Allowing Silence to Unfold: Case Study #4

Today’s case study is from ruzuku co-founder Abe Crystal. True confession time: when Abe showed up in TeachNow three years ago, I was a little terrified. He has a Ph.D in human-computer interaction, and I had no idea what that even was! How could I teach Abe anything?

Read on to find out what happened and then let’s discuss!

TEACHNOW CASE STUDY #4: ABE CRYSTAL, ruzuku co-founder

It’s funny in retrospect, but I remember feeling really nervous when I hopped onto my first TeachNow call, 3 years ago.

I felt a little “behind” because I hadn’t attended the first preview call or even browsed through any of the initial course materials.

I really wanted to contribute but I felt like a bit of an outsider … I was a guy, and it seemed like all of the other participants were women. And the topics I was interested in teaching — user experience design, and online courses — seemed far from the typical topics that Jen was helping people teach.

But eventually there came a pause in the call, and Jen waited patiently for questions, allowing the silence to unfold.

For some reason I thought there was going to be a giant queue of questions and I’d be lucky to get my 2 minutes of fame.

Instead I had to clear my throat, unmute my phone, and jump in.

I don’t think I even asked a question, actually. I think I just said something about how you could use ideas from design in your teaching process.

What I remember instead is the energy I received from Jen in return.

Such enthusiasm and warmth… Like my off-the-cuff comment was the most incredible insight she had heard all week!

That’s how I want people to feel when they take my course — like their contribution really matters.

This was one of many small moments in the course that, when added together, shifted my approach to teaching.

Bear in mind, I was coming from a very formal, academic background (Ph.D. in information science).

“Teaching” to me meant: syllabus, exams, grades.

Now suddenly it could mean: experience, inspiration, and emotion.

Here’s what’s surprising, though. Even more than TeachNow changed how I think about teaching, the program changed how I think about marketing.

You might as well call it “MarketingNow!”

Jen showed me how to think about marketing as a type of teaching.

And to save some of your teaching passion for activities that excite people about your courses and programs.

It even changed how we market our software platform… from a very dry, factual focus on features and technology, to speaking in a much more personal and emotional way about the impact the platform can have for teachers.

I began to get comfortable expressing myself in my teaching, which became part of my marketing.

And this year, I’m spending the bulk of my “marketing” time actually creating courses and teaching — which then excites people and gets them to spread the word about our product.

As I do, I try to remember that sense of feeling appreciated and valued in a course, and to offer that to my participants — as Jen did to me.

Abe Crystal
Co-founder of


Thanks, Abe – so happy we both overcame our fear!

Isn’t it so moving how tender and vulnerable we are as teachers & students? When I can remember that is normal, and trust that who I am will be enough – and if it isn’t, that’s okay too – I can be of use to someone as wickedly smart as Abe.

When I trust who I am as a teacher is fundamentally enough – while being open to growth everyday – I am freed to market my offers with more joy and persistence.

Now over to you: What is one of your teaching gifts that you may be overlooking or judging as not that useful? Mine is sharing my mistakes freely and without shame. I overlooked that for about 20 years and labored to be somebody more polished and intelligent.

Name a teaching gift of yours, maybe one you labor to “get over.” Now brainstorm, maybe by making a mind map, how this gift could help you market. Some examples of mine:

  • Offer a Spreecast class so people can see my energy
  • Recording 56 master teacher interviews in which I ask all the juicy questions I’m curious + invite 5 guest mentors to join me live & highlight that not as a “I don’t know enough” but I know enough & know how to ask for help
  • Share my own teaching experience as honestly as I can & include actionable takeaways

What can you do to share what you teach by claiming your gift? We’ll have plenty of time in two of our guest mentor live calls with marketing mavens Andrea Lee and Jenn Lee to build this out, so bring your mind maps and ideas!



P.S. Did you know that as part of TeachNow, you get a 3-month free trial of the ruzuku platform that Abe co-created + a hefty discount if you decide to use it? Details are right here.

P.P.S. In case you missed the complimentary kick-off class last week, you can watch the replay here. (The link expires on March 31st so be sure to watch before then.)