Evoking Fierce Loyalty in Your Students
Evoking Fierce Loyalty in Your Students
by Jennifer Louden (@JenLouden)
So many of us are teachers now in some way, shape or form – from teaching our clients how to thrive to teaching thousands via online courses to teaching our kids every minute of every day. The icon of what it means to be a teacher has escaped the confines of tradition – thankfully! In turn, more and more of us are expressing and sharing our goodness which, when done with care and heart, could help save our world.
Yes, teaching, in all forms, is that critical. I’m on a mission to help anyone who wants to teach to teach now so that we can elevate and enliven as many lives as possible as quickly as possible.
But so many of us are products of that top-down traditional teaching model. We can get stuck in how we approach teaching. One of the big ways (ironically) I have seen that happen in myself and teachers I teach is by forgetting about the students!
Students are the best teachers of teachers. When you start any teaching project with the idea of inspiring fierce loyalty in those you serve, you can reverse engineer yourself to fantastic success – for you and your tribe.
Here are my thoughts on how to do that – no matter what you are teaching:
Take Your Seat as a Teacher
In co-teaching TeachNow, a digital course that empowers anyone who wants to teach to thrive, to hundreds of students, I’ve seen that one of the biggest take-aways has been how powerful it is to claim your authority to be a teacher.
Claiming your body of knowledge, your ways of knowing and your curiosity, and then being willing to ground yourself in what you know – even if you aren’t always sure how you know it – allows your students to relax into learning because they can trust you to have a position. When your students know where you are, they have a reference point that allows them safety to explore.
Admit you Have Students
We of the creative free spirit tribe can assume “having students” means being stuck at the front of the room pontificating. Or that by seeing others as students, you are putting yourself up on a pedestal. What if seeing others as students – who are also teachers to you at other times – you instead recognize the truth that we all inhabit different levels of complexity in different domains at different times? We make that a dirty little secret instead of what it is: a simple truth. Embrace it – both ways – and you’ll find clarity and the ability to serve with more verve.
Connect with your Students
One of the more woo-woo things I do as a teacher: in a meditative state, I send out my awareness to the students I’m going to be teaching – even if they haven’t yet signed up for whatever I’m offering. I send prayers – that my students gain the most from what I offer, that they only participate if it is of benefit, that their travel be safe. I also tune in and ask “What do you need that I can offer?” and journal about what I hear. This nourishes my heart and reminds me I am showing up to be of service to them. It puts fierce loyalty front and center.
The most fundamental way to build loyalty is to zip your lips (and that means the lips of your busy mind, too) and open to others’ ways of seeing and experiencing. It helps enormously if you are at home in your own body with a relaxed body and brain. If you try to listen from a defended heart or a state of hyper-arousal, you won’t be able to hear much and your students will pick up on your lack of availability. You may need a good dose of self-care to open to listening.
Don’t listen just once; you keep listening throughout your encounters with your students. How to do that? Build in time for conversations and take notes or record so you can go back and listen again, “between the lines,” for what you might be able to bring from your knowledge storehouse to help learning happen.
Don’t forget to listen to yourself. Your hunches and insights about what to teach, how to teach, and what to leave out are invaluable. I always start with journaling and mind-mapping from what I know I want to teach, then I listen to students. That brings my loyalty to myself into the relationship.
Market with Respect
I’m guessing you make offers to your students to buy good stuff from you. Fierce loyalty begins with the first thing your tribe gets from you. Are you respecting them in the promises you make, staying away from hyperbole? One trend in teaching Michele and I will be talking about in our free class September 19th is that hyperbole in marketing is thankfully passé and it attracts students you don’t want to work with.
What about price and fierce loyalty? Are you charging a price that fosters loyalty not because it’s cheap but because it says, “I respect myself and you in charging this much because of what I am confident I can deliver.”
Are money-back guarantees needed for create student loyalty? Nope – it truly depends on what you can stand behind. I offer guarantees that require people to turn in homework to get their money back. I don’t want the hassle of “course gluttons” who sign up for everything willy-nilly then back out. Costs me psychic wear and tear. Yet I also know my courses won’t be a fit for everyone and want to respect that truth as well. I have also not offered money back, at times, because it felt right given the course content or price point.
Give Up Guru Status
The age of gurus and teacher gods is over. We are entering an era where equality is the teaching way. We need teachers who are informed and confident but willing to sit in circle with us, and “hold the rim,” as my mentor, author and teacher, Christina Baldwin says.
You might not think you would ever claim guru status, but in little ways, we all do – we get puffed up by our social media stats or who we hang out with or the great reviews a course we taught receives and we start to believe our own PR.
Keep Your Word
Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. This requires, more than anything, not over-promising. And believe it or not, not over-delivering. Cut out half of what you think you can deliver and promise that. Then deliver on that promise and check in with yourself, “Would it actually serve my students to deliver more?”
Over-delivering – when it comes to learning – doesn’t promote fierce loyalty because you overwhelm the capacity of your tribe to take what you offer in and use it. Learning is a slow process, and though we forget in the glutted speeded up interwebs, we are still human with human capacity.
Model Model Model
You know why people resist taking their seats as teachers? It means acknowledging you are a role model and you must walk your talk, live your values. The best way to teach anything is by being the learning you wish to impart. Daunting? Hell yes. Will you fail?Guaranteed. But don’t miss this glorious huge kick in the pants to become who you truly are. There is nothing like it!
Embrace “I Don’t Know”
You want to get those students of yours feeling the loyalty? Make the words “I don’t know” your go-to phrase. Puffed up posturing breaks trust. Giving incomplete information or sharing information that you haven’t carefully researched does, too.
Being a teacher is never about being right or being infallible or the expert. It is about convening a safe space for exploration and growth, for bringing out what is inherent in others. “I don’t know” opens that space.
Have Follow-Up Offers
It’s tempting to believe that offering a progression of offers to your students is unethical or slightly sleazy. The exact opposite is true. Give your tribe what they can actually digest and then lead them naturally into what might serve them next. Don’t leave them hanging – if they want more, make it easy for them to get it, and to see how it fits to help them continue their learning.
No matter what you teach, fostering fierce loyalty in your students will change everything for you as a teacher. It will increase a thousand-fold your enjoyment, commitment, and verve because you take the risk of being connected to your students, not from a place of “Please like me” but from a place of equality and service.
Students teach teachers. Aim high and let yourself be schooled. And tell me how it goes!
Best-selling author Jennifer Louden and Fortune 100 trainer Michele Lisenbury Christensen created their popular course TeachNow to empower people who need more confidence, more income, and more power in their teaching – no matter the subject. Try the course for free on September 19th – details at http://www.theteacherspath.com.