The following is a guest post by Melissa Webb, a credentialed teacher who moved out of her classroom and into an online business as a course creator and academic writing coach for homeschooling families. As the owner and visionary of Write On! Webb, she is turning today’s learners into tomorrow’s leaders one sentence at a time. Her online courses help make home-schooling easier for families with her expert advice.
The first step is a doozy. It was early August in 2012. We finished taking our school pictures. I poured some coffee, sat next to Kel, and searched my satchel for a pen and paper. It was our first teacher meeting of the new school year. You know those moments in life when you remember the people around you and where you sat at an exact time? Well, it was one of those days. A colleague, Nancy, was scheduled to speak in our morning session. She was excited to share something new being offered to our students and their homeschooling parents.
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At the time, our California charter school served over 1,500 K through 12 children in three counties. As credentialed teachers, we wanted to support them the best way we could. The concept of teaching online meant we could serve those students who lived too far from learning sites or co-op groups where families met in person. Nancy was looking for volunteers to teach virtually. She needed qualified teachers to step up and offer to teach online math, reading, writing, science, and history courses.
We broke into smaller groups to discuss the details. In that small group Nancy said, “Melissa, I think you should teach the writing class.” Me?! Certainly, there must be someone more qualified. My stomach tightened.
Isn’t it curious? I know very few people whose first thoughts are, “Yep! I’m the best person for this task.” Most of us naturally doubt ourselves. Getting over that obstacle is the first step, and I’m proud of my past self for taking it. Taking that first baby step forward, I replied, “If you think so, Nancy, sure, I’ll give it a try. What curriculum do you want me to use?”
As a 20-year teaching veteran at that point, I knew how things worked in public schools, the curriculum was handed to you. But that wasn’t the case here. “We are free to do and try whatever we think might work best on this platform, Melissa. Since it is new, we may invent our own wheel,” said Nancy. This was music to my ears!
After 13 years of classroom instruction, I moved into the homeschooling community. My job as an educational facilitator was to help homeschoolers meet their academic benchmarks. There were curriculum and teacher’s guides to help in all subjects with the exception of excellent writing support. Writing stumped homeschooling teachers for a myriad of reasons. So for six years, I made it my goal to simplify the daunting task of teaching writing at home. I had no idea then, but I was creating a future career for myself as a course creator.
Step two meant moving in a direction where I felt some level of expertise, even though it was a bit uncomfortable. The following hundreds of steps saw me stumble, fall, get up again, make great strides, trip, and regain my balance. For four years, I worked online, creating, teaching, failing, learning, and reinventing within the safety net of my school, steady income, paid benefits, and supportive staff. I was using programs such as Elluminate, Big Blue Button, and a “new” platform everyone was loving – Zoom!
Then, one winter day, toward the end of a fall semester, a parent whose child was enrolled in my online writing class announced they were moving out of state. “Have you ever thought of creating your own business, Melissa? If this writing course was something you offered outside of the school, people in any state could participate. You should consider starting a business. I’d happily be your first customer.”
That was when I pivoted and rerouted myself. Other people’s counsel, ideas, and support offer excellent guidance. So in the summer of 2016, I offered an online course on my own time. Six people signed up and Write on! Webb was born.
In 2017, I asked my administrator if I was allowed to be a vendor for other schools while remaining employed. I created an online test-prep course for writing that year, and another charter school paid me $500 to teach it. The possibilities were showing themselves to me. In 2018, California’s public charter schools started to take some heat. I could feel things were changing, and my employment didn’t feel entirely as secure as it once had.
Sure enough, I didn’t complete my school’s 2018-19 school year, in mid-December of 2018, I resigned. The new year saw me taking more than a step. It was a leap! It took a leap of faith to become a full-time entrepreneur. By this time, all of the online courses I’d been teaching were an organizational hazard. I had slides here and recordings there. I began the search for an online platform to help me help my clients while keeping us both sane in the process.
Another pivot was required, and isn’t that true of all journeys? I’ve never reached a destination by following a straight line or making only one left turn. The name sold me: Teachable. It was in 2019 that I created my first course, and over 50 courses later, it remains the platform I call my virtual classroom. In Teachable, I can find all my older, unpublished materials and my most current creations. Best of all, my clients can find things easily too.
In my “back-to-school” webinars, I explain that my website is like my house. There are many rooms. Visitors can read my blogs, connect to my podcasts, schedule a meeting, see current course offerings, or purchase my children’s book. However, Teachable is my ideal classroom. It is the perfect space to house all my school materials, lessons, handouts, calendars, instructional videos, etc. My clients love the ease and organization it offers them.
As I step toward my 4th full school year as a business owner, course creator, and online instructor, I know this is far from the end of my journey, even if it is the end of this blog.
We’ve all heard that even “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Now I have a question. Is there a new journey awaiting you? Nobody goes anywhere standing still. My advice is to take one baby step toward your dreams and then take another. The momentum will start to kick in. Promise! Who knows how far you’ll go?