What business are you in?

In last Thursday’s teachers’ class, Robert talked about something he described as a “huge issue” for teachers: being conditioned by your students’ responses to you. Since there were so few teachers there, we decided to bring the topic to this blog to get you thinking and sharing your thoughts and experience.

So, what does Robert mean by our being conditioned by our students, by the audience to which we’re presenting? He used the examples of the business world, in which companies adjust their image in order to elicit a response from the consumer (that is, to get them to buy what they have to sell!), or professional speakers or authors who feel they have to meet the demands and interests both of their audience and of their promoters.

The issue for us as Course teachers is: are we “in the truth business or the business business”? How much do we adapt and adjust what we teach in order to please our students and keep them coming back?  If we don’t let them condition us to give them what they want, they may get upset or lose interest and stop coming. It’s really a question of integrity; that is, how do we remain faithful to the teachings even if we know that some people will not like what we have to say? Is it possible to play to our audience and still share what is meaningful to us? Can we give in to conditioning a little bit and still “put out what is most real in us”?

Robert listed several signs that we’re being conditioned by our students:

  • Do you feel that you can’t really share with your students the ideas that are most important to you?
  • Do you feel that you have to say or teach certain things because of the feeling it creates in the room or because it hits a popular note?
  • Do you find yourself saying things that will have a certain effect and give people what they want? Do you find yourself trying to please them?
  • Do you try to adapt your personality and image to appeal to your students and evoke a particular response in them?
  • Do you hold back, muffle your voice, not say certain things, because you think what you have to say will ruffle feathers, not be popular, or go against the current thinking?
  • Do you choose a topic to present because it will please your students and strike a comfortable chord in them, rather than because it will contribute to their development, enrich them, cause change in their minds, and move them to a different place?

From there, Robert moved into what we can do about this issue, stating with asking ourselves that familiar Course question: “What am I here for?” What business am in: the truth business or the business, entertainment, or popularity business? Another question to ask ourselves is: what will really benefit the students and pupils I’m called to teach? Whose interests am I here to serve, and are they the best interests?

Other “to do’s:

  • Remember that you want something real to happen, not necessarily something big or exciting: “big without real is little”;
  • Focus on attracting those who are on the same wavelength and devote yourself to them;
  • It’s not what your students think of you that matters––it’s what Jesus thinks of you that counts;
  • Unmuffle your voice; don’t hold back out of fear of their reactions; “really let what’s in your heart come out all the way.”

In short;

  • You’ve got something real to give, so give it;
  • You have certain real people to help by giving it, so help them;
  • You have certain real relationships with your students, so honour them.

This is such an important issue because, if you let your students train or condition you to give them what they want, it will be hard for you to be honest and real with them and build deep and lasting connections. You may attract people, but you probably won’t keep them, or if you do, it will be for the wrong reasons.

How do you feel about this issue of being conditioned by your students? Is it something you’ve been aware of? When you read the list of signs, which ones can you relate you, even if only slightly?  How do you maintain the integrity of the Course’s teachings and deal with any issues you have around displeasing your students? How much have you “found your voice” with the Course? What business are you in?