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How to unleash your inner confident self… AND BE FIERCE

I was in a teaching workshop recently and somebody asked a most wonderful question: “How do I get people to engage?’” I gave an answer, but I think it was the wrong answer.

The question

The workshop that I delivered was about how to keep students engaged in the online classroom. We’re well into 2023 at this point, (potentially?) past the peak of COVID-19 global pandemic.

Towards the end of the workshop, someone mentioned that they often try to engage with their students through surveys, questions and other approaches to engagement, but sometimes it’s hard to get anyone to say anything.

What should they do if no one interacts?

When I responded, I said something along the lines of “You need to find those students in your class who truly engage and ask them the same question, and when they answer, they’ll bring others along for the ride.”

My feeling is that although that may be helpful, there is a better answer, and one that is more powerful.

Becoming FIERCE

A couple of years ago, I talked with a dear friend of mine about tertiary education. We both agreed that when you TEACH, it’s more of a performance, like you’re ACTING, rather than TEACHING.

I didn’t think much about it at the time, but in hindsight, that’s totally true.

At my university, many times we teach about things where we know that we are not the subject matter experts. That is, sometimes we teach outside of our lane. Not everything that we convey to students we can be authorities about.

But that’s ok. That is the norm in tertiary education.

So how do you become an expert in your field? Or rather, how do you become ultra-confident that you can bring people along with you?

Channelling your inner Sasha

One of my sisters, who is a high-school teacher, mentioned to me something that massively resonated.

She said, “You know Beyonce? She just channels her inner Sasha.”

Beyonce is a shy and timid person (unbeknownst to me), usually.

I didn’t know what sis was talking about, but I looked it up. Turns out that Beyonce has an inner alter ego, ‘Sasha Fierce’, when she steps on stage.

And as it turns out, Sasha is one tough mofo.

She’s an alter-ego who is not Beyonce, but one who steps up to the plate. One that says, “no way, not on my watch”, and smacks the crap out of you.

Sasha is who Beyonce refers to when she’s feeling like she can’t perform. Like when she feels that she can’t step-up to the microphone. Like when she doesn’t know if she can deliver on a promise.

She’s the alter ego that says, “I don’t care what you think, or your friend, or your colleague. This is how it is, and this is how it’ll be”.

And she brings people with her. They engage. They interact. They can’t wait to see what she says or does next.


To me, this is an awesome strategy to bring into the classroom. Cutting loose, losing inhibitions, and being confident. Being able to bring people to the table (or in this case, the classroom) is what it’s all about.

A lot of times, students are drawn to personalities. If we can’t find that one student leader in our classrooms, sometimes we need to find a way to be that person. One who can encourage, and one who can bring people with them.

So how to become like Beyonce, and especially, Sasha Fierce?

Another friend once said to me, “the best work that you do is the work that you don’t give a cr*p about.”

I think what they really meant is that you should care about your work, but you shouldn’t bother with what other people think.

I also recently saw a YouTube clip along the lines of someone saying that “if you don’t have my phone number, then you don’t know enough about me to call me and complain”. Which I liked a lot!

So, channelling your inner-Sasha?

Practice. Know what you want to say. Plan your presentation. Let go of your inner “what will people think of me?” bug. Cut loose. Care about yourself but not about what people say. Don’t worry.  Feel the vibe.

If people still don’t want to interact with at the moment when you say “INTERACT NOW!”, I don’t know what else to say. I would suspect, though, that few would fear to challenge your demand.

Regardless, what I do recommend though is that you be yourself, practise, be courageous, and embrace the experience.

The more you know, the more you understand, so keep pushing and pushing and pushing.

About The Author

Dr Gilbert Price

...or Dr G to his students, is a multi-award winning lecturer at The University of Queensland, Australia. He teaches introductory Earth Science and second year Palaeobiology, as well as supports several other courses behind-the-scenes. He teaches by instinct and knows what works to inspire and engage students. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, his teaching has thrived in the digital classroom and he is pleased to be able to share his experiences with other educators.

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