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If you’re more wallflower than prima donna, settling down in front of a webcam to teach students across the world might feel a tad intimidating. Have no fear! We’ve compiled our top confidence-building tips to help chill your nerves and get you feeling your most savvy in front of the camera when teaching online. And the best part? These tricks are like the gifts that keep on giving: when you’ve used ’em once, you’re bound to return to them time and time again. Trust us you’ll be going from bashful to beaming in no time with these four quick tips.
Invest in your webcam
You may think that “equipment” doesn’t belong under a camera-confidence post but sometimes good tech is the difference between looking like an amateur (and feeling like one, as a result) and being the consummate professional that you are. We strongly advise purchasing an external webcam as opposed to using the built-in one on your laptop. Knowing that your equipment is good will give you that extra boost of confidence, which will come across in your lesson. Research on which webcam is the perfect fit for your location, lifestyle, and pocket.
Practice your presentation
The old proverb, practice makes perfect, is an expression that stands true. Before your first class, record yourself giving a lesson as you would to your students. Watch this and then re-watch, making notes on your appearance, where you do well, and where you could up the ante a little bit. Look out for unclear speech, seeming flustered or distracted, looking away from the camera and rambling.
If a friend has time, ask them to sit in on one of your lessons and give you critical feedback. Think back to the last time you webcam-ed a friend. Did you look straight into the camera? Or, like most of us inevitably are, were you distracted by the sight of your own face popping up on your screen? Make sure that you are making eye-contact and looking straight at your students by staring into your webcam. Soon the online classroom will be as natural as a second home.
Don’t Just Wing it: Warm-Up!
For centuries, thespians from all walks of life have been known to play into the superstitions of the theatre, and later on, the big and silver screens. Many actors and actresses have lengthy rituals to calm their nerves, get into the groove, and collect themselves prior to going on-set. And while you’re not an actor, you are going to be on camera, and so it is worth taking a little leaf out of the book of people who do this all day. We’re not advocating for anything drawn-out, but something like getting all of your notes together, making sure your webcam is switched on and ready, and taking a moment, can help you center yourself before your big screen, uh, we mean on-camera debut.
Script your Lesson
Write down your welcome, brief introduction, and lesson plan. At least when you’re starting out. Even if you’re confident that you will remember everything once the lesson is rolling, sometimes nerves, an internet glitch, or a disruption from a student can throw one-off. Be safe, and write a script for the first couple of lessons that you teach.
Bear in mind that you could reuse the same introductory session (where you introduce yourself, your interests, background, and get to know your student), albeit with some minor alterations according to the age and aptitude of each class. Place it on your desk or in front of you, or posted on the wall behind your laptop. And in lieu of your very own teleprompter, keep your notes close to eye-level, so that if you’re quickly checking something, you’re not turning your back on your class.
PRO TIP: If you’re feeling comfortable, you can skip the script and go straight for bullet points as a reference.
The internet is a stage and you are its player. Or at the very least, its incredibly talented and able teacher! The most important thing to remember about teaching online is that practice makes perfect! Follow these steps and all that blinking, staring, fidgeting and nerves will be gone in no time. And in their place? Effortless, confident, uber-poised you.