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Columns by Linda  Formichelli:

Self-Promotion with Emotion

Obedience School

Momma Always Said

Sweet Talk



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You've heard the expression, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach"? Well, forget what you've heard. Highly skilled IPs -- can-do professionals like yourself -- often teach courses. Maybe you should, too.

Teaching is important, gosh darn it, even if I can't teach a dog how to squat. Teaching gives you an opportunity to get publicity, establish yourself as an expert, gain credibility -- and even rake in some moolah to boot. If the idea of teaching conjures up images of yardstick-wielding nuns and never-ending games of dodge ball, you haven't been in the classroom lately. From one-shot adult education classes to semester-long university courses, smart IPs are going to the head of the class.

Take Martha Garvey... please. Garvey is an adviser at New York University's Gallatin College, where she helps graduate students earn their master's degrees in playwriting or screenwriting. She has taught a course in how to write the short film at a number of universities since the mid '90s. Aside from receiving just the standard-issue paycheck, Garvey has discovered that students share one remarkable trait: "They get older, they graduate, and they attain positions of responsibility!" she says. "One of my former students hired me for a very cool Web job. Another showcased me at a performing venue. A third recommended me to an online magazine. A fourth offered to help me shoot a documentary. You get the picture."

Some IPs will content themselves with being a teacher's pet, but for those who are ready to get their revenge for all the boring lectures and monotonous slide shows they ever had to sit through, here's a lesson plan for how to succeed in the classroom:

  • Pick a topic. Brainstorm on interesting classes that relate to your business. An IP accountant can teach a course on gaining financial independence or eliminating debt. A PR consultant can teach students to publicize their businesses on the cheap. A Web designer can lead a class on building an e-commerce site.

  • Find a venue. Browse the catalogs from local colleges and universities, suggests Robin Gorman Newman, an IP publicist, author, and "love coach" for singles, who has taught at The Learning Annex, The Seminar Center, New School and the Great Neck Adult Education Program. If you're reading this column, my super powers of deduction tell me that you're a wired IP -- in which case you can also visit colleges online at College Board.

  • Sell yourself. "In every instance, I've called the college and spoken to the person in charge of non-credit programs, pitched the class, sent a letter to follow up, and then followed up on that," says Kelly James-Enger, an IP magazine writer who has taught introduction to magazine writing, business writing, and advanced magazine writing at Joliet Junior College and North Central College, and who is now teaching at the University of Illinois community education program and at Richland Community College in Decatur, Ill.

    Look at the range of course offerings at your local colleges, develop a course idea, sketch out an outline, and call the college to pitch your idea, James-Enger suggests. "Explain why people will want to take it and will find it helpful," she says. "For example, I was asked so often about how I got started writing for magazines that I decided to start teaching -- and when I'm pitching my idea to a college, I explain how interested people are in this topic."

  • Get psyched. Creating a student-grabbing teaching session draws on the same rules as public speaking -- like knowing your audience, practicing in front of friends and family members, and adhering to the maxim "tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, tell' em, then tell 'em what you told 'em." So before you take the stage, read up on some public-speaking tips at Toastmasters.

  • Get the word out. Once the topic and dates are set, let your potential guinea pi— er, students know where to find you. Send a press release to your local papers and make up flyers to post in supermarkets, bookstores, and libraries, suggests Newman.

  • Do your homework. If you thought studying was just for students, think again. Do some research to find out what your potential students want to learn from a class like yours. "Think of the problems you experienced when starting out and offer solutions for students to get over those initial humps," says James-Enger.

  • Be patient. Remember, students are in your class because they don't know anything about anything. "Be patient and remember that your students probably aren't at your level," says James-Enger. "I once used the word 'query' 20 or 30 times in class and finally a student raised her hand and asked, 'What's a query?' I felt terrible because I had assumed that everyone would know what I was talking about!"

  • Love it. Take a cue from me: don't do it if you hate it. "I think students can smell a disgruntled teacher a mile away, and they won't respond," says Garvey. "If you're teaching just to get publicity, you aren't in the moment. Teaching, like writing, is really about being completely in the moment. If you're a good teacher, people will find out about you because your students will talk about you." (People will hear about you if you're a bad teacher as well, but I'm sure no one here reading this will fall into this category.)

With a little research, preparation, and publicity, your class will be hotter than the surface of the sun. I'm talking white hot, baby! And if, like me, you discover that you really can't teach, you can always fall back on teaching others to teach. OK. Class dismissed.

We'd love to hear your feedback about this column, or put you in touch with Linda Formichelli if you like. You may also like to see her biography.

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