The fear of teaching online is real. It's easy to start teaching, but a lot of people struggle to convince themselves of their authority, and let questions like, “Will anyone enroll in my course?” stop them from making the impact they feel called to make. In this post, we share some simple mindset shifts to help you overcome your fears of teaching online, so you can truly serve your students.
Have you ever felt like you were born to teach?
Some people feel called to teach, and answer.
Others feel called, and don’t.
Why is it that some people answer and some don’t? Especially nowadays, when anyone can pick up a laptop and start teaching whatever they want?
As with everything, teaching online is scary, and fear can be paralyzing.
I’ve been reading the Course in Miracles daily for the last year, and a section in the text called “The Fear of Teaching” seemed particularly relevant for course creators who struggle with the fear of teaching online.
I want to share some of the guidance from the Course with you, so you might shift your mindset around teaching online from fear to one that holds a higher purpose for both you and your students.
Trust That the Real You is Unshakeable
There’s enough fear around online teaching to last us all a lifetime.
Do any of these sound familiar?
I’m not qualified to teach.
What if my students don’t end up learning what I’m teaching?
What if no one buys?
There’s a lot of fear around teaching because of the authority and responsibility that goes along with it. When we decide to teach an online course, we’re really deciding to display our authority to the world.
We’re staking our flag into the ground and saying, “I’m somewhat of an expert on this subject, and you can trust me to teach it to you.”
This is frightening, because what if someone calls us out on our claim to be authoritative? What if it’s all a big show, and we’re not really as authoritative as we think we are?
And then there’s the responsibility of it all, to make sure that the students who buy from you get a return on their investment.
It all adds up, and as online teachers, this type of fear can perpetuate inaction, and at its worst, prevent us from truly showing up for our students.
But the Course in Miracles reminds us that these fears rest on a version of ourselves with a shaky foundation – it’s called the ego. The ego is the part of us that doesn’t believe who the Course says we really are: unshakable and unalterable sons of God.
Whether or not you’re a believer of this, the ego in all of us (and the fears it feeds us) is very active. The ego doubts our authority to teach on a subject we’re good at. It doesn’t believe anything is trustworthy at all, especially ourselves.
If it helps, remember that the ego is suspicious of everything, and that it is at its peak when we are at our most anguished and insecure.
So if we honor the whispers of our ego, we’re caught in this horrible inner battle that doesn’t let us teach. The Course calls it “seeing yourself in different lights”, meaning, we’re not seeing ourselves for who we truly are, but for who the ego thinks we are.
If we want to teach, we have to trust in a foundation that is unshakeable and unalterable.
The Course says:
A teacher is unlikely to be effective unless he begins with being there. You will lose all your fear of teaching and relating in any form once you know who you are.
We can’t truly make an impact if we’re not fully sold on the idea of who we are. We can't teach effectively unless we learn to truly be there for our students. And the more we eliminate fear, the more we will be.
Teach to Abolish the Difference Between You and Your Student
The Course is big on equality. This makes sense from the spiritual perspective that all of us are one being at our deepest level, and that there’s no real separation between us.
But let’s keep this in the shallow end of the spiritual pool for now.
What I mean by equality, is that the Course says there’s no difference between teacher and student (speaking spiritually, with the idea that we are all one.)
In the physical world, we know there’s a bit of a difference between all of us.
In teaching online, we know we are not completely equal to our students. They lack knowledge and experience on the subject we're teaching.
They come to us for something they don’t have, and by doing so, it’s implied that they are not equal to us (yet).
It’s common to feel that as an online teacher, you are “above” your students in some way, because you’re a few steps ahead of them.
And while this might be true, the best way to look at this is to make your goal as a teacher to abolish the difference between you and your student. The difference being that you (temporarily) know more about the subject than your students.
You have the knowledge, ability, and experience that they don’t have (yet). There’s a temporary inequality between you, but teaching what you know allows you to bring that student to your level of knowledge, making you equal to one another.
This is a beautiful concept.
It removes the fear-based thought of, “I know more than you and I’m above you, and therefore I must act as though I have all of the answers”, and replaces it with “Let me share this with you so we can be equal to one another.”
This removes a lot of the pressure to show how authoritative we are as online teachers.
We don’t need to inflate ourselves as being authoritative and qualified to teach when we realize we are simply sharing knowledge that brings all of us together on the same level. There is no “higher” or “lower” status to worry about.
Plus, in the Course in Miracles, when you give more to those who have less, you stand to gain, too. So there’s never any downside to giving what you have, because you’re always given something in return.
This is actually one of the principles of miracles that the Course discusses.
Miracles are a form of healing. They supply a lack, and are performed by those who have more for those who have less.
Is there any doubt in your mind that you, as an online teacher, are performing a miracle?
You are quite literally providing more to those who have less, in the sense that you are providing more knowledge to students who are actively seeking it.
It's time to start seeing the beauty in what you're doing, rather than the “mistake” your ego would have you believe you're making when you share your expertise.
Your Identity is Not Defined by Your Students
One of the bigger fears around teaching comes with the idea of authority.
It's kind of like when we give our parents authority over us as kids. We see them as having power over who we are, and we give them power by thinking this way.
The same can be true of teachers who are afraid to teach.
Sometimes, teachers are afraid of their students because, like children, they give their students the authority to shape who they are.
If only 2 people enroll in my online course, I am a failure.
You're letting your students’ actions dictate your identity.
Or if someone leaves a bad review of your course, or doesn’t finish it, you think of yourself as an unqualified teacher. Another example of letting student behavior shape your perception of yourself.
This can make you feel resentful as an online teacher, because you start thinking something is being done to you, when really, you are putting your own image and identity into the hands of your students.
You are misperceiving yourself.
The best way to deal with this is to refuse to engage in this type of thinking, because it’s errored.
When you think this way, you’re honoring errored, ego-based thinking and imprisoning yourself and your learner, because you’re attacking both.
Remember, you are not at the mercy of the images other people have of you.
Your ultimate goal is to help your students learn to abolish their own fears around a certain subject or skill – it doesn’t serve them when your own fears get in the way.
To be effective teachers, we should interpret teaching without fear – otherwise we will always perceive it as a threat.
Don’t Let Misperception Shape What or How You Teach
For online course creators, some of the fears (aka irrelevant factors) you might be concerning yourself with are:
- The number of students who buy
- The number of students who show up on your coaching calls
- How long the course is
- How many people finish the course
Fortunately, none of these things can shape who you are as an online teacher.
Stand strong in this belief when you teach. So many people are called to teach the world something of value, but few people listen.
Always remember that you’re serving others, and when you do so without fear, you are actually being miracle-minded because you are giving more to those who have less.
The Role of a Teacher
To close, I want to share this passage from the Course about the role of a teacher:
The role of a teacher, properly conceived, is one of leading himself and others out of the desert.
The desert, in the Course, represents a place where errored thinking happens.
It’s a place that represents the physical world, and our attempt to find happiness there. Kind of like if you’re searching for water (happiness and peace) in a desert (the physical world), you’ll never find it.
But I like this idea of teaching as a way of leading your students out of the desert. It’s a bit like you're leading them away from errored thinking (in whatever your industry is) and into the right way of doing whatever it is you teach.
By doing so, you could be performing miracles every day and not even know it.
Isn’t that cooler than getting wrapped up in fearful thoughts of being not good enough?
You are good enough. If you were called to teach, it was because you are capable of doing it.
If you need help remembering this, try remembering this phrase written by Robert Perry from The Circle of Atonement, a site that helps people better understand the Course in Miracles:
I do not exist in different lights. I will lose all my fear of relating in any form once I know who I am. My effectiveness begins with simply being there.
Till next time, friends.