Did the Virus Force You into Teaching?
Now more than ever before, people are being forced out of the jobs they’d rather be doing, and into jobs they’re not ready for.
This is because COVID-19 has crippled their industry, and they need to make a radical jump into an industry that isn’t dying if they’re planning on paying their rent for the foreseeable future.
As certain countries continue to react slowly to the pandemic, entire industries are grinding to a halt, including the entertainment industry.
The majority of my twenties were spent working performance jobs, and as a result, most of my friends are entertainers in some capacity.
This means that I have to watch as friend after friend lose their job and their dreams. Because of this, many of them are being forced into teaching roles several years before they’d planned on making the transition.
Most entertainers become teachers eventually, it’s a career choice that feels like a natural move from industry professional to backseat driver.
But ready or not, an entire army of teachers are entering the online space with absolutely no idea of what they’re doing. They know their industry, but they don’t know how to captivate a group of kids for 90 minutes at a time.
Because of this, many of them are turning to the internet and are asking… “how do I teach a class?”
I was lucky enough to be given short teaching contracts in-between my performance gigs for the entire length of my stage career. After work slowed down four years ago, I moved to Shanghai and began teaching full-time. Ever since then, I’ve been working to master the art of teaching without losing my sanity. This is how I do it.
Cram Joy into the Job
It’s important to remember that your enjoyment of each class is as important as the enjoyment of your students.
This is because students feed off your energy, and if you’re not having a great time, they won’t either.
The most common reason I’ve seen for teachers hating their teaching experience is that they’re using a crappy lesson plan written by someone they’ve never met.
Most teachers are professionals in what they’re teaching (ideally), and this goes extra for working professionals who are forced into teaching roles because their industry has stopped existing. (Actors and singers becoming drama teachers for example).
If this describes you, then you may be finding that the subject matter of your lesson plan doesn’t sit well with your personal and professional experience.
Sometimes it’s just a feeling, but you may be intuiting that the ideas put to paper by the lesson writer are less efficient than the ideas you could be using based on your industry experience.
Most lesson plans are written by companies that pump out curriculums in volume, and are based on former curriculums that span back decades. If you don’t like what these uninspired writers created, why not invent something new yourself?
Unless you’re working for the government and need to stick with a rigid curriculum for continuity, make the offer to your employer that you’ll write your own future plans. Chances are, they’ll jump on the idea because it saves them money.
Once you’ve gained permission, commit to taking the time to write the course of your dreams.
Write the course you wish your teacher had taught you when you were in school.
I Teach My Passions
I was hired to be a drama teacher because of my performance experience, but I had grown tired of only teaching drama.
I had so many other interests I wanted to explore, and I knew that variety would make my teaching career more interesting.
I now teach a hybrid debate/Model UN class that relies on a strategic card game I invented and designed.
I literally cannot wait for each class to start so that I can supervise the kids as they trade with each other, form alliances, and learn diplomacy while I balance currencies and mediate war councils.
If you’re not starting each lesson with a feeling of nervous excitement, then you’re not being true to yourself.
If your employer won’t give you the freedom to write your own lessons, then give each lesson a dash of your own unique flavour. Add a game that gets the kids pumped, or read them a story you loved when you were a child.
Do anything that’s going to feed your own joy as much as it feeds theirs, and you’ll be a far better educator for it.
Take Your Time
Make sure that when you write your lesson plans, you’re not rushing to get it done. I work around a lot of other teachers who constantly complain about the classes they write the plans for, which seems unbelievable to me.
After I hear a teacher moaning about their class experience, I always ask to read the lesson they wrote for themselves.
After glancing at the plan, I can always see the problem. They’ve written a vague timeline that was probably really fast to write, but really crappy to teach.
Here’s an example.
0–10 minutes: Warmup the kids
10–30 minutes: Teach acting principles
30–60 minutes: Play drama games
60–90 minutes: Devising
90–100 minutes: Talk about what we learned
This example isn’t hypothetical, it’s an almost word for word retelling of a plan I recently saw written by a fellow teacher.
Teaching a class based on this plan would be hell, because it forces you to improvise so much material while you’re already trying to monitor the energy of the room, keep an eye on the naughty kid hiding a pair of scissors, keep track of time, and a million other considerations all at the same time.
Help yourself out and plan absolutely everything ahead of time. Not only that, I recommend that you base the lesson on your own interests.
If you’re passionate about singing, incorporate a singing portion into your lesson.
The only reason I learned my times tables (despite having dyscalculia) is because my second-grade teacher invented a math song I could remember. I sang this song to myself every time I added numbers all the way into my 20’s (and beyond).
I’m a lover of video games, so I’ll gamify absolutely anything I can. Because of my unique classroom strategy games, my kids are able to learn diplomatic principles well beyond their years. They don’t learn these principles because I said they had to, they learn them because they want to win my contests.
Because of my games, the kids learn faster, and I enjoy my job a lot more at the same time. Everyone wins.
What to Take Away
If you’ve found yourself browsing teaching gigs because the virus destroyed your industry, don’t despair. With creativity and a little effort, teaching doesn’t have to be the boring slog your own teacher seemed to love making it.
Instead, tailor classes to your personal interests so that you’re having the time of your life, while also improving the lives of your students.
Learning and enjoyment are not mutually exclusive, in-fact, they go hand in hand. You might even find that the career change was the best thing that ever happened to you after all.