The Brain-Eating Zombie of Shutting Up

Yes, I have complained about how much people reveal about themselves on Facebook. Yes, I have been shocked by how thin (or non-existent) is the filter between brain and mouth.

Now, to the exceptions. Sometimes, keeping quiet does not serve your creativity. Or your peace of mind. Yesterday, I posted about the amazing shrinking class–the registration was full, but only two people showed up. It was hard for me to admit it out loud. How humiliating it felt to admit that the class was not full. And for all the readers on this blog to see! And my competitors to chortle about! Surely, I should shut up about this. No, that is not a good idea. It helps nothing.

Not shutting up is exactly what Brené Brown means when she talks about being vulnerable. It wasn’t about me. I wrote that blog for three reasons:

1. I learned an important business lesson.

2. Other instructors, who had not learned the lesson yet, could learn it without being humiliated.

3. Other instructors could also save themselves a loss of income.

The simple solution to the problem is to get paid before class. Not to punish people, but to create an accurate count for materials, and to judge the pace of the class.

When I create the class (and later, the flyer)  I  plan for a certain number of people, and then plan the pace and scope of the class. I can make small adjustments, but if extra people show up, I might not have enough supplies, and I will have to shorten what I teach to plan for keeping everyone in the class on target and able to complete the project.

If too few people show up, the class might drag, and I’ll have to fill in projects to keep them busy enough. No one wants to pay for a class and then finish two hours early. The participants might feel that they deserve a refund if the time wasn’t filled.

This is a teaching fact–there is a lot of work a teacher does that participants never see. And that is the whole point of  my speaking out. It’s not about being humiliated–there was nothing to be humiliated about. People who don’t show up after saying they will aren’t humiliating me, they are embarrassing themselves.

Competitors who snicker when I didn’t fill a class are doing so because they have experienced it themselves and still feel the pain. And every instructor has felt that pain. How they deal with it is up to them, and doesn’t affect me.

There is no bitterness in asking people to pay ahead of time. It simply is a good teaching practice. And my feeling humiliated? It’s an Inner Critic move to diminish my attention to class success and crank up creative insecurity.

Tending to boundaries is an important practice. On Wednesday, there will be more about the importance of boundaries and establishing and tending them.

-Quinn McDonald teaches much more than art projects.


8 thoughts on “The Brain-Eating Zombie of Shutting Up

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. It is a good reminder for me as I am preparing to start teaching workshops again. We have all had experiences of only a few people showing up for a workshop so it is not a reflection on you at all. When this has happened to me, I have explained to the people that did show up that more people did register and I couldn’t imagine why they were not there. That seems to help my ego a bit : – ) but NOT my pocketbook.

    Explaining to people that you have to plan/purchase materials for class should be sufficient for asking for payment up front. If people do not want to, they probably are not going to show up anyway. <–me repeating this to myself so I will be sure to always ask for the money up front.

    My "favorite" personal story of doing a watercolor workshop was when I had a full class of 20 (really too many but thought I could handle it) when a half-an-hour to 45 minutes into the class, a person (who had registered) showed up with two friends, who had not pre-registered, and handed me checks! I guess they thought they were doing me a favor. Of course that threw the whole pace of the class off as I had to take time to get them caught up while still instructing others the next step. HECTIC! And not fair to the people who showed up on time and I felt it made me look unorganized (inner critic).

    I still do not know how I should have handled it. The late arrivals were so excited and giddy about being there. sigh. I guess I should have said that the class had already started and it would not be fair to the other participants who showed up on time, but I still can't see myself saying this. I am looking forward to your posting about "boundaries" because that is just what I should have had in that situation, a boundary. I think in the future I will state in the pre-registration letter that if anyone shows up late, they will not be admitted. Your sharing really helped me revisit my procedures to try to solve situations before they occur. Thank you again!

    • Oh, that’s another great problem to consider–the people who come in really late or bring friends you hadn’t planned for. My favorite comment last week was someone who showed up for Day 2 of a Business Writing class, explained all about the important meeting that had kept him from Day One and then asked, “Did I miss anything?”

  2. Hi. When I worked for government, I came to understand that, unless there is a crisis, only a few show up. Now, I attend writing workshops quite often and I am dismayed to say how many are cancelled at the last minute because of lack of registrants. When they register and don’t show up, well that is just sad. Teachers provide such an important service to society … we should take every opportunity to learn and to take learning seriously. Jane

  3. I have found that in life there are no guarantees and I have to accept many situations on faith. However, business is business and getting people to pay up front is just good business sense! Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing. Love your blog!

  4. Thanks for sharing this. A lot of people don’t really understand about how the teacher has to prepare for classes. It is more than just showing up. Sometimes people don’t like it when you ask them to pay up front, but it is good business practice. And yes, I have made exceptions to that rule a few times, but I try to make sure people pay and are accountable if they decide to not show up.

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