talk about those, write about those, list them on your LinkedIn profile and on your resume, and include those in your narrative.

What are the Positive Aspects of Your Career Change?

Something else to consider is how change is positive for you and your fulfillment. In the direction you’re hoping to go, think about what positive aspects of that change will bring into your life. What is good about that change? What are the benefits you’re seeking and hoping for? And how have you been preparing for those very benefits and positives, and seeking them out now and not just waiting for the future change?

For example, if one of the reasons you want to teach online 100% of the time is that you love to travel and you love the flexibility, you could be thinking about how you’ve already been using some flexibility in your current work schedule to fulfill your travel desires, and not just how you’re waiting for the future to play out. So, how is the change is going to be positive for you, and how are you already seeking it and getting some of that?

Omit Details that Don’t Contribute to Your New Direction

Leave out extra details that don’t help you in the direction you’re trying to go. I’ve seen some people write 50-page vitas or resumes that document every job they’ve ever had, every class they’ve ever taught, everywhere they’ve ever been. And a new employer hoping to hire you doesn’t know how to navigate that narrative on their own. So, include the things that tell the story that is important for your career change, and summarize those things that are not, or leave them out altogether. It’s okay to not include every single job you’ve ever had. But you definitely want to include the ones that are relevant and that do pave the way for the direction you’re headed.

You can think about this as a story arc. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end to your professional story. And the way you introduce it could be something that you’ve done or thought about or learned about or experienced in your life that ignited your passion for where you’re headed right now. And places along the way where you got a little bit more experience or insight or direction. And, in the future, you’re going to have that good resolution of being able to fulfill that direction you’re hoping to go.

I would like to recommend also imagining beyond open opportunities. The world we live in has a lot of career options available that are literally invented around a candidate. Not every job exists right now that you could be qualified for, and it’s possible you’ll be able to negotiate something that will build your dream job in the future.

So, that first part of changing careers is to think about the narrative and the story that you’re telling about your professional direction and your past, and all the skills you’re bringing with you. The second tip today about navigating your online career change is to build a network.

Build a Strong Network

Networking is sort of a buzzword in job seeking. Networking is connecting with other people and offering them something while you’re gaining something from them as well. It’s sort of like mutual relationship building. If you have an opportunity to connect with people in your field, you can always ask for advice and receive advice and give advice. It builds trust with other people when you share what you know and what you think, within reason.

Realize what you don’t know. Think about that future online job or that future job away from online, if that’s the direction you’re moving, and what role you would like to fill, what functions it might include and the industry in which that role takes place. And when you realize what you don’t know about that, now you have some questions to ask others.

Learn about how you can fill those knowledge gaps. Are you going to learn something through an online class or workshop? Will you go to a conference or join an organization? Whatever direction you go, you want to dive in. Really get to know people in that space and participate fully so those knowledge gaps will get filled. And you’ll build a new network along the way.

You can explore what the new role would really ask of you day in and day out, and that can happen by talking to those people in the industry, or in the role, and develop your narrative skills. You’ll be talking a lot when you try to build your network. And you’ll talk about where you’ve been, why you want to change, what you’re working on right now to move you in that new direction. And you’ll build a lot of opportunity to talk about your story, your career-change story.

Get Specific about What You Want to Do in Your Career Change

The third tip for navigating your career change will be to narrow, get specific about what you really want to do. For example, at one time, I was thinking about how I did a lot of recruiting and retention as a band director, and in online education, as a leader, we talk a lot about recruiting and retention, so I’m thinking about it a lot.

And in the future where I want to continue to support, strengthen, and develop educators, I would say something like, “I’m looking to do teacher retention work in higher education. I’m going to draw on my skills in coaching, managing and leading others. And the wellbeing training I gained as a coach to help manage and lead online faculty forward in better ways. I want to help people stay in this profession. And I want people to grow in this profession, so I’m prepared to do that.”

So, if I’m getting super specific about what I want to do, I would be saying that I’m looking to do teacher retention work in higher education. And I can give all those details that I just mentioned along the way.

Be Prepared to Negotiate and Compromise

The fourth step in your career change story would be to negotiate. You might have to compromise to achieve the career direction change that you want. If it’s a big change, that might mean accepting a lower salary than the current role you’re filling, until you’re able to gain new skills and move back up. You might lose seniority that you have in your current organization. You might also lose some of the flexibility you currently like. And, especially, if you’re working online right now and you’re moving into a not online position, definitely the flexibility will be something to be thinking about.

Or maybe there are other perks. Perhaps your employer supports you attending conferences and doing a lot of travel, and you won’t be able to do that in the future. That’s a perk you might lose. You can’t keep all the same benefits and perks if you’re changing industries, making a major change, like from K-12 education to higher education or from the higher education to the business industry, or something like that. You won’t have the tested skills that someone who’s been in that field their entire career has.

So, you will need to be a little bit more realistic about the value you’re going to create early in the path, as well as your potential to grow and develop and eventually demonstrate solid skills as an expert in that direction. Can you set aside money now, to make up the difference if you have to have a salary reduction? Can you move up to regain the title and direction you’re going in right now eventually in the new direction? Are there some perks you can let go of right now that you can live without for the rest of your career? Or can you get these perks some other way? Is there something else that will lead to what you want?

If you cannot make that career change right now, anything that you can do to change your existing role to enhance it or bring in more of what you’re looking for, will help you through the process of job crafting. Or you may also be able to gain more fulfillment from hobbies, a side gig, or some volunteer work.

If you’re really intentional about your career change, a thoughtful planning period and a lot of research and some careful narrative crafting of your actual experience, as well as building your network and being realistic about a potential change will bring you the most fulfillment. It’s going to bring you more purpose, and better engagement throughout the process.

I’ve been through several career changes myself, and I know you can have a really positive outcome when you put the time in that it takes to be diligent in your efforts and also think about where you really want to go. I wish you all the best in that pursuit, it can be a tough one. But, again, you can find that fulfillment throughout the future, as you are looking for what you really want, and doing the work it takes to make that change and get there.

And, ultimately, as I’ve said before, if you’re not able to make that change right now, you can consider job crafting your current role, or gaining additional fulfillment from outside activities. Thanks for being here in the Online Teaching Lounge today as we’re talking about navigating an online career change. And I wish you all the best in the next step on that journey, if that’s where you’re headed.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit BethanieHansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#129: How to Write a Conference Proposal

#129: How to Write a Conference Proposal

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Part of learning and stretching is sharing your knowledge with others. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses the benefits of presenting at a professional conference. Learn tips on selecting an engaging topic, writing a conference proposal as well as what mistakes to avoid.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge today, I’m Bethanie Hansen. And I want to talk with you about how to write a conference proposal. As an online educator, you may be thinking, you need some professional development, and it’s a great idea to go to a conference. There are so many kinds of conferences you could attend. If there’s one locally in your area, it’s especially good to set aside the time and go attend that conference: Low cost, local area, fast access.

But something across the country or across the state, that’s a different story altogether. Now we’re talking about spending money to attend that conference. And it’s a lot easier to justify spending that money if you’re also going to be presenting at that conference. Or, if your institution is considering sponsoring you, chances are the only way they’re going to do that is if you are presenting at the conference. So how do you write a conference proposal?

Well, before we talk about that, I just want to dive into how we can tap into your genius about what you might present at a conference. First, I’ll tell you a little story about myself.

I used to go to professional development conferences as a band director in California. I would go to the State Music Educator National Conference conventions that were for the state of California. These would rotate between Sacramento and San Diego or Los Angeles, every other year. As I went to these, and I noticed others presenting on topics of interest to me, one day, I realized I had that same knowledge. A woman stood up there and shared some exercises that she used with her band and she taught us all how to use them and talked around them.

And I thought to myself, I could be the person presenting this workshop, I know that same stuff. And suddenly it dawned on me, not everybody knows what I know. And, just like me, not everybody knows what you know, either. And so, in my next step, I wrote up a proposal about what was most important to me as a band director. And, as a band director, and still, as an educator today, the very most important thing to me was recruiting and retention.

Recruiting is a whole process of giving awareness to other people, helping them to notice you notice your band program and get interested in joining it in the future. And then there’s those actions about having them join your band this year. And, all of the steps that have to do with that like getting a band instrument, convincing your parents that you should be in the band, figuring out how you’re going to get started. And all of those things that are part of joining the band, the very first year you’re thinking about it.

There’s also the recruiting at different ages. So, if your school district’s band program starts in sixth grade, maybe in seventh grade, someone has moved in from somewhere else, and they didn’t have that chance, and they still want to join band. So, there’s several different processes to recruiting. There’s even high-school level recruiting, where you might be recruiting people to twirl a flag in your marching band, or play cymbals in your percussion section, or even be a beginner on a band instrument. So, there’s a lot of levels to this and I had experience and passion for all of that.

So, I wrote that proposal. And I drafted it up for that State California conference.

And the other half is retention. Once you recruit kids into your program, or students into any class, you have to help them want to stay there. There’s this whole idea that band directors used to have all over the place where they just assumed kids would stay because band is worth doing all by itself, right? Well, that’s not the case. In fact, when kids join your band, you have to work just as hard to keep them there, as you do to get them there in the first place.

There is so much that competes for your students’ time when you’re a band director. You have to really work with them on balancing all those activities they might be in, what if they’re in sports and band at the same time or different clubs, like debate or going on field trips for academic decathlon? There’s just so much. So that topic of recruiting and retention, it’s kind of two different things that goes nicely together. And that’s what I decided I wanted to present on at a conference. So, I wrote up my proposal and I submitted it. And it was accepted. And it was my very first time presenting at a professional conference.

So, I prepared, I made my PowerPoint slides, created a packet of handouts. And I went to this conference. And this session was in a huge theater. And it was full, totally full of about 200 people. I was amazed at how many people came to that conference session that I presented. I ran out of handouts, I had to give them email copies later. But it was a huge success for me, the very first time out.

Other conferences I have presented at have had varying degrees of interest and attention. I have sometimes presented a session to five people, sometimes 35. So, even when you’re accepted to present at a conference, you can never really know exactly what you’re going to get in terms of who shows up, and what you need to deliver it with success. But what you can assume is that someone will want to hear it, even if it’s just one or two people. So, writing that proposal, I suggest thinking about number one, what you know about.

Determine Your Area of Interest to Present On

What is your area of expertise in your academic discipline? What subject matter do you really want to share something about? It could be a teaching strategy, or like my example of recruiting for band directors, it could be a problem-solving strategy. It could be some kind of community-building, like how you could use labs in your virtual science class. It could be some kind of a networking idea, how you’re going to collaborate with other teachers. And maybe you’re going to present a model of how to do that. There are so many ideas of things you are good at, that you could potentially share at a conference.

If you’re not really sure what would be appropriate for a conference, I suggest looking up the website for a conference you might consider attending and looking at last year’s topics. Many of the websites out there for conferences have a list of the topics and the titles of the presentations for the last several years. These can give you a good idea of what might be interesting to conference attendees, or what might suit the audience, generally.

One example for the online teaching space is the Online Learning Consortium. They have two conferences a year one is in the spring, and it’s called OLC Innovate. And when is in the fall, it’s called OLC Accelerate. And as of right now, at the time of this recording, they have a virtual and a live option. So, even if you could not travel to attend that conference, you could still present, even if it’s virtually.

Tips to Writing a Successful Proposal

So, as you think about the topic, there are some tips to help you get this written well and have a greater chance that your proposal will be accepted. The first one is of course to have a suitable topic, the best way to have a suitable topic for a conference, once you’ve decided on your area of interest, whether it’s a subject matter or a strategy, the best way is to think about the tracks and the topics that conference is requesting.

In the case of the OLC Accelerate conference, there are certain tracks and they are all aimed at different audiences. I’ll just give you an example of what these tracks might be, so you have an idea of the type of variety that conferences can have.

The track descriptions for OCLC Accelerate are:

  • access, equity, and open education
  • blended learning strategy and practice
  • engaged in effective teaching and learning
  • instructional design
  • leadership and institutional strategy
  • research, evaluation and learning analytics
  • student support and success
  • technology and future trends

And often there will be some big ideas that have lots of sessions connected to them. And if you can propose something to a less-popular area, where what I mean to say is where there are likely to be fewer proposals, but there is still interest in the audience that even increases your chances of getting accepted more.

So, one example would be that a lot of people at that particular conference, propose things in the category of engaged and effective teaching and learning. After all, most things we’re going to think about in online education are about the teaching and learning, right? Now, if you have something specific about the way you set up the classroom, or a method of the instructional design itself, it makes a lot more sense to tailor it to that instructional design topic, where there are fewer proposals. So, yours will be stand out and it gives you a greater likelihood of being accepted.

Now, in terms of your audience, you want to think about the types of audiences that typically attend those conferences. So, in this situation, where I mentioned one in particular, which is OLC Accelerate, the audiences range from K-12, educators, higher ed educators, to the tech people who designed the classroom itself, you might have instructional designers, tech support, all kinds of people who are really good at focusing on the way the classroom is set up.

There’s a whole audience that is interested in alternative or accessibility strategies. So, if you have a really good handle on universal design for learning, or accommodation strategies for diverse learners, then you could tailor your proposal to that angle. If you are in leadership, or you think your idea is great for an institutional-level strategy, or the leadership team over an organization, then you might tailor your presentation to that. And, if you really want to stretch, you could have a topic that you tailor one way for the leadership group, and a totally different way for the instructional design group and that would give you two different proposals.

Determine the Type of Presentation to Create

Now, as you’re fleshing out your topic, you also want to think about what kind of presentation it’s going to be. And those kinds of presentations vary, there are the virtual poster sessions where you create some slides, they play automatically, and a person watches it like a mini-web presentation. There’s also the education session, which is like your typical lecture style presentation. There are short workshops that are hands on where you expect people to bring a device and play along with you. There are gamified sessions. And there are larger workshops, which would be 90 minutes to 2 hours in length. So, if your topic takes more than just that 45-minute window, maybe it has a Part A and Part B or something that builds on that initial stuff, then you’re going to propose it as a larger workshop.

Proposal Writing Tips

As you write up your proposal, some interesting things that stand out are to have a creative title that conveys exactly what it’s about; to have an abstract that tells participants what they would walk away with if they attended this session. And then in the deeper part of your proposal, where you really flesh out what it’s about, what you will do, and how you will engage the audience that comes to be part of this presentation, two helpful tips seem to work all the time.

One is to use references. Support your approach with some scholarly research and some sources that do support your idea. This adds credibility to what you’re submitting.

And second, detail exactly what participants will leave with at the end of the session. Is it an idea? Is it curiosity? Is it a handout? Is it a template? Whatever it is, your participants will be able to leave with, make it very clear, explain it. And, if appropriate during the proposal process, even include a copy.

Most proposals are intended to be entirely anonymous, and you would need to leave your name off of them. You should not mention your school or your institution. And you want to look over these to make sure they are grammatically correct and well written. I know that seems to go without saying, but I’ve been a reviewer for conference proposals myself for many years now. And, every once in a while, I’ll see one where the person just forgot to use spellcheck and forgot to use the right punctuation, like maybe they dictated it and didn’t check it afterwards. So, be sure to check those things because at the very least, you want it to look and sound professional when you submit it.

And then submit it before the deadline, turn everything in that you need to do and then you wait and you’ll hear back at whatever time they tell you you’ll hear back. I always put that date on my calendar so I can check and find out whether something has been accepted. And the more you practice it this, the more likely you are to get presentations accepted to present at conferences.

Then your next steps would be to plan the presentation around your audience so they definitely get out of it what do you say they’re going to get out of it. One of the biggest mistakes is to prepare a proposal, get accepted, show up, and then present on something different than what you said you were going to present. I’ve sat through presentations like that myself, and perhaps you have also, where we’re sitting there thinking we’re going to learn something, and we never get that out of that session. And it seems to be a huge disappointment. Like, why did we sit through that if we were not going to get what we came for? So, addressing the topics that you say you’re going to address is a really important part of this when you come full circle and actually give the presentation.

The bottom line of all of this is that you have a lot of expertise, you know a lot, and you have areas that you can share with other people who are just learning. It’s time to get up and present those things and share them with your professional community. I want to encourage you to do that. And if you’re listening to this around the time of the recording where this podcast is produced, there are proposals right now being accepted for the OLC Innovate conference coming up in the Spring of 2023. And I would encourage you to submit a proposal to that, and stretch, figure out what you can share with the online community.

And if you’re listening to this later, after the initial publication, you can just check the OLC’s website to see when the next conference is coming and when the next set of proposals will be accepted. I want to encourage you to grow and stretch and share because that’s what helps us to stay motivated and keep learning ourselves. I wish you all the best in writing up your proposal and submitting it this coming month or even this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#128: What Fuels You as an Educator?

#128: What Fuels You as an Educator?

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

What motivates you to keep teaching? In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses tools to assess your true drive and how to track the impact you’re having as an educator.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the podcast. Today, I want to talk about some motivation we have to show up for work, why we’re in this game of teaching in the first place. And that question on my mind is, “What fuels you?”

What is it that motivates you to keep teaching, to reach out to help other people? They’ve studied this out. And the research tells us that there are a lot of different orientations we have, to come to teaching. On a practical level, that’s really nice and kind of helpful to figure out about yourself.

If you’re interested in the direction that you’re going with teaching, the Teaching Perspectives Inventory is an awesome tool to assess what your main driver really is, and whether or not you’re actually doing it. The teaching perspectives inventory is one way to see your primary motivation and the comparison between reality and fantasy. So, check it out.

Some people will be the apprenticeship type, some will be the social change type, and there are several others. I’m not an expert in the TPI, but I do know that this was the first thing that opened my awareness to the fact that we are not all educators for the same reasons. Some people are educators for reasons that really light their fire. And it makes them happy and excited to just do what they do. And some people are not as excited about the job that they do but the fact that they get to be with people.

Sometimes people are much more excited about just being involved in that subject area. Like maybe you teach geology and you just love rocks, you just love the mountains and all the different rock formations and everything you can talk about with rocks. If you get to talk about it all day long when you’re teaching, that’s going to bring you that joy and excitement, right?

As a musician myself and a creative, I really love teaching music. I especially loved teaching live music classes, when I was a band teacher, or when I was leading some choir group. It would be so much fun to take something that was very rough, and help people put it together until it was just absolutely beautiful and totally expressive. To me, that was so much fun.

But it was nothing compared to seeing the people that I was working with transform as human beings. And there’s a phrase that I like to bring into my role as an educator. And strangely, it comes from Napoleon Bonaparte. And I didn’t ever know until I looked it up who initially said this phrase. But the phrase is, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” That is so interesting to me. So not only is an educator a leader, by being an online educator, you’re out there creating new things. Helping people into whatever field it is. Helping them learn and grow and transform, and you’re also just leading the future.

So, a leader is a dealer in hope. And that is something we all have that we can do as educators. And hope is absolutely essential to a happy life, or a high-quality life. Hope is that idea that there is something better in the future. We can get through the tough times, because they won’t always be tough. We can look forward and we can look to what will be that hasn’t come to pass yet.

The leader’s hope really comes from the belief that a goal is attainable. We can teach people something new; we can help them to learn, grow and transform. It gives you the strength to take yourself through the tough times. It also helps you to use your own personal creativity. And to think more about ideas that have you stuck, too. You wrestle with them and come up with new possibilities.

And hope also brings the ability to be resilient, which means to get through the tough times, to bounce back, to keep going. When we face uncertain times in our life like the world we’re living in now, we need more inspiration. We need more creativity. And we need more resilience to get through and keep going. And hope can bring us all of those things.

So as a leader, as an educator, we are dealers of hope. We bring hope, we talk about hope. And we provide a frame of reference so others can have hope too. Beyond that, what is it that really does motivate you to teach? What is it that brings you into the arena every single day, to do what you do? If we can pause and just capture that, the fuel behind what you do every day, then we can make sure you have it in your life every day. We can actually be intentional about doing the kinds of things that are going to put that in its proper place.

One of the things that fuels me is the people and the joy of connecting with other people, but also wrestling with things and creating something that is transformed. It could be that we’re wrestling with a problem, a program, or trying to develop a musical number we’re going to polish and perform. It could be anything like that. But that wrestle and the transformative experience, and then the product at the end. That is such a beautiful bright spot in my life. And I look for that all the time when I’m an educator doing my educator thing.

What is it that you look for? Take a moment to just jot down some ideas for yourself. And if you have a reflective journal, this is a great idea to write about today. What is it that you deal in? As an educator primarily, we deal in hope. But what else? What is it for you?

Think about the last week of your life as an educator, just the last seven days. If you’re teaching a class right now, what is it that happened during your day that brought you a ray of sunshine, or made you feel really excited or look forward to doing it again? Whatever that is, I would write that down in your reflective journal. This is going to be a clue of the big picture ideas you need to be pursuing so that you have more satisfaction in your role and more happiness in your job.

One of the things I love most about that, wrestling with problems, is collaborating with other people. And right now, in my current role, I do a lot of collaborating with other educators, with colleagues and peers and leaders of all levels. And we might end the day with a conversation where we’re talking about something that is a challenge we’re working on. I love focusing on some of the wins of the past week. So often, I’ll try to choose a conversation for the end of the day that will bring a spark or a light into that day and end the day really well.

That way, in my own role as an educator, no matter what challenges I’m facing during the day, I’m going to end the day in a way that really leaves me feeling great and having a sense of control over what I’m doing. After all, there is so little we can truly control in our world. And in our lives, we can control the attitude we have. And a great way to do that is to put people in your path that you know you can be positive with or who will celebrate with you, or who are willing to look at the hope and the bright side of things. So if you’re interested in that, that could be a way to end your day as well.

What else brings you a fuel for what you’re doing? What gets you through those hard times and helps you persevere, when things seem really, really difficult? It’s very easy to notice all that’s going wrong, we could list five things that are going wrong right now. But what’s going right for you?

If this is a bit of a struggle, and it’s difficult to know what lights your fire, I’d like to suggest one activity you could try every day for the next week. And pretty soon you’re going to be able to identify those things that do bring you a sense of satisfaction in your work. And then you’ll notice what really lights your fire, not just satisfaction, you’ll get to that next level of being really excited about what you do. This activity is to write three good things that are happening or did happen.

At the end of every day, schedule five minutes, just take a notepad and write down three good things. After you do that for a couple of days, turn them into three good things that you did. Things where you had an impact, where you contributed your strengths or your talents. Something where you had autonomy, or you benefited by collaborating with somebody else. Whatever it is, you want three distinctly different things every single day for one week.

And then at the end of the week, look back for patterns. What similarities do you see? Are there similar activities that were good in your opinion? Did these things bring you hope, satisfaction, happiness? Help you feel glad that you are doing the career field you’re in? Whatever you see in those patterns, you can then decide how to get more of that in your daily work. And that’s going to continue to light your fire.

As you think about what fuels you as an educator, and what really brings you excitement in your day and passion to your work, there are some things we can do to help light the fire of other people around us. This is especially important if we have friends, family members, peers and colleagues who are struggling to feel like the work they do makes a difference.

The first thing we can do to inspire hope in other people and light their fire is to show that we love and care for them. That could be we’re just listening, we’re just being there being present, just spending the time. Everyone needs to feel that they are important, and that others will listen to them and just care for them. So demonstrating the love and care we have for others can be a real bright spot that lights the fire.

Second, remember that everyone deserves happiness. And there are some simple things we can do to inspire happiness. While we may not be able to make anyone feel an emotion, we can definitely invite happiness through the things we do. Sometimes it’s through a thank you note, sometimes a phone call, there are a lot of things that can bring happiness. And if you think about what the person in your life might be most interested in, you can act on that and generate a little more happiness.

A third thing we can do is to help the other person figure out what lights their fire and motivates them most. And this could be a lot of talking about the past, what brought them excitement in the past, why they entered the teaching profession, what they have loved. Sometimes in courses they have taught in times when they’ve had a good experience professionally, or with students, happy memories they have during their career.

There are a lot of ways to get at that and really identify what someone’s passion is in their professional area. And if it’s really, really challenging for a person to get up to the space of finding that, we could also look at recreational interests and life areas, and find something that brings joy, excitement, passion, enthusiasm and happiness for that person. Simply having the conversation and exploring that with someone else can also demonstrate that love and care that was the beginning of this list. Anytime we spread that hope in others, and light the fire for them by identifying what they care most about, that will just bring more of the good that we’re trying to put out there in the world by being educators, teaching others and lifting them to the next level of whatever their career field is, or whatever their professional goal is or their personal development goal. So the more we help other people figure out what lights their fire, the more we’re generating a lot of that.

Alright, so think about what lights your fire. Notice it over the next week, and see if you can share and inspire others to do the same. And of course, I would love to hear from you and hear how you’ve made this a reality in your life and in your work. Go ahead and visit BethanieHansen.com/request, and you can share your comments there. And any tips and strategies you have in this particular area would be wonderful. We can share them with other educators in a future episode. Take care of yourself this coming week and enjoy your students. Now we’re wishing you all the best in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#125: Three Steps to a Great Online Teaching Routine

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Teaching online can be time consuming and seep into instructors’ personal time. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides insight into how to plan a strong work routine. Learn about the importance of surveying your workload ahead of time, writing it down and tracking it, and reflecting and adapting to improve your time management.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Thank you for joining me here today on the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m very excited to share with you some ideas to help you plan your online teaching routine. If you’ve taught online before, you already know this can expand to fill every inch of available time. It can become something that takes more and more time all the time, because there is so much more we can do when we’re working online.

The other reason this can expand to fill all of our space is that when we teach online, many times we succumb to interruptions and diversions and other courses of action. So, we might be in the middle of writing discussion responses to our students when a child comes in and wants our attention. So, we’ll get up and go attend to that. And then a lot of time has passed. And when we get back in the room to do more of our online teaching, we’ve lost our train of thought. We have to back up and get started all over again. Examples like this, and many others, are very much reality for all of us who teach online.

Even though my children are fully grown, and they’re not going to walk into the room and ask for my attention while I’m teaching, I do know exactly what it’s like because I’ve been there. And in my experience, planning ahead and sticking to that plan can help everyone function better while you’re an online educator, and expect when you’ll be free, and spend time with you later.

So, today, I’m going to share three tips with you for some good planning of your routine when you’re teaching and working online. And those are to survey ahead of time, write it down, and reflect and adapt, no matter what.

Survey Your Activities and Needs

So, we start out with surveying, and surveying is simply looking ahead to see what our tasks are going to be and how long they’re going to take. I know, we don’t always know exactly how much time it’s going to take. But we can give it our best guesstimate.

For example, if we’re going to grade papers, and we have some kind of estimate about how long it takes to grade an essay, then we can look at how many papers we could logically expect to grade that week and divide it up over how much time. And pretty soon, we know exactly how much time we need to spend.

Perhaps we’re going to plan ahead to do it all in one day. Or we’re going to break it up to do over several days. But it involves surveying and looking ahead in a way that I’ve heard of called pragmatic prospection. I know, that’s a little bit of a mouthful. But pragmatic prospection is about being practical. And looking ahead.

The pragmatic part is, “What’s it really going to look like?” Am I really going to read a lot of messages from students? Am I going to answer a lot of questions? Will I need to make some kind of asset, like a video or a handout to post in my class? Will I have a lot of things to grade? How much do I expect to engage in that discussion?

And as I’m looking pragmatically about the realities of my particular online course, I’m also looking ahead. That’s the prospection part. I’m thinking, “What do I want that to look like?”

What does the quality of my comment need to be? What do I really want to invest for it to be good quality, but not take up more and more and more time? So, as you’re looking ahead, you can start to envision what the workload is going to look like, what you’re going to need to do, and what the rest of your life will be like when you’re teaching that online course.

As part of doing this habit of surveying, or looking ahead to the different types of tasks and the time it’s going to take, don’t forget to include all of the things that you do outside of work. So, we’re going to look at the online teaching first and write it down and think about it. And then we’re going to look at the rest of our life.

If there’s some kind of family obligation happening, I want to be able to plan for that. And so, I want to set aside the time for those things as well. And maybe I need to prepare for that by going shopping or calling some of my relatives, getting some of that done. So, I’m surveying all that I need to do. And I’m thinking ahead. I might also be surveying what it’s going to look like when I’m doing some grocery shopping, if that falls on me this week, and if I’m doing any household chores, and how much rest I want, and all of those sorts of things.

So, the survey is kind of like an overview, where I’m just thinking through my day, and my week, and I’m thinking about what it needs to look like, what it’s got to include, and where I want to be at the end of the week.

Write it Down and Schedule Your Time

Step two is to write it all down. Now after I’ve taken the initial survey, I’m going to start writing down the actual plan.

When we’re taking the time to write things down that we’re working on, like a calendaring habit or a schedule for online teaching, the goal is to realistically write down exactly what is expected to happen. And, yes, that might be painstakingly writing every 15 to 20 minutes of activity, and then tracking it while you’re doing it. So, not only will you write down what you expect to do, you want to make little notes about when you had to modify, spend more time than expected, or spend less.

Writing it down is going to help you realize how much time you actually spend in your online teaching. And that will also help you know if you are over anticipating how much time it will spend, or under budgeting the time. Writing it down could be every single day for a week, and then reassess. Or it could be every day for an ongoing duration. You have to decide what will work best for you in terms of tracking this, but the goal is that once you write it down ahead of time, that you stick with that schedule, no matter what.

I don’t know about you, but many times in my experience, I will sit down and think about grading some essays. And sometimes my mind will just be not very focused for grading essays. And I’ll think, “You know, I’m going to do something else. And I’ll come back to this in a little while when I’m a little bit more focused for that.”

And in doing this plan, the way I’m suggesting today, surveying ahead of time, writing it down, scheduling your time in advance, and then reflecting afterwards, we have to stick to that plan to know if it’s going to work. So, if I’m going to approach it from a mindset of not really being focused and wanting to delay the work that I’ve planned for myself, I’m going to have to do something to get myself in a mental frame of mind to do the work, not just when I’m in the mood to do the work.

So, if that’s your experience, I want to suggest thinking about a time when you were focused on doing that work, and figuring out what it’s going to take to get your brain back in gear in the moment that you need to do it now. So, whatever it takes to help you reframe your mental energy, and your focus and concentration, you can kind of play with that and try a lot of different approaches to help yourself get back in the game, and do the thing that you wrote down that you would do.

Reflect on Your Time, and Adapt as Needed

And then step three, this is reflect and adapt. Looking back on the week, we’re going to look over what worked and what didn’t work. Were there some things that took a lot of mental energy that were hard to do late in the day? Do they need to be scheduled earlier in the day? Did something take a lot longer and need to be scheduled for a longer duration with breaks in the middle?

As you’re reflecting on what works and what didn’t work in planning your routine, you’re going to get better and better at planning your online teaching routine. Reflection isn’t just about what didn’t work, it’s also about what did work. If you notice that certain tasks go really well together, make a note of that, and notice it so that you can plan it ahead and do it again next time.

Adapting means that you’re going to take the plans you made this week, and you’re going to change them a little bit based on what your reflection has turned up. If, when you’re reflecting, you happen to notice that something was really hard to do at a certain time of day, adapting would mean you’re going to do it differently next time.

And maybe instead of a specific task, and maybe you want to give yourself a choice between two certain tasks at one time of day and the same two tasks later in the day. Whichever one seems most challenging, do it first when your mental energy is at its best. And then you can come to the easier one later when that same window of time comes around.

As you’re reflecting, celebrate some of the growth and achievement that you’ve attained. If grading essays or posting in discussions is particularly troublesome for you, if it takes a lot of time and energy, but you were able to get it a little faster, or streamline it a little bit, maybe you could celebrate that success and notice what’s going really well.

And then the other thing to celebrate is if you really did make yourself stick to the plan you made. When you write your schedule and you stick to it no matter what, even if you’re not in the mood, you can celebrate that afterward because you pushed through that mental challenge or that energy-level challenge.

Another tip about all three of these things, surveying, writing it down, reflecting and adapting. These steps can be used with family members, if you have family members living in the home with you. You could share your planned schedule and ask for their input. Is there anything that they suggest adding to your work schedule that maybe you didn’t notice that you spend time on? Or is there something in your family and personal life that they’d like to make sure goes on your calendar at a certain day and time?

All of those suggestions and ideas can be really useful to you in getting a very realistic sense of what your routine should be like when you’re working and teaching online. And, of course, when you’re reflecting on the week and deciding what did work for you, you can also run that by family members, or those people that live with you, and ask them for input in that case as well. Maybe they will have noticed that certain things worked really well and certain things need to change.

Anytime you write up a schedule, and you’re really trying to stick to it, it also helps to post that schedule, so other people know exactly what to expect and when you’re going to be available. If they want to spend time with you in the middle of the day and they’re used to interrupting you, but now you’re going to take a break at a certain set time, they’re more likely to leave you alone until that time, when they know when it’s coming up and what exactly they can expect. So, share that information with your family members or people who live with you.

And I say “people who live with you” because not everyone is living with a spouse and children. Some of you may have roommates. Or you may live with other extended family members, whoever is important to you in your life. Include them in your planning, and the survey of all that is involved in your online teaching time, and all the things that are important in your life outside of that. And get their help when you’re reflecting. The more eyes you get on your plan, the more refined it’s going to be. And the better it’ll be.

Wrapping it up today, I want to just share my own experience planning the routine and sticking to it. Whenever I do this, and I share it with my family members, it’s so much easier for me to have a rewarding life, in my workday and outside of it. My family members are ready to spend time with me and really excited to see me at the end of the day. And also, they know what they can expect when I’m working. And they know what my schedule is. It’s super helpful to me to plan it ahead of time and also to communicate out.

And, on the flip side, when I failed to do that, and I’m trying to get it going, I might start and stop two or three different tasks without completing any of them. If I’m not aware of what I need to do and what my timeline is. And pretty soon my work is going to fill up all of the available time, including the family time after work. So, I know firsthand from experience how important it is to plan and keep track of the time spent.

It can also help me feel really great about all that I accomplished during the workday and realize that I really did get a lot done, and I contributed to my students and all of the other people that I’m working with. I hope you’ll try this out, doing the survey, writing it down, then reflecting and adapting and see what works for you. Let’s get some input. There’s a form on bethaniehansen.com/request where you can share your experience and let us know what works in terms of scheduling your online teaching, and what doesn’t. Stop by and give us a note.

If this podcast has been valuable to you, and you enjoy what you hear, share it with your colleagues. We would love to extend our audience and also help other people teach well online. There’s so much we can do to improve our practice and make this a better experience for everyone. Thanks again for being here and best wishes in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#122: Find Your “Why”: What Drove You to be an Educator?

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

What motivated you to be an educator in the first place? How do you find meaning in your life and work? In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides guidance on how to identify your “why” and how that information can help you get through challenging times.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the online teaching lounge today, I’m glad you’re with me. And, likely, you have an interest in teaching online, or perhaps you’ve been doing it a very long time. Either way, this podcast is typically targeted or focused on those of you who are out there doing the good work of teaching online.

This can be a very challenging profession and professional endeavor. And it can sometimes be just downright discouraging. There are times where we have to really pick ourselves up and push hard to get through the toughest times in online teaching. And if you’ve been doing this very long, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, today we’re going to talk about what fuels you. Or in other words, what is your “why” behind what you’re doing, as you’re teaching online?

The more clarity and the more direction we can get around the why behind what we’re doing, the easier it’s going to be to continuously push through those tougher times that tend to discourage or be disheartening to us all as we’re teaching online.

What kind of things might come along that could put us in a funk or in a space where we need that connection with our why behind what we’re doing? Really, it could be anything. It could be some kind of outside situation in the world, something happening, clear across the world that, for some reason, really impacts us personally, or for which we emotionally feel quite invested in.

It could be something in the organization for which we teach, maybe things are becoming difficult in that organization. Or we might be suffering from lack of resources, lack of time, overwork, overburdened workloads, lots of different things can create stress in the work situation that we have.

Maybe we teach for more than one institution, and we’re struggling to balance deadlines, timelines, the deliverables we need to turn in, or all that work we need to grade for our students.

Or, maybe it’s something totally personal. Some of the things that impact us personally could be our own health, our mental, physical or emotional health, our ability to connect with other people, or the frequency of connecting with others to enrich ourselves. Maybe we’re feeling lonely, isolated, detached from those around us. Other things that could happen might be in our home situation or our relationships. Maybe we’re struggling with a child that’s having challenges or a spouse.

Whatever it is, there are so many reasons why it’s powerful and useful to find the why behind everything we’re doing in our online work. So today, think about what led you to become an educator, first of all, and let’s start with all those things that easily pop into your mind.

What Drove You to be an Educator?

For example, did you ever have an educator that you really admired? Did you have one that inspired you or made you feel like you really belonged? If you can think about an educator who promoted your value as a human being and really pushed you to become who you are today, perhaps you became an educator so you could give back or so you could be like that person. Think about that initial start that got you into teaching.

Maybe it’s the subject matter. Maybe it wasn’t a person at all, but more the topics, the interest, the path you took through college studying this stuff? Is there a bigger meaning behind all of that that really drives your passion to teach it to other people?

Is it the ability you have to make an impact? Do you see the value of your teaching on other people easily? Are you able to notice what they can glean from you? The somewhat-apprentice learning they get from you? The way they’re nurtured by you? Are you able to help people feel connected, like they have purpose and they have belonging? Let’s start thinking about all those deeper meaning type of feelings that we have about what we do.

How Do You Find Meaning?

There’s a man named Viktor Frankl who is well known for his philosophies that came out of his experience living in the concentration camp for a time. And he created this theory that we really gain meaning from three different things. We’re going to get meaning in life through our work, through love and through suffering. And sometimes the work we do every day when we’re teaching, whether we’re teaching face to face, or we’re teaching online, that work brings us a sense of meaning, like, we’re just contributing to the world.

We’re putting good out there, we’re giving every day, and we have the ability to get meaning from that very thing we’re doing. If you’re in that group, you’re not alone, a lot of people, their why is the work. You can lose yourself in the work, you can feel a great purpose in the work. And daily, if you get out of bed excited about doing the work, it’s very likely that the work of teaching itself really excites you, and you get meaning in life from this endeavor.

This idea of getting meaning in life through love. Now, this is the idea of those cherished personal relationships that are closest to you, the deep love that you have for others, and the way you want to be with them, and build relationships with them and connect with them. Is there something about your students that really brings out your love for humanity, for individuals, for other people? Do you feel this deeper feeling for them that drives your work? Is the meaning that you’re getting in your educating coming from that love?

And lastly, through suffering. Many times, if we suffer some very difficult thing, it could be an illness, or an accident or tragedy or any kind of external or internal suffering, there can be this constructed meaning through the suffering. One can decide to turn that suffering into transformative development and growth, and really find deep purpose and meaning in that suffering.

Sometimes in our online teaching work, we might be motivated through the work itself. And maybe at other times through the love. This last year, when our institution had its large graduation exercise, there were hundreds, even thousands of people there. And it would be very easy to connect to the students there, face to face and feel love for them, especially if you taught them in several courses over time. It’s also very easy to feel connected to this work by loving colleagues, really feeling like those relationships have developed over years. And there’s a deep love and respect for those that one works with.

And then, of course, there are those hard times where things just all come together into a horrible crucible of suffering. And it could be the late nights struggling through teaching a tough concept, grading hundreds of essays, and just pushing through when there are other things competing for our time as well. Or it could be even beyond that—the personal challenges, the health challenges, the world challenges, and all the suffering involved with those things.

So, looking at all three of those ways people find meaning in life and in work. What resonates most with you today? What seems to light your fire? What brings the why into what you do? Why did you decide to be an educator? And why do you keep doing it?

It might be easy to say, “Well, I do it because it’s a paycheck. Well, I have student loans, and I do it because I need to pay them off.” Or “I do it because, well that’s the job I have, or because I work here.” If any of those ideas come into your mind, I want to encourage you to just set them aside temporarily. Those are important ideas and worth thinking about. If we take it to a little bit of a deeper level, what beyond that keeps you showing up every day? Because you could work anywhere.

With your brain capacity, experience, intelligence and educational background, you could get a job anywhere, but you work where you work, doing what you do with your gifts, talents, attributes, and the ability to make your unique contribution. Why is it that you’re doing it?

What is it that you love about it, or that you get out of doing that? What motivates you to be there?

I encourage you to find a place where you can brainstorm these ideas, write them down and list everything that comes to mind. You’re not going to show it to anyone else. And it’s okay if some of the things that come out are things that you wouldn’t be proud to share. Like if you don’t really want to tell anyone that the main reason you do what you do is for the money. It’s okay to write it down. You don’t have to share it. It’s your business. But write all the different reasons why you’re doing online teaching.

Some people like this because they can reach a lot of people all over the world and really engage with many different cultures and people from different backgrounds and learn as well as teach at the same time. And some people do it for convenience, they could teach face to face, but they like the flexibility that comes from teaching online. Whatever comes to your mind, write it all, make a huge list—some people call this a “brain dump”—and sort it all out.

And once you’ve written down all the different reasons why you do what you do teaching online, sort them into different levels. So, we have the very practical, basic “why.” Maybe because it’s flexible, maybe because it brings us a good paycheck, or whatever that is.

And then start to look for those things that you might have listed, that go to a slightly higher level or a deeper level of thinking for you. Maybe you have a connection to your students that you can’t get any other way. Maybe you feel a huge reward in certain types of situations, when you’re teaching online. Whatever that is, let’s sort them into kind of levels to see what, ultimately, is your biggest “why.”

Does it really boil down to the practical arrangement? Does it hit your deeper level of getting the meaning through the work itself or through the love you have? Or through the suffering that it might involve?

And then we’ll take this one step further. Once you’ve made your list that creates your why behind what you do, what kinds of words and language do you use when you talk about your online teaching? “I have to go do this.” “Well, I’m late again.” I mean, things like this, do they come out?

Or is it, “I get to go do this,” “I’m really fortunate to have this opportunity” and “I can’t wait to get back in that classroom”? The words we use can actually create meaning all by themselves for our thinking and for our brains. So, if we’re constantly saying things in somewhat a negative, pressured light, like a “have to,” that starts to make us feel like the meaning is very superficial, or maybe it’s less than it really is.

And if we use words that empower us to find that sense of meaning through what we’re doing, then as we go to the work, it gives us this subconscious desire to get that meaning out of it, to have a deeper purpose behind what we do.

I have thought about this a lot. I have a son who works in restoration work. And in his company, he goes into people’s basements when they’ve had a flood or some kind of disaster that has destroyed part of their home. And he is part of the crew that initially arrives when they’ve had this disaster and tears up and mucks out and cleans out whatever has overflowed or exploded or erupted underneath their home.

Sometimes it’s a very disgusting job that most people would not want to do, especially when something like a sewer has backed up. And when I was speaking to my son about what he does, and asking him why he does this job, he had a really positive why behind it.

He said, he works with people in their most desperate hour, in some pretty devastating circumstances through which they are suffering, and they can’t see a way out. And he is there, superhero in his way, able to completely block it off, make it a sterile environment, clean it out, tear it out and refresh it so that they can have the new materials put in and have their house back into a livable condition, even better than it was before. And, in this way, it is like being a superhero, saving people in their darkest hour.

As he thinks about his why, of course, there are some pretty bad experiences that he’s going to have in that job. The dirty work of restoration before it’s time to do the restoration itself, getting rid of the old stuff that’s there. That’s the hardest part. So, I admire that why, and I’m sure it comes in handy a lot of times when he’s thinking about the hard parts of the job.

Just like that job, as online educators we have wonderful things we can do for people meeting them wherever they are and helping them become educated when they might not otherwise have access to this kind of opportunity.

And during the hard times, if we can create a few statements like my son did about his restoration work and remind ourselves of those things when we are in our toughest moments, knowing the why behind what we do for our own selves and our own work will empower us and help us more than anyone else ever could. I hope you’ll think about your why and take it home today and write up a few statements that help you remember it.

Keep it in a place you can look at it often. And enjoy being the online educator that you are, through the hard times and through the good times.

Thank you for being here. We’re all in this together getting through the profession we have of being online educators. I wish you all the best and hope that you feel uplifted this week. And I wish you all the best in your teaching this coming week as well.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best switches this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#116: Online Classroom Management: Boss or Leader?

This content first appeared on APUEdge.Com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Do you manage the classroom like a boss or leader? In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares the difference between being a boss and a leader. Learn how being a leader can help develop students, drive motivation and inspire students to success.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the podcast. This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen your host, and I’m very excited to meet with you today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We are on an episode today that will really help you connect to the business world a little bit, which is a stretch for those of us who see through the lens of higher education and education in general. We’re going to talk about what would happen if you handled classroom management in your online class as a boss, or a leader.

Using a “Boss” Approach to Managing the Classroom

These two terms come together quite a bit when we’re managing people in any business setting. The idea of managing your environment like a boss means that you drive your employees, you’re pushing them to achieve the goal. Some people consider that a boss uses employees as resources to meet the demand of whatever the situation requires. Also, a boss may be dictatorial or commanding.

This is kind of like seeing the leadership or the direction coming from the top. It’s a top-down approach. This person who’s the boss is going to tell you what needs to be done by when and it’s your job to step up and comply.

Often a boss depends on their authority for your listening. So, the fact that they have the title and they have the authority in that position means that they’re in charge and it’s just part of your job to listen to them. And then bosses sometimes are known for managing people at the micro level, we call that micromanagement. It means that there might be a lot of follow up and a lot of checking on your work, and really making sure that you get it done.

There is sometimes a sense that a boss might generate fear through this commanding presence. And this demand for results. I might be sounding a little negative here; what I’m saying to portray a boss versus a leader, but the boss is more the manager. In this role, we’re demanding respect. And sometimes people experience this and on the other end, they’re feeling a little bit inferior when they’re led by a boss versus a leader.

So, that image of a boss can sometimes be the way that teachers come across in a classroom. After all, the old model of the lecture up front, giving all of their knowledge to students and filling that vessel that needs to be filled, is sort of like the idea of being a boss.

If we think about our students more as people that come to us with existing information and knowledge that we want to connect to, then we may be less inclined to the boss model. And there’s a lot of ways to connect to what our students already know, who they already are. They’re certainly not completely empty vessels to be filled. That’s not really a helpful analogy for today’s student, or any student for that matter.

But the boss idea is really that we are in charge of that classroom, we’re going to tell students what to do, how to do it, when to turn things in, and how to get an A in this class, or a B or whatever. And we are going to be that ultimate authority. And we’re going to make sure students know it. And we’re going to reinforce that through our communication, through our approach to the deadlines and the grading, and we’re going to kind of use that approach throughout the entire class experience. If you’ve ever had an instructor that taught their class like a boss, then maybe some of this relates for you. Maybe it sounds familiar.

This kind of teaching approach can work for people. I had an elementary school teacher myself who was very much a boss. And in that class, students were assigned 15-minute increments of after-school detention for missing little infractions in their work. So, if you didn’t write your last name, your first and your last name, so if your last name was missing on the paper, you got 15 minutes of detention after school. If you did not finish one of the items on the paper, another 15 minutes, if you were talking when you should not be talking in class. So, each of these things was stacked up and I believe that this teacher hoped that by doing this, she would help us improve our self-discipline and eventually eliminate the problems we were having and be more conscientious and stop getting detention.

I didn’t find that a very healthy approach for me, because for some reason, I often got a lot of detention in that class, I missed a thing here or there. And it was overwhelming to have a teacher who approached that classroom like a boss. So, again, if you’ve had that experience, you can understand the approach. If you haven’t, I want you to just imagine a boss managing a classroom who’s very commanding, authoritative and direction oriented.

Using a Leadership Approach in the Classroom

Now, we’re going to slip to the other side and look at the leader view. Now, if we didn’t just approach it, like a boss or manager, but we took that business leader mindset into the online classroom, what would that look like?

Well, leaders are often described as inspiring and leading employees, or, in this case, students to manage themselves from within, instead of being driven or pushed from the outside, the person might be a little bit ahead of the student or the employee, and be encouraging them to come along. The leader brings others with them. One of the things that a leader loves doing, or tries to do all the time, is develop the employees, help them build their capabilities, increase their capacity, and believe in their own ability to do what is being asked.

So, developing employees and developing students means that the student might come into the classroom thinking, they’re not sure they can do this, they might be filled with a lot of self-doubt, and worry. And through their work with that teacher, as a leader, that teacher is going to help them develop the capacity to persevere, maybe a skill set to get through that subject matter. They might even get a little coaching, through the teaching approach that helps them to know how to prepare for the next test, how to manage their time a little better, and how to chunk things a little bit so they’re not so overwhelming. There’s a lot that a teacher as a leader can do to help those students just like a business leader helps employees to manage themselves and develop.

Another interesting thing a leader does is invite or ask others to do things where the boss might command or direct people, the leader asks and invites. I’ve seen some instructors who have taught their online classes in a very inviting way. They are encouraging, they treat their students like equals, and they just encourage them to try things. And when given that kind of approach, a lot of students respond very well.

They’re willing to take risks, they’re willing to try new things, and get outside their comfort zone, to risk, to learn something new. And we know that psychological safety in the online classroom requires a lot of risk. And we’re going to try discussing things, maybe terms we’re not familiar with. And we’re going to risk looking bad or looking ignorant, but we’ve got to get out there and we’ve got to start discussing it in the discussion, or turning in a paper that we’ve written about it. So, the more we ask and invite our students, from a leader perspective, the more we’re going to get a response.

And a lot of times students are going to begin driving themselves from within, instead of being driven like a boss from outside. Another thing that we have from the leader perspective, is that the leadership of the individual depends on a sense of goodwill with those people they’re working with, where the boss depends on the authority of their role.

I think there have been a few times where I’ve spoken with online students that are talking about other instructors. And the students have said they really loved a certain faculty member because they were inviting, they were kind, they were encouraging, and they treated their students with respect.

In contrary situations, I’ve occasionally heard a student complaint about a faculty member who was less than kind to their students, perhaps overly critical rather than helpful. And, at times, students perceive that as a lack of goodwill, it’s more authority-based and a little less helpful in the students’ viewpoint.

So, when you think about having goodwill between you and your students, that can be a leader trait and much more directional for the student. Another thing a leader would do instead of a boss is earning respect, instead of generating fear. Again, anything we can do within our students to invite them to move forward and be self-motivated is going to be helpful.

Earning their respect means that we are consistent. We treat them with respect. We are in the online classroom regularly when we say we will be, and we let our students know what to expect, like a timeline of when to get grading back, when their questions can be answered, and all sorts of other things. We earn their respect by the way we treat them and the way we behave. We also make people feel valued.

Where business leaders make their employees feel valued, educational leaders make their students feel valued. Perhaps they’ve shared something in a discussion, and we’re referring back to them by name to draw on that expertise that was shared. Or maybe we give a gentle nudge in the new direction, if a student needs correction, because they’re way off base. Whatever it is we’re doing, we’re making that human being feel important and valued, while we’re guiding the ideas. And, lastly, we trust that our students will perform their work well, we expect them to succeed, and we believe that they can.

So, when we give our students trust, and we assume the best intent, the positive intent from our students, just like a business leader, we’re going to get trust in return and our students are going to meet our expectations the best they possibly can.

When we approach it like a boss, instead, we might have a lot of doubt about our students, we might believe that they don’t have good intents or that they want to do the minimum amount or maybe even use unoriginal content in their writing.

Whatever we assume about students will come through in the way we treat them and the way we speak to them. So, if we are going to approach like a business leader, instead of like a boss, we want to trust that the students will perform their jobs well in the classroom, just like a business leader trusts their employees will perform well.

This comparison between a boss and a leader in the world of business, just like in education, is pretty striking. I think I can find more than just a handful of teachers I experienced who were true leaders. Many of them, I left their course and I thought I wanted to be just like them in the future.

Have you ever had that experience where you took a class from someone and you felt like they brought out the good in you, they inspired you, they motivated you? Or in some way, they led you to believe that you could be like them in the future? Or maybe you just wanted to? Some people that I’ve had as educators, I’ve even thought “I want to be connected with that human being the rest of my life.”

I had an elementary school band director named Joe Lynch. He was exactly like that. When he retired, and I was in eighth grade, I just started writing letters to him. And I continued writing letters to him through his entire life until he passed away from lung cancer just a few years ago. It was a very long relationship and it was because this man was a leader, not a boss.

He managed teaching and students like he loved every one of them. He earned our respect every single time he showed up. He invited us to do things. He challenged us to reach beyond our abilities and developed us into better musicians, better students, and better people.

What kind of educator would you like to be? Are there elements of the boss or the leader role that you would like to try out in your online classroom and think about? Maybe there’s something you’re already doing that’s working really well for you? How could you take that a little further and maybe add one of these additional ideas to it?

In the coming weeks, I encourage you to think about what you might try from either of these roles, how it could impact or help your students to gain confidence and to persevere in their learning, and how you might share it with others so they can learn from your experience and also become better educators.

If there’s something you have found useful today in our Online Teaching Lounge podcast, please share the podcast with someone you know. It’s always wonderful to share good resources with other educators, especially folks who are teaching online.

All the people that I know who teach online, welcome new ideas, and perhaps your colleagues will too. Thank you for being here for being an audience member of our online teaching lounge podcast and thank you for the great work you do day in and day out teaching your students online. I wish you all the very best in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best switches this coming week in your online teaching journey.