The teacher archetype is a popular role to play in the arts, complementary therapies and in the field of spiritual development. It’s a role that many feel called to embody at some point in their lives, especially when they feel they have something valuable to share. Artists, writers and complementary therapists love to share their passion with others, particularly adults with similar interests. Many feel inspired to share their passions through teaching, but sharing alone does not pay the bills. Unless there is an opportunity to access government funding or arts based grants, and the applicant is successful, then being paid to teach in the arts or complementary therapies is not an easy task. At best, it may only be possible through the aspiring teacher’s own small business. Marketing and selling a workshop, class or event to students takes more than passion to achieve the vision.
There are a number of attributes, strengths and weaknesses contained within the teacher archetype. A wise teacher resists the temptation to teach what they don’t genuinely know. Passion and enthusiasm are natural pre-requisites. There are many teachers with plenty of passion, but passion cannot make up for lack of genuine knowledge and authentic experience. Without extensive knowledge and thorough experience of their subject, teachers will not inspire potential students to a point where they want to pay the teacher to teach. A teacher with good strength of character shares information and experiences with their students that are meaningful to them. In order to be paid for this, the knowledge and experience they offer must be equal to the value of dollars paid for it. It is arrogant to think that teachers can meet the needs of potential students without asking them first. It is naïve to go ahead and teach a topic purely because it excites the teacher. This is called making an assumption and then pursuing it. To do so is to base teaching activities on physical sensations. It has nothing to do with following intuition or inspiration. It is offensive that some teachers think they can intuit their potential students’ needs when, in fact, they are simply following assumptions and their own self possessed ideologies and passions. No-one knows what others want or need until they ask. This is the purpose of market research. Further, there are some people who are not sure, or don’t know what they want when they have been asked anyway. Finding out exactly what others want to learn when the students are interested in the subject offered by the teacher is even harder. Is the teacher offering something to the students that they don’t already know? What is new about the subject being taught? If so, what is it? What is the message? Make sure it is crystal clear.
You might be called to teach writing. Whatever you are offering, be sure you don’t offend your target audience. When you offer a course that teaches writers to ‘write consciously’ you are implying that the writers you are targeting currently write unconsciously. Is it possible for an aspiring or seasoned writer to write unconsciously? Use language that speaks to everyone, and avoid jargon that is peculiar to an exclusive clique, field or industry. Teachers should also avoid insulting potential student’s intelligence by repackaging something old in new gift wrapping.
A teacher must be willing to learn from their students, but for the most part, the teacher’s knowledge and experience must outweigh their students’, or else why would they want to learn from teachers in the first place? If teachers want students to participate and listen to what they have to teach, and they want students to pay them very well for it, then a teacher must make sure they are an expert authority in their field or on their subject. To be truly effective and powerful, they must also be an example of their teachings. Teachers without enough true knowledge and genuine experience tend to feel like frauds, and this feeling seeps through to their advertising and promotions. Intuitive students can sense it, and the rest follow their instincts.
It has been said that teachers teach what they most need to learn. This may be a blanket statement designed to cover the guilt that plagues those teachers who lack enough real knowledge or genuine experience. It is impossible to know everything about a subject or an entire body of work, and at the heart of it, this statement serves to remind teachers that there is always something more for teachers to learn, in and out of the classroom, but if teachers are trying to sell their classes or workshops to students, then there must be much more expertise and information offered than not. Genuine teachers know how to lead others because, for a long time, they have been in charge of those aspects in their lives that are relevant to the subject they teach. Teachers at their best can capture their students’ attention and hold it for extended periods of time.
If you want to teach about healthy relationships, then you are expected to be an expert in relationships. Your training would be legitimate and widely recognised. You will have experienced the ups and downs in a number of relationships. You will have experienced unhealthy and healthy relationships. You will have a repertoire of proven strategies and tools to help others repair broken relationships or to help them move on to form better ones. You know how to navigate the mountains, valleys, deserts, earthquakes, famine, dead ends, rivers and sanctuaries of relationships.
If you teach creativity or art, then you are expected to be an authority on the subject. You would be an experienced, knowledgeable and practising artist in your preferred media. Your skills and talent would be evident. You would have created some truly terrible art in order to know how to create great art. Your training would be legitimate and widely recognised, so the art theory, skills and information that you share is qualified. You will have a host of strategies and tools to help others gain enough confidence to create and make art. You know how to navigate the challenges along the road of the artist.
If you teach about wealth, abundance and prosperity, then you are expected to be a financial expert, as much as you are an emotional, mental and spiritual expert. You will have experienced financial, emotional, mental and spiritual poverty which has taught you how to be the genuine expert in wealth and abundance that you are today. Your training would be legitimate and widely recognised, so the financial and wealth creation theories, skills and information that you share are qualified. You will have a host of wealth creation strategies to help others create and manifest wealth and prosperity. You know how to make your way through poverty and into wealth. If you want to teach these things, then you need to know what it’s like to be poor and rich in spirit; otherwise you have only one sided experience to pass onto your students.
An expert must be prepared to serve their apprenticeship. If you want to teach happiness then naturally you need to experience happiness for a certain amount of time, but you also need to be unhappy for long enough that you become an expert at it and a proficient manager of it too.
If you want to teach peace, then you need to be peaceful until it comes naturally to you. You also need to live in chaos and crisis for long enough so that you learn to be an authority on managing chaos and crises as skilfully as you manage your peace and serenity.
If you want to teach kindness and compassion, of course you need to be well versed in the art of kindness and compassion, but you also need to be harsh, cruel or judgemental. You need to be mean-spirited for long enough to learn how to be an authority on what it means to be harsh, cruel and judgemental, and to manage it as easily and readily as you do kindness and compassion.
The only way to become an expert, that is, to gain experience, is to live it. You have to be present in the pleasures and the painful experiences in order to be granted access to the complete experience. To become an authority is to be the author of all experiences, nasty and nice, that are contained within the field you wish to teach.
Teachers at their best are role models, leaders and guides so they must be able to lead their students into and out of their challenges and experiences. Teachers must be prepared to serve their apprenticeship so that they qualify as the authority they want to be on their subject. It is not enough to throw up information at students. Teachers are meant to teach students how to learn to manage their gifts and their challenges. Teachers have to know their way around the good and bad places in their area of expertise. It is not possible to be an authentic teacher in the arts and therapies, without plenty of knowledge and whole-istic experience of the ups and downs of the subject being taught.
It is also not possible to stand on one leg for long if you have two legs designed for the purpose. If you want to offer the whole of a subject, then put one foot on negative ground and the other foot on the positive side. When you have two feet on the ground, then you are less likely to fall over because you’ve lost your balance. Maintain your middle ground. This is how you remain centred as an authentic teacher. Very few students will pay good money to hear, or participate, in a lopsided opinion.