There are hundreds of educational consultants who deliver workshops, training, and professional development for teachers, administrators, and other educators. Anyone who has worked both as a public educator and as a consultant has doubtless felt the tension between working in public service and working for yourself, even if both ultimately benefit students and their learning.
How can you work for yourself, seeking to maximize income and opportunity, while also serving the public good in an ethical way? I believe you can. Here’s how.
1. Give knowledge away.
Educational consultants are different from consultants in other industries, because in education, everyone works for the students. For this reason, it’s unethical to hoard knowledge, to keep good ideas a secret, and to benefit only your paying clients – because students are the real clients. Give away good ideas so they can spread. In the age of the internet, there are really no secrets anyway. You are not in the business of selling information; you’re in the business of helping other professionals change their practice. That’s why you can’t be replaced by a book or a photocopied packet of handouts. Talk, blog, tweet, and share – your work will only become more valuable as you get feedback and gain publicity.
2. Charge what the market will bear.
You may be one of 50 consultants offering professional development on differentiated instruction, and you may charge 10 times as much as others. If you do, and you’re in demand, there must be a reason people value your work so highly. If you choose to work less and spend more time developing your ideas, volunteering, or enjoying your family, it’s OK to make up the difference by charging more per hour or per day. In public education, we’re taught to think that everyone is worth a fixed hourly rate as determined by the district salary schedule, but when you work independently on behalf of students, that’s not the case.
If you are having an impact on the work of other professionals, and they find it worthwhile to pay more than you think you should earn for a day’s work, don’t hesitate. Consultants don’t get paid for each day they work (after all, planning, research, and drumming up business are all work), so it’s essential to charge more per day of consulting work than you’d earn in a day’s work as a full-time employee. Having said that, there’s also nothing wrong with working pro bono for organizations that have found a place in your heart.
3. Don’t BS practitioners.
When you are talking about the work rather than doing the work, it’s easy and tempting to make things sound easier than they are, or to gloss over the concerns and struggles of the people you are trying to help. Instead, listen. Acknowledge that professional practice as an educator is always challenging, and don’t pretend everything is/was always easy for you when working as a school staff member.
What would you add to this list?