Teachers are Vampires
As we discussed in our April newsletter May is going to be an exciting month for wortheffort. We’ve finally started making inroads with the local press and community getting the word out that we actually exist. Last month our behind the scene PR campaign finally paid off and Austin Monthly magazine did a little email interview with us for their “Fun Things to Do in Austin” section so hopefully that’ll come out late April or May. Plus we got accepted into the West Austin Studio Tour which is a really big self-guided tour of about 300 artist studios in Austin. This event has grown every year with some past year audiences saying we might get to see a couple thousand people. Individuals who are worthefforts target audience for both classes and artwork. May is important because we really haven’t improved our enrollment by relocating to Austin. In fact some areas like teen/homeschool enrollment are markedly down from the San Marcos location. Now it’s unrealistic that we’d see huge increases but some was expected. Add in Austin is a much more expensive city to operate ( even after I eliminate all personal housing expenses by just camping out in the warehouse) things have gotten quite a bit tighter. I can’t think of much more I could do in a single month (May) to boost our reach without spending lots of non-existent money on advertising. So if the reach that all this wonderful May marketing offers doesn’t show a shift towards the positive enrollment by July we’ll need to start looking at exit strategies.
While I do believe teaching is worth the effort I also believe with all this effort and risk I should be able to afford a real place to live with real heat, air-conditioning, hot water and food that doesn’t come from a can or dollar menu. (talk about being a 1st world brat!) And there are some things in life you can put off for a few years, or seven, but eventually things like glasses, wardrobes, shoes and such need replacing. I’ve done lots of investigating of 3rd jobs to provide myself those personal luxuries but a position that’ll work with the schools schedule and that pays a living wage has been more difficult than you’d think.
I wouldn’t mind continuing to make those sacrifices if the school could at least support itself. I do really enjoy teaching in the classroom so thru the month of April and May we’re going to try to develop a few new things to create new revenue streams while still providing educational material. Maybe, just maybe, by July these will develop into income streams that will be just enough to help subsidize our losses in the brick and mortar school while still letting the school and brands focus on education. Until now only art sales have been doing that.
We’re going to start producing much more text and video content for web distribution. Popular Woodworking Magazine has been gracious enough to let me blog weekly for them which will hopefully open the school up to a more national audience. I’m also committing to writing more often for this websites blog. The difference between the two blogs will be The PopWood articles will be very broadly based around woodworking education and our personal will be more focused on what’s happening in the school (i.e. marketing).
I’m also going to attempt to regularly produce educational video for the web. I’ve dabbled at ‘YouTubing’ these past three years and if you saw our Analytics by most measures the few things we’ve actually produced have done incredibly well. Especially compared to norms in the industry. But the thing is despite a million views and a multitude of lifetimes in terms of minutes viewed I can’t say they’ve contributed to keeping the doors open here. Not a single penny has been earned from all that effort and education. And while more people do know of the school someone viewing the video in Bangladesh doesn’t put a butt in the seat for a class.
All this would be fine if there was some personal satisfaction earned from their production but I can quite honestly say digital work doesn’t push my buttons. I spend around 60 hours of work producing the videos I prefer and I’m completely beat at the end, usually with a massive migraine and sore back. So in this state you hit publish and the next day you see that 1000 people have seen your work. A week later that number might be 10,000. But it’s just a number.
Now I’m going to tell you something about true teachers that many people don’t know. We’re vampires. We feed on students. A typical class I’ve spent maybe ten hours working thru a lesson plan (which I can use over and over) and a couple hours before each class. So if you have two classes a day that go for about 3 hours you’re looking at at-least 10 hours of actual work. At the end of that kind of day I’m not tired, I’m amped up. Seeing theories and skills click within students must be like what cocaine feels like because your body and brain can’t ramp down for 2-3 hours. A fact that wreaks havoc on the sleeping schedule of someone whose classes don’t let out till 10pm. And it’s the same whether or not you have 1 student or 30 in a class. It was the same when I taught public schools. I can’t think of a teaching day that I ever left tired or beat (testing days on the other hand…)
Having said that I also recognize I’ve worked extremely hard developing woodworking lessons that reinforce academia for teens. And most of that work is going to waste. So if I can digitize a series of videos maybe it’ll show local parents what a class is actually like to improve enrollment or we can figure out some way to monetize the work.
What’s going to be unique about this series is it will be formatted like a semester of classes you’d hope to find in a public school shop class or college elective. Starting with foundation skills and building to a level where students will feel confident in their abilities all the while reinforcing biology, physics, history, mathematics, chemistry, and even language. Lessons that a homeschooler could use, or a school teacher could show to a classroom and work thru the exercises, or a parent can learn from in order to teach their own children.
Maybe, just maybe, by July we will have a whole semester in the can and can work out some way to use future semesters to financially benefit the school. Intermixed between these classroom videos I’ll also produce stand alone project lessons that will act somewhat like educational infomercials for stuff we can sell online from the school. Examples of this are like our current videos on plane making, layout tools, and making mallets.
In the back of my mind I’m also thinking that a good body of work online might make it easier to get a full time professional job later this year if the decision in July is to close.
This is all to say that in the coming weeks you can expect to personally benefit from lots of new stuff coming from wortheffort. Please enjoy, learn, and recognize it’s all to keep a little brick and mortar school open so a selfish middle age teacher can continue doing what he enjoys, teaching to a live classroom.