1) “BE HONEST, BE TRUE, AND ALWAYS BE YOU”
My eight year old daughter learnt this quote on a Donald Duck cartoon. She came out with the phrase one day at the beach. After putting on her flippers and mask, she bade me a very funny and dramatic farewell, shouting above the waves “Be honest, be true and always be you”. It was so comical and wise at the same time – a cross between Baywatch (in her frilly bikini), Popeye and Walt Disney.
I think it perfectly epitomizes the truth behind successful edupreneuring. I believe that Walt Disney was the first true, solo EDUpreneur. He has been educating children for generations in true values, story-telling and the magic of life. He also built the largest multi-national mass media corporation in the world. His creativity was not born in the soul of a shrewd, ruthless hustler. Hustlers spend their lives selling second-hand cars. Edupreneurs spend their lives giving birth to new ideas and lighting up lives.
People may not realize it but truly successful edupreneurs cannot survive on wit alone. There are no short-cuts to integrity or being human. Either you are humane or you are an under-developed human being. There is no success without giving value and soul to your work.
As Walt Disney is my Edupreneuring hero, I have actually written a series of articles featuring the Walt Disney creativity strategy. Here are two articles where I cover the creativity model and some inspiring Edupreneurs whom, I believe, exemplify law number one.
“I am where I am because of bridges I have crossed”
As for integrity, it must reach the highest levels when it comes EDUpreneuring. We are not wheelers and dealers and we do not work on the stock market. We are freelance educators working according to various educational models. Some of us specialize in one-to-one teaching, some of us operate full-fledged online schools, some of us are philanthropists, some of us organize massive MOOCs, some of us blog, write, and design educational materials. Some of us are a mixture of all of the above.
Whatever we may do, it will all fall flat without the inner fire of motivation. True motivation is not a list of affirmations. It is being true to why you want to teach. What’s in it for you?
In a way, teaching has to be a selfish act. If there is nothing in it for you, your motivation will die. That’s why teaching values should be the bedrock of your Edupreneuring formula. Without values you have no foundation, no inner light, no means to develop a rapport or brilliant minds. Without values you have no purpose. No fuel. No joy. When you give, you receive.
Have you got something to give?
What’s in it for you?
2) YOU ARE WORTH IT
There seems to be a very disturbing misconception that teachers can live on fresh air, even though teachers are all things to all people. Prevailing opinion may have it that it’s immoral to ask for teaching fees to match your expertise. However, nothing could be further from the truth. By creating wealth for yourself you generate more wealth for others. You not only deserve to earn healthy fees for your work, you deserve to make as much money as you want, provided that you obey law number one above.
The truth is that freelance Edupreneurs create value ten times higher than the fee they ask for.
a) By helping someone pass an exam in English proficiency, you give him/her a ticket to the career of his /her dreams anywhere in the world.
b) If you are a teacher who embodies law number one above, you will be imparting much more that the language certificate. You will be imparting much more than intellectual knowledge. You will have enriched your student’s life in immeasurable ways concerning the heart and mind.
c) For every live online lesson fee or course fee you may charge, you are already giving away a wealth of information for free on your website in the form of lesson plans, articles, curated content links or even free eBooks.
d) We all need wealth to make a difference in the world and help those in need.
3) YOU ARE NOT ALONE – NOR SHOULD YOU BE.
You may feel pressurized by competition and fear the success of other Edupreneurs. This feeling may cause you to work alone, be suspicious of others, hoard your ideas or be afraid to give away free content on your website.
The truth is that your fellow Edupreneurs can help you much more than they can hurt you. No one can hurt you if you follow law number one. Education is being redefined by Edupreneurs who admire each other’s work enough to collaborate, share, and go beyond themselves to help each other. Global collaboration brings teachers together through interconnected dewdrops on a web of inspiration.
Here are some examples of such sharing.
a) The collaborative book experiment organized by Andre Klein who decided to share his publishing success with fellow Edupreneurs.
Our book,’Learn Natural English through Story-Telling‘, written by international teachers, has just been published on amazon.com and will soon be out in paperback. There will be a free promotion for a few days where you can download the book which has stories in it for teaching English.
b) The ELT-T MOOC, brain-child of Jason. R.Levine, which has over 1,250 enrollments on WizIQ as I type.
This MOOC is offering unprecedented concentrations of socially-driven and expertly presented teacher training for free. Its power lies in a large team of facilitators formed from an inspired personal learning network built on Facebook.
c) The 30 Goal Edu movement by Shelly Terrell.
Shelly is an educator who embodies rules one, two, and three so far. She is an intrepid freelance teacher-trainer who is respected and loved in educational circles online. I feel that her inspiration comes from helping other teachers, which is obvious if you read her blogs or 30 Goal Edu eBook. I am currently taking up her EduGoal Challenges for 2013 and it has been fun and enlightening so far. Watch Shelly and I hang out here, as Shelly asks me about Edupreneuring and my EduGoal experiences.
d) Sharing knowledge generously also helps you to reach out to the whole ELT community from all kinds of different traditional backgrounds. My series of educational articles have found me many new contacts in the ELT world and a guest article on the British Council blog called Voices.
4) TURN YOUR DOUBT INTO INSPIRATION.
If you are a new teacher thinking about working online you may be forgiven for feeling intimidated by some successful Edupreneurs I have mentioned here, or those I have featured in my Walt Disney creativity links. However, instead of feeling swamped, overwhelmed or out of your league, put on your thinking cap and learn from them.
All of these Edupreneurs have followed big dreams, worked extremely hard, and made sacrifices to build their careers. They also have three magic ingredients.
a) They do what they love and know where their strengths lie. Your strengths can be your natural talents and personality.
b) They are self-motivated and embody the Five Laws of Edupreneuring.
c) They are patient, consistent and they all started where you are now.
Be inspired by the success of others but don’t try to copy them. Use their principles to unleash your own unique creativity and make a giant digital footprint online.
5) ESTABLISH YOUR BRAND AND READ A LOT.
This can be quite tricky. When I started out online I was just advertising as a plain, old ELT teacher and had no brand or niche in mind. However, through running language groups on Facebook, running free creativity experiments on Edupunk, and reading about my passions in education, my brand just evolved. I was known for having certain characteristics before I even stopped to look around me and see my colleagues set up in vibrant niches while I felt I was straddling the Grand Canyon.
That Grand Canyon turned out to be my eclectic vision of what education was to me. I had subconsciously spelt it out on my blog as ‘Brain-Friendly learning methods, tools, environments and communities’. To cut it short, ‘BrainFriendly’ is my niche – as rich, deep and impenetrable as it may seem to be – it suits me perfectly, as I get to be both introspective and influential at the same time , whilst engaging in the creative arts to teach self-expression in English.
Your brand will not live for long if you don’t immerse yourself in professional development. Everything is in a state of flux and evolution, from our thoughts to our professional activities. Reading, attending webinars, and networking are activities that keep your brand fresh and alive.
Do not cling to static visions of what your ‘brand’ is supposed to be. Your brand can get you noticed in educational circles, but you are not a pair of designer running shoes. Your real success will lie in extending your brand to reach out to your students, clients and networks around the world.
Finally, some notes on my ‘Five Laws’. Unfortunately, I cannot say that they were delivered to me on stone tablets from a Thassos mountain top, but they certainly ring true according to my life experience. For those of you who disagree with these laws, you can just call me a law unto myself (or comment below with your take on the laws).
My original plan had been to find quotes from famous entrepreneurial leaders and then comment on their wise words. However, in actual fact, I had too much to say for myself, so I decided to express myself first and then see which famous leaders agree with me.
Be honest, be true, and always be you;)