Today, I’m sharing the second half of the interview with my friend, Michele Lisenbury Christensen. A coach, speaker and teacher of teachers, she makes me howl laughing and think very deeply about things that matter. In part two we talk about the frustrations of teaching (and the path out of frustration), teaching for non-teachers, and the TeachNow course she developed along with Jen Louden. You can read part one here.
Why did you decide to offer free resources (video and action guides) as the first step onto The Teacher’s Path?
We wanted to transmit actual teaching, inspired by the program, rather than just marketing messages. We’re teachers, not salespeople. All three times we’ve offered the course, the path of generosity, service, and connection has been the best way to connect to the people for whom TeachNow is right. And we like modeling that way of “selling” your teaching.
On the Teacher’s Path site, you say “We both almost quit a whole bunch of times.” When did it get really bleak, and how did you make the necessary changes? How did those changes shape TeachNow?
For me, the bleakest times came when I checked myself at the door to do corporate seminars that my heart wasn’t really into. Knowing what I know now, I didn’t need to try to be something I wasn’t, but it seemed that way at the time.
And I almost quit when I was doing big keynotes from that puffed-up bravado-y place I mentioned. I was doing well and getting lots of adulation, but I was like a balloon that’s overinflated: one little tap and I’d pop! My self-loathing was so strong and the harsh voice in my head so loud that even if I got a standing ovation – and I did – I’d focus on the two people who had walked out before the end or the one critical feedback form. There’s a saying, “the back is as big as the front” and with my puffed-up front, I had a big shadow of insecurity and inadequacy. I think that’s the case with a lot of people who look successful on the outside – teachers, ministers, and beyond – their outward success merely fuels their inner misery, rather than alleviating it.
I think my own suffering (and Jen’s) contributes as much to TeachNow as much as our learning and our brilliant shining moments. There are lots of people out there who will tell you all about what they’ve got figured out. What we do that’s pretty unique, from what I’ve seen and what graduates have told us, is make room for the suffering, the not-knowing, the shit sandwiches that are part of The Teacher’s Path. Do I have the magic formula for making it all better? No. But anyone who says they do is as puffed up as I used to be. So instead what we offer are the tools that helped us be kinder, more grounded, more authentic in bringing the shadow AND the light and the confidence AND the uncertainty to our teaching… As well as the assurance from us and the community within the course that no, your doubts and fears and the pain you sometimes feel on this journey do not mean you shouldn’t be teaching or that you’re a bad teacher. In fact, you can weave those in to become a more sensitive and transformative presence for others and to build a more sustainable experience of teaching and of life for yourself.
The three permissions video http://www.theteacherspath.com/johnny talks about some of the key things that have helped me and Jen. Giving ourselves those three permissions were definitely among the “necessary changes” you’re asking about.
How does the teacher’s path apply to non-teachers? Managers, or creatives, or someone who does not immediately define themselves as a teacher?
Great question. I really think of my job as helping world-changers, in a general sense. This course definitely has grounded tools for crafting course design, managing students, and pricing and marketing courses. But even if we set those parts aside, at the heart of it, what it offers is a way of viewing your role as a helper in a more open-ended, softer, more compassionate – and as a result more powerful, potent, thunder-throwing, ba-boom! kind of way! So when I say helper there, I mean that feedback has told us that this course rocked out the way our graduates did their parenting, coaching, writing, blogging, crafting, web design, team leadership, and intimate relationships. It is a more authentic, grounded way of relating that we’re modeling and giving inspiration and information to support.
You know that I think the world of you, so I am going to ask this question straight up. You and I have collaborated with some of best folks out there, and also sat through some of the worst dreck that is out there. What is different and essential about the free class that you are offering on the 21st?
Thanks, Bill. The love is mutual! I know… this question is always prominent and in a way it speaks to that glut I spoke about in response to your question about the future. The future is now: it had better be different, huh?!
Our free class is truly a CLASS – much of what is offered as “preview” is really an audio sales letter giving bullet points about what you’ll get AFTER you sign up. This is a stand-alone module, a “first class” in the TeachNow program, and it’s all about finding where you are on The Teacher’s Path and diving into The Gap I was talking about earlier – the gap between where you are and where you think you ought to be. Our challenges on the Teacher’s Path and our learning needs are specific to the spot we’re at, developmentally, so we start by helping you “find yourself” (for free, can you believe it!??!) and that really pinpoints WHY you have the particular headaches – and opportunities – you have. Of course you do! That’s your stage on the Path! So if that’s the only class you take with us, you’ll feel more grounded, better oriented in your career, and soothed and validated for your fears and concerns. People have told us this one class is worth the price of admission. That’s different that a lot of what I’ve experienced.
What’s the name of your fantasy band this week?
I adore you, Bill! Readers: this man makes me laugh so hard I can’t breathe with the way he can turn any conversational utterance into a band name. I cannot hold a candle. I bow before your band-naming might. That said, I’m feeling frisky this morning, so I’ll throw out a girl band that combines thrash metal with soulful country-western style ballads: Mr. Wiggle & the Winks.
Mark your calendar: On September 21, 2011, at 10 am Pacific/1pm Eastern/6pm UK time, Michele and Jen will teach a LIVE free 70 minute class called “The Teachers’ Path: Dissolving Obstacles to Teaching Effectively & Joyfully” and YOU are invited! No infomercial… this is a stand-alone class that will reveal where you are on The Teachers’ Path and show you precisely what challenges teachers face at that point on the path and how you can move to the next level NOW.
I will be attending. I am not an affiliate. But I am a fan, and I know this course. So plan on joining us.
CLASS CALL-IN DETAILS:
The class is at
10am Pacific/11 Mountain/noon Central/1pm Eastern/6pm UK
It’ll run for 75 minutes
Phone number: (country code 001) (712) 432-0075
Access Code: 736289#