Teachers: Don’t Hide Your Light Under a Bushel Basket

This interview was originally published on Shaboom by Molly Gordon.

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Here’s a special Q&A with Jen Louden and Michele Lisenbury Christensen, creators of Teach Now. Together, they are working to empower teachers to be more visible, more confident, and more successful on every level. At the end of the interview, you’ll find a link to more Teach Now resources. Enjoy!

Q: What does teaching have to do with under-earning or vice-versa?

Jen: Teaching has far too much to do with under-earning, at least until we change that story! Traditional teachers in classrooms are frequently underpaid. That reality carries over into our story about other kinds of teaching, which fosters the idea that teaching cannot pay well.

Disprove that story for yourself now. Look for examples of teachers making a good living. Michele and I are; so is Molly. Who else? If you haven’t earned what you need or want in the past, that it is not a result of the act of teaching but of other factors like what course or product you offered, how many people knew about it, and if you connected with your student’s needs.

Michele: Teaching – as one stream of activities and revenue within a business – can help you overcome under-earning in a product or service-oriented business. It becomes a way to take clients and would-be clients through a number of learning curves, like:
•Understanding the need for your product/services.
•Learning how to use your service or product.
•Accelerating the pace of their growth through group learning vs. one-on-one work.

Being a great teacher, in addition to having great products or 1:1 services, helps you and your clients leverage your time so you can provide value at a greater scale, at a lower per-participant price.
Being great at making offers of teaching and at leading programs will truly help your business thrive.

Q: Is it possible to be a dedicated teacher and intentionally cultivate wealth?

Jen: Yes, and doing so requires personal honesty and integrity. As a teacher, you have a sacred bond with your students, and that bond begins with “do no harm” and grows from there to cultivating love.

Becoming wealthy can also be a sacred act that is done for the good of many, including, of course, yourself and your loved ones. Where it gets rewarding – and takes a lot of consciousness and support – is holding both: your desire to be of service to your students and your desire to cultivate wealth. It’s a very sophisticated spiritual path. You have to hold both ends of the continuum in your awareness and keep choosing moment by moment.

Michele: The key to melding these two pursuits – profound service and significant wealth – is to keep the exchange equal. When your work consistently delivers meaningful value that exceeds the investment your students make, AND is lucrative for you, you are building on the solid foundation of the Law of Reciprocity (giving AND receiving).

Charging more in fees than your clients get in value will lead to either a lack of integrity, a lack of wealth, or both. Under-charging grossly – not allowing people to pay you what’s fair to YOU – will lead to a lack of wealth and a different kind of lack of integrity: self-denial. Yuck.
To be a dedicated teacher AND cultivate wealth, offer great value, charge fairly for it… then make sure you’re getting the word out in ways that ensure your programs are filled.

Q: How does teaching (serving) jibe with earning and savoring?

Jen: To serve (in all ways, including teaching), you must be resourced – you must have resources to draw on, beyond yourself, to keep you emotionally, physically and spiritually full and in touch with your truth. You can serve from an empty place but it usually hurts not only you – in exhaustion, burn out, resentment – but also whomever you are trying to help. It leads to power over and separation, rather than ““As I do unto others, so I do unto myself.” When we are earning what we need, and we are fully savoring this wild journey of being alive, we have so much better a chance of serving in a way that actually serves.

It’s not the model most of us grew up on. That was often a model of self-sacrifice to the point of illness or poverty. That model is very toxic. Let’s get rid of it now!

Michele: The notion that it’s noble to serve without thought for earning, and to savor only giving, versus savoring what you receive, is a notion that leads to moral superiority and condescension toward your students. You’re good and giving. They’re grasping and greedy.

What if, instead, you create relationships that are reciprocal, and model sustainable ways of living and serving? Why not craft relationships with your students that contain the giving and receiving, as well as candor, self-awareness, and responsibility? That’s what we want in all our relationships.

Q: What do teachers need to remember in order to earn an ample living?

Jen and Michele:

Ask yourself:
• What do I want to learn? (Successful teaching starts with your curiosity!)
• What am I passionate about sharing with the world? (Be honest.)
• What do I want to change in my world? (What makes you rant?)
• What do I see people struggling with? (Gather their words exactly and mull over them.)
• What solutions would I love to offer? (It doesn’t matter if you don’t fully know how yet.)
• How much is enough (to meet my needs, to provide for enough of my wants, to save for my future, and to give back in whatever ways feel best to me)?

Teaching is hot. The world is changing faster and getting more complex every week. People feel overwhelmed and stressed by all this change: what you know can change that and people will pay for that relief.

We’d love to help you claim your seat as a teacher or find the juice and joy in teaching again. We know it’s possible because we’ve done it again and again, for ourselves and hundreds of students.

The world needs what you know. Please, teach now.

Jennifer Louden and Michele Lisenbury Christensen have taught since their 20s: everything from yoga to writing to leadership skills. They’ve created a transformational program called Teach Now that delivers information, insight and Master Teacher interviews with Molly Gordon, Natalie Goldberg, Mark Nepo, and many more.

What exactly is the TeachNow program?

We will be talking a lot more about teaching in our next session of TeachNow, which will open for enrollment in early 2014.

Please sign up below to be notified when enrollment re-opens.

You will also receive twice-monthly, super-concise, actionable TeachNow e-tips – AND The Quick and Fab Guide to Course Creation and Better Participation (PDF).

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