How do teachers differ from ‘real’ writers?

Viewing time: 4 mins 55 secs 

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How do teachers differ from ‘real’ writers? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.


How do teachers differ from ‘real’ writers? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.

I have a question from Sylvia Weddegjerde Skjelderup, a writer based in Oslo, Norway. Here’s what she’s asked by email….

I develop teaching material in sustainability and circular economy for a school in Oslo. A lot of my work consists of gathering theory developed by other researchers and presenting it to students online through Zoom. I find that no matter how much time I have to do the writing, I end up doing it with my heart in my throat and my head spinning at the last minute. Does your advice on writing apply to my kind of work or is that for real writers only?”

Thanks for your question, Sylvia. First, you are already a REAL writer! I imagine you put on your shoes in much the same way I do every day. And there’s nothing magical about writing, either!

But let me make a couple of different observations because I think something other than writing may be the source of your problem.

Many people become understandably nervous about teaching via Zoom. I wonder if that might be your biggest challenge? Here are five tips that should help:

1 – Have good lighting. There’s nothing worse than trying to watch a teacher who is poorly lit. The light source should be in FRONT of you, rather than behind. I’ve set up professional lighting in my office for these videos but you can achieve much the same effect with careful placement of your computer with respect to windows and lights. Play around with lighting before your next video class.

2 – Find a quiet space. Next to lighting, sound is really important. You don’t want your class to be interrupted by sirens or a barking dog or noisy children. And consider wearing headphones with a mic rather than relying on your built-in computer mic.

3 – Use screen sharing as much as you can. If you share your screen with your class, you’ll be sharing responsibility for delivering the content. This should lessen the load on you.

4 – Smile….a lot. If you appear to be happy, your students will be happier. It’s easier to listen to someone who is smiling and it’s also easier to speak back to someone who appears happy. So, if you want to encourage class participation, put a big smile on your face.

5 – Don’t look at your screen while speaking. Instead, find out where the camera sits on your computer and focus your eyes on that. To help yourself do this, you can minimize the Zoom window (just click on the yellow button at the top) so you don’t see any faces while you’re speaking. This will not only make you less nervous but it’ll also make you seem friendlier and more engaged to your students because you’ll appear to be looking them in the eyes.

Sylvia, did you notice that NONE of these tips relates to writing? Your comment about having your heart in your throat makes me strongly suspect the issue has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with performance anxiety. I know you want to do a good job for your students but trust that you’ll be able to do it and let your students share in some of that responsibility.

And if I’m totally wrong and your issue does relate to writing, let me remind you that the most useful tip I offer is the idea of embracing a crappy first draft. Allow yourself to write a terrible first draft and then edit it into excellence, later. See link to my blog post on that subject in the show notes below.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein“I never teach my pupils: I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” 

Sylvia, I presume you started teaching before the pandemic so I just want to encourage you to use similar techniques to the ones you employed in front of the classroom. Just pay a little extra attention to issues like sound and lighting and where you put your eyes. Most of all, have faith in your ability to cope with these new demands.


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.


Your crappy first draft

Your Happy First Draft

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