As many of you know, teaching is at the cornerstone of how I live my purpose in this world. I love teaching because it facilities powerful emotional connection, it allows me to always be a learner, and because it is a laboratory for our inner-connectedness. Most of us are teachers in some way, whether formally or informally, and I am honored today to introduce you to Jennifer Louden, a teacher and creator, who is sharing some of her thoughts on teaching and an opportunity.
Think back on the teachers you’ve had in your life. Some come to mind immediately for their realness, their generosity, a certain quality you may not be able to name but you could feel. Maybe it was your fourth grade science teacher. Maybe it was someone teaching you how to care for yourself in a workshop. Maybe it was a parent teaching you to ride a bike. Whoever they were, they were present and you could feel their presence.
To be an inspired teacher – who does not burn out – cultivate your own real and generous presence. Doing so will feel good to you and it helps your students learn by creating a compassionate, safe learning environment and igniting the parts of their brain that need to be taken care of for learning to happen.
Here’s a few ways to deepen and enrich your teacher’s presence – try them out and see if they work for you:
• Before, during, and after teaching, check in with your mind, body and emotions.
Ask yourself questions like:
Am I breathing? (Breathing deeply is helpful.)
Can I relax my jaw, eyes, belly, hands? (Let down your guard.)
Am I speaking to myself kindly? (Self-criticism cuts you off from your students.)
What do I need right now? (Your needs count, including going to the bathroom!)
Teaching on line, it’s easy to think your body and emotional state don’t matter – but that’s so not true!
• Shift into an open, self-accepting state with an open, self-accepting mind. As much as you can.
Be on the lookout for tension in your body and use that as a sign to take some full breaths and let go of any judgments that may have come up about yourself or your students. Letting go of “How am I doing?” and “Why aren’t they getting?” is a huge part of being present to what is unfolding and thus being able to respond to it genuinely.
• Find meaning in what you are teaching – the material matters to you.
Take the time, especially when preparing, to connect to the material you are teaching and let it inspire you. Come down from being “the teacher” and be a student as you prep – let fresh insights noodle you or gratitude you know this stuff. You can recall when you first encountered these ideas, and how wonderful that was for you. You can recall students who have been changed by this material when you previously taught it. All of these will help you find fresh meaning, and teach with more purpose and energy.
• Savor moments of joy, a rush of “This is so cool!”
Forget being the teacher who appears cool or “this is old hat” – an outmoded model that doesn’t serve. Share your enthusiasm in the moment – and that includes during writing or recording an audio or video if you teach on-line. Trust yourself and fly your freak flag!
• Stay connected to yourself and your students – abandoning neither.
The adventure of intimacy with students can be a crazy pendulum that swings wildly between two extremes.
At one end, you might maintain a cool remove, protecting your own energy. You sacrifice being warmly available to your students and the learning that comes through lively engagement. At the other extreme, you devote yourself to being completely available to students, but sacrifice your own well-being by meeting all your students needs and wants. Burn-out anyone?
Both of these extremes are born from avoidance: The distant teacher is attempting to avoid being sucked dry or feeling invaded. The over-available teacher is trying not to let anyone down or leave her or his needs unmet, and wants everybody to like him or her.
Instead, recognize it is impossible to meet everyone’s needs. You get to say “We don’t have time for that” or “I’ll be teaching a class on that next time” or simply “No.” You don’t have to answer impossibly complex or out of line emails, for example.
• Genuinely care about your students – they can bug you but you consciously work to find some love.
We all encounter difficult students. Try looking for something you can love about him or her before you respond on a call, in an email, or on forums. Maybe you like her avatar or how he uses emoticons, or her backpack or his mohawk. Finding something to like and appreciate fosters compassion and takes (some) of the judgment out of your encounters, which allows you to maintain control of the learning situation for all your students, without shaming anyone or having that subtle edge of your voice.
I hope these ideas invite you to play the next time you teach. Presence changes everything. It awakens your creativity, your patience, and allows you to be fed while you feed others through your teaching. It’s not always easy but it is always rewarding. Thanks for reading this!
Best-selling author and personal growth pioneer Jennifer Louden is the creator of many things, include the popular course TeachNow. With 1160+ alums, TeachNow empower people who need more confidence, more income, and more power in their teaching – no matter the subject or level of experience. Join Jen for a free sampler of TeachNow March 19th at http://www.theteacherspath.com and walk away with 7 actionable ways to dissolve sticky obstacles to teaching… now.