In this episode I wanted to talk about who we assume we are as teachers and what roles we actually play in our students’ lives and in the society. I also mention how we should be thinking about ourselves, why it’s so difficult not to focus on external circumstances and what we can do to actually make the biggest impact on the world (hint: it also has to do with us!)
The two books I mention are ‘101 essays that will change the way you think’ and ‘The montauin is you’ by Brianna Wiest
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Now, it’s time to go get richer, teacher!
Hey, teacher, and welcome to another episode of Get Richer, Teacher. I’ve been in a mood for recording podcasts that are more about how we think about our work and how we think about ourselves and – disappointingly or not disappointingly, hopefully, if you’re listening to this – this is gonna be another one in that same sort of manner. Because today I wanted to talk to you about who you are and how you’re not just a teacher. And, hopefully, as I promised in the title, this episode will change a little bit the way you think.
I actually got inspired to record something like this after reading two books, and the books have changed my perspective so much, I think they should literally be prescribed by psychotherapists or even teachers at schools. Honestly, they are so deep and I could relate to so much in them that… honestly, I can only recommend them to you. So, if you’ve never heard of Brianna Wiest, definitely go and check her out: Brianna West (I will obviously put a link to that name or just a written form of her name in the description of the podcast) and the two books that I mentioned are: “101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think” – that’s the first one – and the second one is: “The Mountain is You”. And the second one made the biggest impression on me. I think it’s gonna be one of my favorite books ever and I think… I know I’m gonna read it again. I’ve listened to it as an audio book and I literally wanted to have it all in writing so I could highlight literally half of it. So, that’s just a little bit of context and I wanted to let you know that if you want to do something for yourself, especially in that season now, the festive season – perhaps you’re running a little bit too fast or maybe you’re getting tired because the end of the year is coming – then why not pick up something that might actually change the way you think.
Today I wanted to give you my own perspective after having read those two books and also a little bit of how I understand the message, or multiple messages, that the author was trying to sell there. Basically, the first thing that I want you to start reflecting on is your role, your basic… your role. It’s something so simple, but we often in that day-to-day life, day-to-day teaching, we kind of start working on autopilot. We basically prepare lessons, plan, teach, maybe do a little bit of social media stuff, and send some emails and we’re constantly in the do mode and we don’t realise that what we do actually has a massive impact on others. So, it’s very important that you sit down and you actually take a piece of paper, maybe a journal if you have one, and start thinking of all the roles that you play in life, if you want to, but at least as a teacher. Because one of the most usual things that I hear from teachers is that: “Yeah, I’m a teacher. I pass on knowledge” and they kind of stop there. But then, rationally thinking, there is so much to it, so much more to it. You are a facilitator. You help people open up, especially in group settings. You help them actually formulate sentences. You help them start a conversation. So, you facilitate all of that and you organise them, so that it makes the most sense. You might sometimes take on the role of a motivator, right? Because sometimes people don’t feel like doing stuff – and I know it’s quite hard with adults because they have their own lives, their own shit going on – so it’s hard. You can bring a horse or lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. But very often your role comes down to just pointing the horse to the water. It’s here. You just have to take it. Basically that’s what I’m doing here, by the way. It’s inspiring you and motivating you to take inspired action that is less focused on doing the strategic things, but more focused on something that will have a much bigger ripple effect, which is actually working on yourself. So, that all comes down to… sorry for the digression, there is more roles I wanted to talk about and then jump onto that other conclusion.
So, we’ve talked about being a facilitator, being a motivator. What other roles can you identify? Do you sometimes listen to people’s problems? Do you sometimes act as a parent? Do you sometimes act as a bartender or a psychotherapist? I think these are two people in one… How else do you help your people? How else do you have an impact on their life? And this activity is important and your awareness in that area is super important, because this is basically your greatest motivator for why you might be doing what you’re doing – reminding yourself of: “I’m not just there to spend an hour with someone and to pass on some new knowledge”. Because your impostor syndrome is telling you that if I don’t give them a new list of words, then they are not learning. No, your role is so much wider and it’s so much more holistic, and this is how you should be reminding yourself of it. So, even having a written record of it might be helpful because #1: then it’s motivating because: “Yeah, I actually matter so much more than what the frames of my job put me into”. But #2: it will also help you look from a different perspective at different things in your business, such as charging. Because very often teachers who struggle with pricing or charging what we say “what they’re worth”, they very often get stuck onto the idea: “But I only spend an hour with that person. How can I charge so much for that hour?” But let’s be realistic here: is it that hour that makes an impact on somebody’s life or is it something else? Is it the fact that they are being kept accountable, that they get to meet you every week, that they get to be given something to do by you, guided by you? There is so much more, right? So #1: you should already know that charging by the hour and thinking that it’s only the hour of your time that matters, is just wrong. And we should be changing our own perspective on that. But #2: it’s also important that you make your students realise that: that your role is a wider role and they can use all the benefits or reap all the benefits of that when they work with you, because you’re gonna be their supporter outside class as well, right? They can share their win, which is sometimes the most valuable thing. If you’re an exam teacher, for example, and they share their exam result. Imagine how amazing that feels and how much gratitude they will be feeling. Just always, always remind yourself of that. That’s one side of the story: you’re not just a teacher.
And another thing is the reason why we often get so hung up on: ”Oh, but people won’t be able to pay that much” or “Who will buy it, who will be interested?” or “I’m not sure if people will want it – I would want to do groups, but I don’t know if people would want it”. We often look for rational reasoning outside ourselves – and I’m not saying: “focus on yourself” because the world doesn’t revolve around you – but do you know what the best gift that you can give to the world is? It is working on yourself, because, at the end of the day, you really have no influence over somebody else’s progress or growth. You can show them the path, you can guide them, you can support them, you can cheer them on, but, at the end of the day, it’s their decision – even if they’re a child because very often then they are guided by their parents as well. So, there are so many other factors that you have no control over. The only thing, the only person you’ve got control over, is yourself. Imagine what would happen if you worked on yourself, if you worked on your attitude towards learning and teaching. What if you worked on your beliefs around charging what people are willing to pay or not? What if you focused all those thoughts on you? I know that I’ve got experience and I can help somebody reach their goal if they put in the work. I’m not even mentioning that because it’s in brackets; it’s obvious that in the process of learning a skill, you cannot literally teach somebody a skill. You cannot. They can learn, they can take that on from you, but you cannot make them know something. And I hope you know that or begin to understand that because that’s one of the things that you could change when it comes to thinking about your role as a teacher.
Another thing might be you thinking about how sometimes we like to blame external circumstances for things that don’t work out for us. For example, you may think: “Oh, I really wanted to start being active and consistent on Instagram, but there is just so much to do. I have no time” – and that argument: “I have no time” is just so common. People say: “I’ve got no time, because there are so many things”; for example, you have a family, you have children, and obviously you have lots of things and responsibilities, but, again, everybody has the same amount of time during the day. I’ve got the same amount of time. I’ve got a family. I’ve got a child. I’ve got a house to clean. I’ve got a garden that looks like a mess. I’ve got so many things going on and I’m also multi passionate, so I’ve got thousands of ideas that I want to realise every 5 minutes. So, how do I do it all? I don’t. I don’t do everything. I just prioritise at times and I drop some of the things. And guess what? It’s a choice. It’s not circumstances don’t happen to you –obviously, apart from things like trauma – I’ve been through trauma and negative experiences – you’ve got no control over that but you have control over how you move on from there, or how your attitude is, and how your thinking about those circumstances is. Because I could have completely given up – you may have seen it on Instagram, I shared quite openly how hard the beginnings of my motherhood were for me, I had postnatal depression and everything. I could have completely given up because it was another choice and I did give up for many, many months. I didn’t want to do anything. I was frustrated, angry, and sad. But then, there comes a moment when you realise this is all up to me. It’s not a circumstance. You cannot give control to that circumstance. Or another example might be money: everybody, I think, kind of experiences the effect of the financial crisis now. The prices are going up, the inflation is super high, the prices of electricity and gas and everything are super high. And I had this conversation with my husband and I asked: “So, are you panicky, when it comes to our electricity bills?” And he said: “It’s worrying, but I’m not panicky”. And then we had that really deep conversation about how sometimes we think… because obviously that’s an external circumstance, the prices of gas and electricity are going up and we might struggle, but again, it’s up to us how we approach it. What if we all thought it’s temporary, we’re gonna go through it and we’re gonna be fine on the other side? It might be hard and nobody is expecting you to just pretend like nothing is happening. Absolutely not. But you can totally tell yourself that this is temporary and it too shall pass. And the same with any negative situation in your life. Really, really unaligned student who is just getting on your nerves, who is always late or always late with payments or whatever, you can make decisions that will change the course of all that. I’m just gonna repeat myself: think of how big your role is when it comes to being a teacher or even in life. What other lives do you influence and how? What impact do you have on them with everything that you do? And the best thing that you do to even expand this impact is to work on yourself, is to make your circumstances work for you, or think about them in a different way, so they don’t limit you. Because when people see that there is someone who, despite adversity, despite negative circumstances, despite trauma, despite neurodiversity, despite sexual orientation – because that still might be a problem for so many people – that they succeed, it’s the most inspiring and fire igniting thing in the world. I understand that you might not feel the need to inspire other people, that you just want to sort your own life out, but just remember and remind yourself that it will happen anyway. And if you work on yourself, people that you attract into your life, will also be less random. There will be people who will be in that kind of state of: “Oh my God, you are inspiring. I love what you do. I love how you present things. I love how you’ve changed my perspective on language”. People usually don’t tell you: “I love how many new words you’ve taught me”. It’s about changing something that is so much deeper in them. So, the more positive outlook you have on certain situations and a humanistic approach to people, to your students, and to life, the better it is for everybody – you included – and everybody around you.
I hope it has given you lots of food for thought. Again: read Brianna Wiest’s books, “The Mountain is You” (this is all about self-sabotage) and “The 101 Essays…” that you can just literally dip into, in and out. I didn’t read the essays in a linear manner. I just dipped into it when I felt like it, and it was absolutely amazing. I’m gonna link to those books or give you the titles in the description. Hope you’ll get inspired.
Let me know your thoughts and reflections and I’ll see you in the next episode. Bye.