Updated: Aug 31, 2019
“A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others.” - Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
eLearning has always been one of my favorite voiceover genres to coach as well as perform. As long as I can remember, I have always had a passion for learning and teaching. As a little girl, I used to teach my dolls flashcards for hours. I remember being so excited every September to get back to school armed with new pencils and pads of paper. After college, I worked in the Corporate world as a biomedical design engineer, but also sidelined as as a corporate trainer for a while. I loved it so much I took a full time position at a high school for over 18 years, where I also taught college and adult continuing ed at night. And I have been coaching voiceover students privately for over ten years.
Check out some fun pics from my past below. And yes - those are my original flashcards that I used when teaching my dolls! (and I also used to talk a lot in class as evidenced by my teacher's comments in the last photo!)
Throughout all of my teaching endeavors, I have had one mission - to inspire and motivate others to learn and excel at being the very best they could be. At the core of this mission was the guidance and compassion of three stand-out teachers from my past who ultimately changed my life.
One of the main topics I cover with my eLearning voiceover students is how to connect with the copy, comprehend the importance of the teaching moments, and deliver them heart first with care and intent. My high school choir teacher, Mrs. Deisenroth, taught with a passion and joy that was infectious, and she shared that threefold with her students. We wanted to love music too, because she loved it so much. It was a challenge not to smile when you were in her presence. Not only was she a joy to be around but her dedication to music and teaching allowed us to learn, find joy in the music, and encouraged us in so many ways, both inside and outside of the classroom. Her passion and care for us while teaching allowed us to be passionate and care too.
As an eLearning voiceover narrator, you too need to find the passion in the copy you are reading. Even if the topic seems dry at first, allow yourself to feel joy in the discovery and learning of the material as you voice. This is also where valuable acting skills can be helpful. It may help for you to channel the passion and joy that comes from being an instrument in helping another to understand a complex concept or topic.
Mrs. Deisenroth had a profound effect on me as a young girl. I want my coaching students to feel the same way about me as a teacher. I also want to make that same difference to the students who ultimately hear my voice in their eLearning courses as well.
Sometimes, tough love can be just as effective as compassion as a teaching tool. I have had great success at implementing both of these in my coaching as well as in my eLearning voicing projects. My high school honors English teacher, Mrs. Consler, was another favorite teacher of mine who was absolutely instrumental in both my educational and personal development. Full disclosure here. Back in my school days, I was pretty cocky. Yup. I admit it. I thought I could do no wrong in Mrs. Consler's class, and would be able to get an easy A+ in her class. (Notice I said A+ there, not just an A!) As a result, I was quite sassy and goofed off frequently. I thought she wouldn't notice. Well, Ms. Consler ended up not giving me that A+ that I thought I so rightfully deserved. She knew I wasn’t performing up to my full potential and gave me some pretty tough love. She knew I could do better, and she insisted on it! (I am actually visualizing her red pen marking this blog post now!)
In any eLearning script, you must find and execute the “teaching moments” in the curriculum. These are the moments that help the the learner to comprehend the material that is being presented. Go over these teaching moments and see if an element of tough love can help to drive home the important concepts. Is your student paying attention? Or are they distracted and reading their email or responding to texts? This is entirely possible in an online learning environment. Commanding attention with an element of tough love to your voice can bring an entirely different approach and read to your performance, one that can benefit and enhance the learning experience for your student . Ms. Consler taught me this priceless lesson, and it is one I carry over into my teaching and coaching today.
Support and Encouragement
Support and encouragement can go a long way in motivating and inspiring your students to be the best they can be. My machine shop teacher in college, Mr. Wiser, was unequivocally, a master at this . He saw my passion for engineering and graciously did everything he could to support me. Never once did he ever imply that girls shouldn’t be in shop or studying engineering, he just encouraged me to be the very best I could be. He always went above and beyond to support me while in his classroom - he even kept the machine shop open additional hours so I could work overtime on a special-interest project. He knew how much I loved working in the shop, and supported me - and the rest of his students - with his extra time, knowledge and wisdom.
Think about the teaching moments in your eLearning script. How can you bring support and encouragement to your read? How can you stop "pretty reading" the PowerPoint slides of your copy, and actually be the teacher your student needs? Think of a person in your life who could use some encouragement. Imagine as if you were speaking to them directly while reading the script. Channel your inner Mr. Wiser. I promise you that it will change your read for the better. You may never get feedback about your voice in your eLearning project. But you will know that you approached your job with your heart first, served the copy as a teacher - and made a difference in someone's life.
"Kids don't learn from people they don't like." - Rita F. Pierson, from her Ted Talk - Every kid needs a champion
Don’t Be the Substitute
Remember the days when you had a substitute teacher in class, and all the kids misbehaved or didn’t pay attention? We were horrible to those poor substitute teachers! And why? Because the substitute - through no fault of their own - did not have authority over the class, or the knowledge and command of the content like the normal assigned teacher did. And, of course, the nicer the substitute teachers were to us, the worse we treated them! To set the record straight, I'd like to formally apologize right now to every substitute teacher I have ever treated horribly as a student during my classroom days. I know it's late, but I'm hoping to at least get an A for effort here. :)
In addition to my "don't be cruel to your substitute teacher" lesson, here's another helpful tip: Don’t be the substitute teacher voice in your eLearning projects either. Take command of the copy by doing a bit of research so you understand at least the general concepts of the material you’re voicing. Stop being nice and "reading pretty". You're fooling no one, and, ultimately, the end result will be an unruly "classroom", and an experience that doesn't leave a big impact on the listener. Understand and communicate your teaching moments effectively. Ultimately, they are even more important when you aren’t standing in front of a classroom.
My favorite teachers influenced me in so many ways - they were so much more to me than just a deliverer of content. They inspired me. They motivated me. And helped shape me into the very person I am today. I owe them a debt of gratitude for many things, and most importantly, for being good humans. For caring about me. They taught me how to find the joy and love in learning, and how to pay it forward by sharing it with others. I can only hope that I have done them justice in this blog article.
Who were the influential teachers in your life? What qualities did they posses and share that made them your favorites? Carry those qualities over to your voiceover career; especially when voicing eLearning projects. These are the qualities that make us human. Don't be just a deliverer of content in your reads - be a favorite teacher to someone. If you can bring the "human" element to your copy - you can stay safe in a market where synthesized and AI voices are threatening to take over as cost-effective alternatives to hiring voiceover actors. So, channel your inner teacher and get ready to tackle your next eLearning script with a whole different mindset.
And, as your teacher, I 'm always here to help if you need me. My office hours and classroom door are open - sign up here if you have any questions or would like to chat!
Keep on rockin’ your biz,