Teachers Aren’t Marketers

A line from the original series of Star Trek is now so famous it has become a meme on its own.  The ship’s doctor, Leonard McCoy, complains to the captain about doing tasks outside of medicine: Damnit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not an engineer, psychologist, diplomat, or whatever role Captain Kirk wanted him to fill.    

Whether or not an online teacher is a fan of the Star Trek fictional universe, if they decide to teach independently, they can probably relate to McCoy’s frustration.  Independent online teachers must also manage essential tasks outside their primary occupational expertise.  The role forces them to develop the skills of an entrepreneur.   So many online teachers do this now that a new word exists for it: teacherpreneur. 

 If they want their freelance business to succeed, they must spend tons of time not teaching.

A Teacherpreneur

Independent online teachers must learn a variety of skills, such as copy-editing, social media management, and even videography. 

Above all, an independent online teacher must learn marketing.  She must advertise herself constantly to make sure she has a steady flow of new potential students to convert into regular customers.   She must become a teacherpreneur.

Diplomacy and medicine are at least metaphorically related.  Both diplomacy and medicine involve the delicate care needed for healing and the steady work required to maintain healthy systems.  Marketing, by contrast, is as different from teaching as night is from day.   

Teachers focus on their students and the knowledge they are transferring to them, not on themselves.  The traditional photo of elementary school classes has the teacher standing to one side of the rows of smiling children.  Sometimes she is barely in the frame at all.  This is a nice visual metaphor for the slogan of the student-centered teaching approach.  “Be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage”. 

Teacherpreneurs Try Marketing

Marketing requires the seller to take absolute center stage.  It requires that they become more than a giver of knowledge and wisdom to passive listeners.  A teacherpreneur must be a branded commodity.  

Teachers focus on their students’ needs as learners, who do not know everything and are not always right.  Marketing involves either telling people what they want to hear, creating a desire that didn’t previously exist, or both.  Teachers must be empathetic towards their students, but they must also be willing and able to tell them the truth about their current knowledge and skills.  

Independent teachers should be guided by their students’ goals for learning.  “Upselling” to students threatens to destroy the student’s trust that the teacher is using her expertise to serve their learning. 

A Teacherpreneur is a Gig Worker

If online teachers don’t make it as independent teacherpreneurs, they mostly head back into the gig economy.  All of the stresses and uncertainties that pushed them to go independent return.  They must pay a commission to for-profit platform sites. They have no control over how the platform works.  Like everyone from Uber drivers to YouTubers, they are at the mercy of a for-profit algorithm. The company could hire many more teachers so that each teacher has fewer and fewer students.  The whole situation forces teachers into intense competition.

The Solution is Cooperation

Online teachers have a solution to this teacherpreneur dilemma: an online teacher cooperative. The cooperative model allows teachers to share the tasks involved in marketing.  They can also learn from other teachers who may have picked up skills in this area through their journeys. 

Yet more than anything, a cooperative helps teachers by being the project they can market instead of themselves.  A service-focused democratic venture is a much better object for a marketing campaign than an individual teacher trying to make herself into a product or a “coach”.  “Come learn with us and be a part of the supportive community we’re building that centers you” is a much better message from a teacher to students than “Buy what I’m selling, which is me”. 

MyCoolClass is the online teacher cooperative teachers need.  It brings together online teachers of different subjects so that they don’t have to be teacherpreneurs.  Instead, they can be teachers who do a bit of marketing.

Teacher-members of MyCoolClass can collaborate to build a collective organization that values teaching and learning for their own sake.  They can learn as much as they want to learn about marketing.  Beyond that, they don’t have to feel that they have to manage everything or compete with their fellow teachers.  Marketing a cooperative organization isn’t about who can outshine someone else.  It’s about what we can build together for the benefit of all.

Marketing is still necessary for a teacher cooperative.  But at least now the teacher isn’t sitting all alone in a stall.  

Damnit, Jim, she’s teaching.


What is a Co-op?

What is a Co-op?

Many people associate co-ops with farmer markets or off-the-grid hippie communes somewhere deep in the forest. While this may not be false, there are many successful cooperatives that are well known around the world in just about every industry imaginable.

If you are from the United States, you have surely heard of Best Western, REI, Ocean Spray, Associated Press, and ACE Hardware. They are all cooperatives!

Are you a football fan? FC Barcelona is a cooperative and Bayern-Munich is owned by 84% of its fans.

Unimed is a Brazilian medical work cooperative and health insurance operator. It is considered the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 105,000 affiliated physicians, 386 branches, and more than 15 million beneficiaries. (Wikipedia)

The Mondragon Corporation, with over 81,000 members, was listed #11 as one of the enterprises that are changing the world, according to Fortune Magazine.

CO-OP Foods has 3,819 supermarkets in the UK.

The world’s top 300 co-operatives have a combined turnover of $2.16 trillion USD in 2018.


Okay, so now what is a co-op?

Cooperatives are people-centered enterprises owned, controlled, and run by and for their members to realize their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations.

Cooperatives bring people together in a democratic and equal way. Whether the members are the customers, employees, users, or residents, cooperatives are democratically managed by the ‘one member, one vote’ rule. Members share equal voting rights regardless of the amount of capital they put into the enterprise.

Driven by values, not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation. Putting fairness, equality, and social justice at the heart of the enterprise, cooperatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate long-term jobs and prosperity.

Cooperatives allow people to take control of their economic future and, because they are not owned by shareholders, the economic and social benefits of their activity stay in the communities where they are established. Profits generated are either reinvested in the enterprise or returned to the members.

In recent years, platform cooperatives have started to pop up all over the world offering gig workers a better way to do business. Companies such as Fairmondo, Stocksy, Fairbnb, and NYC Drivers Cooperative are starting to make headlines as more platform co-ops emerge every day.

Why MyCoolClass?

Online education is a booming industry with an expected growth of $350 billion by 2025. These figures were estimated before the pandemic and are now suspected to grow much more than that.

As online teachers, we are more than familiar with the practices of online learning platforms. Whether it be low pay, employment discrimination, being “fired” for little to no reason, lack of students, high fees, harsh rules, lack of peer support, or allowing students to sexually harass and expose themselves to teachers. Some companies are better than others, but all of them are making huge profits off your labor and none of them care about their disposable teachers.

Humans are constantly fighting for equality and justice in societies around the world. Why should we not demand the same in our workplace?

MyCoolClass is changing the future of online education by challenging “business as usual” and offering teachers around the world something to call their own and invest their future in.

Click here to learn more about MyCoolClass and how you can help.

We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking “Accept All”, you consent to the use of all the cookies. We are committed to protecting your privacy and ensuring your data is handled in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).