Tag Archive | Teaching

The Great Imposter

@ninagarcia: “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” Robert Hughes

When I read the tweet from Nina Garcia, I realized how true those words were. I started doing research on the subject, as a former lawyer is prone to do. I discovered that there is an actual Imposter Syndrome out there. It affects women more often than men. It finds talented women doubting themselves and their choices. I am surprised at how often I encounter a decorator who is flat out amazing at what they do, but are afraid to enter cake shows. They don’t think they are good enough. They give their cakes away for free or little money because they don’t think they have the right to charge.

Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally known speaker, author and expert on women and impostor syndrome. Her book — The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive In Spite of It (Crown Business, Random House) is a fascinating look into how so many accomplished and capable people suffer from self doubt. She lists Tina Fey and Maya Angelou as two who have admitted that they suffer from this disease.

Apparently, some of the people with this syndrome vacillate between egomania and imposter thoughts. In this situation, Tina Fey says she rides the egomania times and tries to get everything done that she can when she feels invincible. When the insecurities come, she struggles to remind herself that the feelings aren’t real.

I know more than a few decorators like this. I might be one of them! One day I can feel like I am a great teacher and that I should be doing books, DVDs and traveling overseas. The next day, I look at a class project and think I am not worthy of teaching anyone. I start to doubt my skills, my classes and the projects I design. When the imposter feeling comes over you, you MUST have someone you can talk to who will tell you to snap out of it. I do it for my friends and they do it for me. I cannot even count the number of times Susan Carberry has talked me off a ledge!!

One of the most important things you can do is to remember that the self doubt you feel is COMPLETELY NORMAL. In fact, I would worry more about someone who never faces insecurity. I think it is that angst that makes us push harder to do a better job. It is the little voice inside that says “you can do better”. If you believe you are perfect, you are likely a narcissist and have stopped learning and trying to do better. Thankfully, I do not know many of these!

The next time the customer calls and you doubt your abilities, put on your imposter hat and pretend you are on top of it. Sooner or later, you won’t be pretending anymore…you will have it under control! 20140530-112315-40995155.jpg


Zen and the Art of Sugarcraft Demonstrating

I have attended quite a few Days of Sharing and cake club meetings. I had a media coordinator for one of the large groups write and ask if I would tackle the dos and don’ts of demonstrating. I read her notes and thought about how right she is! As sugar artists, we rarely have trained for doing presentations before a group. There are definite things that must be taken into consideration and those things differ depending on whether the demonstration is being shown on a big screen or not.

Just as being a talented decorator does not mean you can teach, being a talented artist does not mean you have the gift for live presentations. I am lucky because my drama training, disc jockey days and courtroom experience give me a comfort level in front of crowds that others might not have. I hope that sharing my tips with you will make you more inclined to demo for your next event OR will make you a stronger, more confident demonstrator.

Be Prepared.
Know what you are going to present. Have handouts for the attendees. Be rested. Be dressed professionally. Be early for your presentation.

Involve the Audience.
Confucius said it best. “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand. “. Whenever possible, have items to pass around the room. If people touch the thickness of the gum paste, they will better understand how thin to roll it. Let them handle as much as possible. They will be able to take close up photos and to really “get” what you are showing them.

Be Ready for Questions.
I will promise you right now that people will want to ask you questions. The questions may not be on the subject you are demonstrating! That happens all the time. Be ready to share your knowledge as time allows.

Be Honest with the Audience.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. Someone else in the audience may know the answer. This happened to me at the Houston Weekend of Sharing. I didn’t know the answer, but another demonstrator did and we all gained by me being honest.

Don’t just be an Advertisement.
Even if you are promoting or sharing a product, you don’t want your demo to feel like an infomercial. I may prefer a certain gum paste or fondant, and I may tell you what I am using. I will also tell you what you need to do to work with other brands. People turn off if they feel like you are just trying to make a sale. You are there to show how to do a project or a technique. Never forget that your motivation should be inspiration and education, not commerce.

Know the Pitfalls.
You need to have enough experience with your demo subject that you can tell or warn them about common errors and explain how to avoid them. Sharing your stories or those of others makes the subject relatable and helps them recognize when something is going wrong.

Don’t Overwhelm the Audience.
Some people feel the need to explain every little thing and, in some respects, show how knowledgable they are about a subject. If you get into technical properties, you may start losing people – not because it is over their head, but because it is not what they came for. When you test drive a car, you want to see how it handles. You learn how to program the radio and what tire pressure you need on your own time. You cannot show how easy your project is if you make it seem complicated or intimidating.

Share Stories and Be Spontaneous.
Do NOT read from a script. Do not speak in a monotone. Be excited about your product or technique and plan to share your enthusiasm. If you are by nature funny, be funny. If you are goofy, be goofy. Be yourself – that is who was asked to demo…not a robotic, serious version of you! Women mostly drive by landmarks and they retain knowledge by the stories that explain what you are doing more than by a dry reading of steps to follow. When someone is at home later, they will remember that story or joke that explained a step and will more likely be successful in their attempt to recreate your item.

Be Ready for Your Closeup.
If there is a camera shooting your demo for display on the big screen, you must demo to the camera. Allow me to repeat, demo to the camera, not to the audience. Keep your hands and your work in a tight zone so that it can be seen on the big screen. Explain your step, do that step, pause and let the camera focus on that step. Do not raise the item up trying to show the audience. The only ones who can see that are possibly the people on the front row, and even then, they might not really see it well. The camera is there to be their eyes. Use it. It may be on your left side or right side. Adapt your presentation so that your hands get out of the way as much as possible.

Work Bigger.
It is incredibly hard for most of the cameras to pick up the really small things. Sometimes the camera is just set at a certain place and no one is running it. If it cannot zoom in to show your work, you need to create bigger pieces, if possible so that the camera can pick it up. For instance, if I am showing how to make fingers on a hand for a small figurine, I generally make a ginormous hand so that each of the steps is easier to see.

Work Bolder.
I know that traditional royal icing work is white on white. I understand that you might like working in pastels. Here is the problem: the camera has trouble showing those subtle color differences. A friend of mine was demonstrating something white against a very pale background. It was all a white blur on camera. For demonstrating, you need to put aside personal preferences and go bold so that the camera can pick up what you are doing. I was teaching dusting recently and selected bold lily colors so that the audience could see them, but I forgot that because my petal was white and I was dusting on a white napkin, they could not see how I started each time. Luckily, someone got me a dark surface to work on so that the beginning stages could be seen.

Think About Your Outfit on Camera.
Have you ever watched a newscast and had the tie on the anchor make you dizzy? Some patterns wreak havoc with a camera. Some color tones are too deep and pull the camera focus. A mid range color is great, with a larger pattern accents if you want those.

No Camera? No Problem.
Some groups are smaller and they do not have a camera setup. You need to think about how you can show people in the back of the room what you are doing. For these demos, I generally stand. If you cannot see the audience, there is no way they can see what you are doing. Even if I am doing a flower, I will roll it out on the table, then lift it and show each stage to the audience. I try to have enough stages of my project pre made so that as I finish each one, I pass that stage around the room.

Demo Out.
Some people are amazing at what they do, but they work tightly to themselves and no one can see what they do. You have to train yourself to do your project in an open fashion so that people can see. I spoke to someone who watched a demo where the lady almost turned her body to hide what she was doing, then would show the finished step and say, “then do this”. Really? I often joke that I am better doing figures upside down and backwards than I am with them facing me. It is true. I often forget when working alone that I can actually look at what I am doing! If I am teaching piping, I am on the floor at the front of the table so that everyone can see around my head and hands to learn the motion.

Leave Them With a Great Story(board).
If your project allows it, have a display prepared that shows all the parts (like for a flower), or shows each major stage (like for a figurine). This way, the audience can come up and capture your presentation in one easy shot.

The single biggest piece of advice that I can give you is to believe in yourself and your role as a demonstrator. You were chosen because people want to learn from you. You are good enough. Demonstrating and sharing is vital for our industry. I attend as many Days of Sharing or cake club meetings as I can. I feel it is my duty to give back, but it also renews my love for sugarart. I feed off of the group’s energy and receive just as much as I give. It is one of the great joys of my life!

Eye on the Prize

I receive emails and Facebook messages a lot from people who tell me that they want to go to the cake shows like I do, own a successful bakery, teach all over the world AND have a reality show designed for them. And, probably they would like to do books and DVDs also. They want to be famous. And rich. And their own boss. So, what advice can I give them? Should they quit their jobs to pursue their passion?

I had a decorator ask me to dinner to talk over strategy for her career and this was almost everything she said to me that night! I was shocked….she didn’t ask to win the lottery, too? I know that seems harsh, but I think that this decorator was over-reaching. I have actually been lucky enough to do many of the things on her list, but over an 18 year period. There is a great quote from Oprah that sets this out beautifully:

“You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

It is more true than most decorators realize. You have to pick one thing at a time and move towards that goal before you can move to the second on your list. I told her she needed to pick just one focal point first. I honestly think she was upset by this advice. After all, she knows people who have two or three things on her list – so why not her? The thing is, the traveling teachers, the ones with successful shops, the ones who have done cake tv did not do it all at the same time from ground zero. In every case, they climbed the ladder of success. That means that there are steps you have to take to reach your dreams. One thing at a time.

I began with a plan for a commercial bakery. I worked for someone else for FIVE YEARS to get the knowledge and contacts and experience I would need. I began buying supplies over time. I started looking at locations long before I actually talked to people about renting space. You must know what you are doing when you open for business! In the end, I needed to push myself to actually start my own shop.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
(Leonard Bernstein). I think this is another great quote. If you have the luxury of time, you do not push yourself. (Remember my Scheduled Happiness blog?!). Decorators procrastinate. You have to set a short, but realistic time frame for each step of your dream.

For a while, I was juggling entering cake competitions in many states, operating a full scale bakery and trying to teach. It is fair to say that the triple demands meant that I never reached my ultimate goal in any one area during that time. “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” ~ Anonymous.

My good friend Mike Elder has been writing in his blog lately that he realizes he is going to have to make some changes in order to achieve his CURRENT dreams and goals. My first question to him was, what do you want to do? What makes you happy? At first, he and the others I have talked to in this situation cannot tell me which ONE direction they want to go. It is so hard to choose which child you save and which one you don’t. Dreams are like our children and letting go of one to focus on another is life changing. It is the hardest business choice you will have to make.

I don’t say this lightly. As many of you know, the last few years, I was traveling to cake shows with my competition cakes, running a really busy bakery and trying to establish myself as a teacher. A little over a year ago, I stopped competing at the shows. I truly love making the competition cakes, but I could no longer juggle three dreams. I put the competition one aside for a time. Sometime last year, I realized that my travels to teach were wearing on me and on my employees at the bakery. I realized that I looked forward to each teaching expedition, but really was starting to dread the weekends of caking and deliveries. I was going to have to narrow my focus again. So I did. I closed my bakery to concentrate on teaching. I believe my narrowed focus has paid dividends.

If you look at many prolific book writers like Debbie Brown and Alan Dunn, they do not own retail shops. Their job is to write books and to teach those projects. That is their sole focus. When my friend Becky Rink wrote her amazing book, she took a year sabbatical from cake orders. She committed to her dream in order for it to come true. If you focus on just one project or goal, you can achieve it.

If you are reading this and trying to decide whether it is time to let go of one dream in favor of another, know that letting go is not failing. It is moving UP the ladder of success to the next rung. At each stage, you have to put yourself in the best possible position to achieve the next goal. If you try to hold onto all of the goals and try to achieve them all simultaneously, I promise that you will be as bunched up as someone playing Twister and will fail.

I hope each of you will take a moment to ask yourself what you really want for the next stage of your life and career. Figure out what steps you need to take to do that. Allow yourself time, but not too much time to start implementing your plan. Know that it is ok to walk away from one dream in order to achieve the next. Put your eye on the prize and the prize can be yours.

A Message From the Front Lines

After my last blog on the realities of teaching, I started hearing from many of the organizers of mini class events and those who host teachers at their shops. These folks are on the front lines of the teaching world and have a unique perspective. Since I have already addressed things from a teacher’s view and from a student’s, I decided that we needed to hear from the folks who make these classes possible. After all, I have been on all three sides and remember well what went smoothly and what did not. This blog is for everyone who teaches and anyone who thinks they want to teach.

There are some very common mistakes that many of us who teach make – and fixing these could make a host’s job so much easier. Additionally, I will tell you a bit about how they decide who to host and what helps you be invited back.

The first common mistake is writing a poor class description. The sins committed in this arena could keep English teachers busy forever! People must write these late at night, after several drinks or one minute before they are due. The worst things? Sentences that aren’t real sentences – they are two thoughts combined with a couple of words accidentally left out so that it makes no sense whatsoever. Poor grammar and spelling are the next most mentioned issues. I am sorry, but if you are in business, you MUST learn the difference between your, you’re, to, two, too and other words that spell check will let you use improperly. The hosts often cut and paste the descriptions onto their sites, but cannot save that time if you failed to do your job properly. Then we come to punctuation. Not! Every! Sentence! Needs! An! Exclamation!! Point! Or! Three!!! We understand you want to convey excitement for and about your class, but step away from the exclamation point.

If you are craptacular at punctuation, spelling, grammar or anything like that, please cultivate a friendship with someone who excels at those skills. Have someone else read over your class description before you send it to a host. I promise that a well written description receives more favorable attention over an incomprehensible one any day. Are you wondering if this is something you are guilty of? Look at class postings and see if the host had to change your words, spelling or more. This will tell you that you need to pay attention to this aspect of your business, just like you do the skills you teach.

The second common mistake is the understatement. These teachers must believe that the title is enough. For example, if the class is Royal Icing Piping, the description will say that you will learn to pipe with royal. Wow. That is helpful. I know just what my project would look like leaving that class! Seriously, you MUST promote the class with an enticing description. Read restaurant menus. They excel at making a hamburger sound gourmet and making you feel like you can taste the flavors. The words you choose will determine whether people want to sign up.

The third common mistake is the over promise. I love these. You will be assured that in this two hour class you will learn everything there is to know about this technique. Really? Everything? That is simply not possible. So let’s be realistic with the students and tell them what the project is, what techniques they will learn and what they can expect to leave class with.

The fourth common mistake and one raised by every host I spoke to is that a picture is worth a thousand words. Good picture quality of a good project sells the class. Too many teachers are like me and offer classes that are designed in their head, but not in actual sugar. When there isn’t something photographed, people tend to keep promising to send the picture, but it never arrives. Class enrollment is typically lower for any class without a photographic sample.

What makes it a good picture? Look in any sugar art book. The item will be well lit, with a clean or complimentary work surface around it. The picture will be in focus (don’t laugh!). The picture will not be from a cell phone. The picture will not be cluttered with everything imaginable in the background. Are your photos good? Compare them to these guidelines. Your camera comes with a flower (macro) setting. Use it. It allows you to get crisp, clean detail shots up close.

The fifth common mistake is last minute planning. Everyone forgets something sometimes, but if you show up for class without numerous supplies, you may not be ready to teach. If the host needs a supply list from you so that they can provide things for the class, you need to get those to them by the deadline! Your failure to plan well can wreak havoc on a class and the costs for purchasing the supplies. And for goodness sake, don’t have supplies on the list that you do not even use. I truly hate that!

The sixth common mistake is to rest on your laurels. You might be the great and mighty Oz, but Oz needs to get busy with Facebook, twitter, emails, instagram and word of mouth promoting the class for the teacher. Part of the reason you were chosen is to help draw new focus to the class or event. You cannot and should not rely on the host to do all the promotion. If you are not savvy with social media, please take a class or learn from a friend who does it well. This is an integral part of marketing in today’s society. This is part of your job as a teacher.

The seventh common mistake is to think that the host is there to cater to you. You should never waltz in as the “talent” expecting that your class prep has been done for you. The hosts want to see you involved and committed to your classes. I have seen some celebrity teachers working their butts off to set a room and I have seen some newbies who thought it should be done for them. Of course, I have seen the reverse of that, as well. I don’t think it has anything to do with celebrity. You are either a hard working, industrious person who will get things ready or you grew up with a sense of expectation that things should be handled for you since your time was too valuable to do the menial things. I have made lots of promises so far in this blog, but venture one more. If you do not work as hard as the host, you will likely never be invited back again!

The eighth mistake is to think that the host is an ATM machine ready to disburse funds to you continuously. Unless room and air are part of your negotiated deal, forget it. Do not expect to be hosted for extra days so you can sightsee. How on earth does that benefit the host? Do not think that you should be paid up front or a month before class. Most classes are paid to the teacher at the conclusion of the class. Some venues or cake shows mail it within a week or two after. Know the standard and stop trying to buck that tradition.

The ninth mistake is forgetting that your hosts have lives. Don’t call when it isn’t business hours. This is your job. Late night calls are creepy and intrusive Don’t expect them to ignore their families or businesses in working with you. Yes, you might be the coolest thing since sliced bread, but their kids still have homework, the shop has graduation cakes , etc., and the host is juggling as well as possible. Be considerate. I think this one carries on after the class, also. You need to help clean the room. Wipe down tables, clean up spills on counters and floors before the stains set, put things back where you found them. People, this is all Golden Rule stuff here! Please make the hosts know that you appreciate them. The easiest way to do that is to use your magic words, “Thank you”. Thank them for inviting you. Thank them for bringing in students. Thank them for the use of their space and the graciousness of their employees.

The tenth mistake is to say that you provide everything, but you really don’t. If the students will need a box to carry home the project, they need to know that. Be realistic on what is included and help the host and students out by telling them up front what they will need to provide.

I am sure there are more things we do wrong as teachers, but let’s start by working on these 10. Next, we need to know how they decide who to bring in. I will say the widest variety of responses came here. Some hosts focus on international artists and want to bring in people that are not “regulars” in the US. Some hosts have built a name from hosting celebrity classes. A few hosts focus on established professional teachers. To a one, the hosts told me that they are hesitant to book a class with a newer sugar artist. The reasoning is simple…lack of worldly experience. Something will come up and that teacher will be less likely to know the answer because they have not seen that situation before. An experienced sugar artist has an entire arsenal of “if you do this, this goes wrong” stories. Most have earned their knowledge the hard way and the students get the benefit of their years of successes and mistakes. I brought in celebrity teachers and then started bringing in fundamental skill teachers also. I liked the mix.

Newer teachers also tend to lose a lot of class time telling you about themselves. I heard this a couple times from hosts and have witnessed it. The newer teacher wants you to understand that they are talented or ready to teach, so they want you to know their whole story. The old pros assume you know who they are and that you trust them to teach you.

One final note from the hosts. If they sell supplies, help promote their products. Look in their store to see what they carry and what you could promote related to your class. If you have products, allow them to sell them and give them a discount. If they do not want you to sell at their shop, then don’t do it! Most hosts make little to no money hosting classes. They do this to bring new folks into their store, to promote their products and to build a relationship with an established teacher. Your kindness in promoting their sales will forever be appreciated.

So, in the end, my advice is for the teachers to remember that you and the host are both running a business. Write well. Use proper photos. Thank the host. Be prepared. Be considerate. Be the type of teacher YOU would like to host.

From my selfish standpoint, I want to thank the mini classes, shop owners and cake shows that have allowed me to teach. Thank you also for sharing this advice with me and my readers. May we all do better in the future!

Show Me the Money

We all remember the line “Show me the money” from the movie Jerry Maguire. I have been noticing that many young decorators do well at a cake show, appear briefly on a tv reality show or hear how great they are from their family and the next words spoken are: “I should teach….I will make tons of money!”. Additionally, people always write or ask me how they can get more teaching jobs As a well traveled road warrior from the teaching circuit, I decided it was time for a blog on the realities of teaching.

I think that when students see some of the prices people charge for classes, they think the teachers must be rolling in the dough. I will admit that I see some prices and have thought the same thing. I decided it was a good time to talk about the costs of being a teacher, especially one that travels. I thought I should also talk about the perceived glamour of being a teacher around the globe.

Let’s start with the price people set for their classes. What goes in to the pricing? More teachers are providing all or most of the supplies, so that is the first consideration. Keep in mind that it is not just the cost of the materials like icing and armature, but also how much it costs to get them to the class location. Lauren Kitchens estimates that half her class fee is eaten up by this part alone! When your shipping costs alone exceed $700, you know that the cost of offering that class is HIGH! Classes with dummies, wood, metal armature and lots of fondant are expensive because of what you get to play with in the class.

Now let’s talk about the tools. There are a lot of things needed for the class that the teacher will be able to use in more than one class. The cost of purchasing and maintaining those tools still factors in. Think about how quickly it adds up to have 25 spatulas, tips, rolling pins, silpats, ball tools, etc. I remember a young talented artist who wanted to teach. He was outraged at the cost for the supplies and complained that he was going to have to spend all the class fees just to purchase the supplies – there was nothing for him if he did that. He wanted his boss to buy those so he could make some money I will admit that I smirked inside a bit. I had another friend who decided to teach. She had won one show and was ready. She said she had a list of 4-5 things she needed to buy to provide. Then she assisted in some of my classes and revised that list. In the end, it was three pages long! There is so much more than meets the eye!

And yes, it is expensive! I didn’t start full force into teaching. Over a three year period, I started purchasing tools. Each time I developed a new class, I had to start buying more tools. I was lucky that I could buy things over time and search for the best prices. If you wonder why some teachers never seem to develop new classes, this could be a factor.

Once you have all the stuff that goes into the class, you have more things to factor in. We will start with the easy things first. You have to book a flight or drive to the class location. Driving allows you to haul more without the expense of shipping, but eats up your days on either side of the class. The drive there is not so bad, but starting a long drive after teaching a day or two of classes is just too much! If you fly, you have to think about bag fees. Most of us that travel a lot are huge fans of Southwest, where our bags fly free. Even with that, most of us STILL end up with extra bag fees depending on how much we have to transport.

Then, we get to book hotel rooms and arrange for a rental car. True, some big names get this included in their teaching contracts. I expect they are not reading this and it doesn’t apply to the rest of us. We have to pay all travel related costs. Often, we get to pay to park that rented car at the hotel site. It is like a two edged blade! We have to rent bigger cars for the luggage. Every little thing starts to add up. This is why you will see me and many of my teaching counterparts rooming together and cramming too many people and luggage into a car…we are trying to save money to not go in the hole that trip.

The other really big variable is to compensate for the time you are gone from your business. If Lauren Kitchens is gone, cakes are not going out. That lost income does not prevent her from incurring overhead, payroll and all the other bills from running a business. She must earn enough to cover those costs or she cannot leave her shop. Ask any of the teachers in retail and they will say the same. And remember, it was probably much less expensive for me to leave my shop in OKC than it is for Ron Ben Israel to leave his shop in NYC. The fees are relative to what THAT teacher will lose by going away to teach. Now remember, we are still just working on the costs associated with teaching. Last, but not least, you hope to earn something for yourself to compensate you for sharing your knowledge.

One of my favorite stories is that Peggy Tucker’s husband had finished her books from a trip and said “You made $30 on that trip.”. She said, “I made THIRTY dollars!!!”. Irritated, he said, “yes, $30”. She was still glowing because she was just happy to be in the black. He thought she had to be crazy to have done that teaching trip for just $30. I have had many trips where I lost money by going, but refused to let down a show or class host. I have also had a few trips where I came out enough ahead to offset a loss or two. It is a bit of a crap shoot. And sometimes you must go at a loss to establish yourself in a new area. Think of it as a loss leader. You hope that IF they ask you back, your next outing will be for a profit.

Often, someone else picks what you are going to teach from a list of possibilities you provide. They also are just using their best judgement as to what they think people will want to take. The class that sells out in Virginia can be a bomb in Georgia. There is often no way to tell. Teacher extraordinaire Lorraine McKay posted the other day that she was going to stop offering classes in Scotland. She simply cannot fill the classes there. The economy is tough and money is tight. People fret over whether or not to take classes. I did the same the other day when I concluded that I simply could not afford to take Robert Haynes class…and I have wanted to study with him for a while!

“But Ruth, teaching is so glamorous! You are always going somewhere fun!” True. I get to go to lots of places. Unless I add a day onto the trip, however, I never get to see the town. When you are there to teach, it is all business. Most trips, I arrive the afternoon before the class. I go buy supplies from the grocery store that I didn’t want to carry. I go to the hotel or class location to get my fondant, etc. Now I get to start the other thing you have to compensate yourself for…actual class prep. I mix colors. I divide the icing and bag it. I make any fragile parts needed for the students. Sometimes I am still editing class notes that night. Usually, I will get 2-4 hours sleep the night before a class.

You arrive for class early to set the room. You teach all day, rarely actually eating anything and often skipping bathroom breaks until the end of the day. You are generally dehydrated from talking the whole time and forgetting to drink your water (or coke)(which is also why you never went to the bathroom). Class ends, you pack up, clean up and end up eating a late night meal. Susan Carberry is the queen of late night room service when she finally gets to sit down and eat!

I forgot to mention the fun of schlepping all the supplies to and from your classroom. In Florida, Susan and I had 28 boxes, not counting our luggage filled with supplies. Many hotels will force you to have a bellman to use their luggage carts, which means you start tipping per box and piece of luggage! You get to pay from the car to your room, from the room to the classroom, from the classroom back to the room and from the room back to the car. I swear I heard Susan’s wallet scream in Orlando.

So am I telling you to forget your dreams of being a teacher? Absolutely not. I am telling you to do your research first. Know what the class you plan to offer will cost you. Know what the effects of travel will be on your health, happiness and relationships. Know how many students you must have to make a trip worthwhile. Know the business that you want to go into. And don’t mistake it…it is a business. But it must also be your passion. You must love teaching with all your heart. You must be doing it for that love more than for a paycheck. When you are missing your spouse, your children and your furry babies, you better be sure you live teaching with all your heart or you will not be able to do this for long.

You may wonder why so many teachers have become vendors. I always said that I wanted to teach, not to sell. The harsh reality is, the class fees just don’t cover it all. You have to sell supplies to increase your odds of not taking a loss on the trip. I always tell my students that I am a reluctant vendor. It is true. That is not my passion and I do not sell forcefully because that is not the reputation I want to have. But my husband has made it clear that he would like me to occasionally make a profit. And since he is letting me galavant all over the world, I can make that effort.

So what do you do if you know in your heart that you are dying to teach? Start locally. Demo for your cake club. Demo at the ICES Days of Sharing. Ask local cake shops if you can teach there. Offer a class at your bakery or home to a smaller group. Get your “sea legs” for teaching. Write an tutorial for one of the cake magazines and submit it for consideration Have someone tape you; then watch yourself to see where you can improve. Once you have your supplies, class materials and timing down, start volunteering within your region. If you attend a cake show, see if they need a demonstrator or teacher. Have references. Have photos. Do the same at neighboring Days of Sharing and other cake club meetings. Take classes from people you hear are good teachers. Learn from how they run their classes. See how they manage time. (read my earlier blog on what makes a good teacher!). Expect rejection, but keep working. The next time you ask could be the magic time.

I once had a friend complain that no one asked her to teach. I looked at her in surprise. I never thought to wait to be asked. I wrote emails asking to demo and asking to teach long before I was allowed to do so. I sent CDs of photos to Cake Camp and Florida Mini Classes, along with references and a resume. I never thought anyone was going to hand me the opportunity…I set goals and started working towards them. I was patient. I had decided it would take about three years of hard work to become a nationally recognized teacher. I probably underestimated. While I am getting closer to that goal, there are many parts of the US and oh, so many students who have no idea who I am. I am fully prepared to keep asking for teaching opportunities and will keep being one of the hardest working teachers on the circuit.

What is your takeaway from this blog? By all means, teach. But teach because you love to teach. Teach because of the joy you give to your students. Teach because you cannot imagine doing anything else Teach to keep this amazing art form alive. Forget about the money. Show me the passion.