Recently I attended a lecture on self-branding by social media expert Zaki Azedani of Zakisome. One of his main points was that you need to brand yourself in order to obtain business opportunities. Being a representative for Generation Y, he shared this insight with genuine authority. So, how credible is it when middle-aged teachers tell young students to brand themselves? Over the past year I have increasingly often started calling myself Dancing English Teacher rather than Senior Lecturer, just for the sake of testing my brand and for setting an example to my students. Initially, I noticed that some people representing my own Generation X tended to regard me as a funny clown not to be taken too seriously. On the other hand, my students took my dancing introduction with curious interest. It all culminated in a new student declaring a couple of weeks ago the following: “I think you are cool” (this was after I had complained to Zaki Azedani about the clown label that seems to stick).
Looking back at the past year, I have written one peer-reviewed journal article, published another article in a professional magazine for English teachers in Slovenia. Not to forget the article I wrote for Creative Academic Magazine at Manchester Metropolitan University. Furthermore, I’ve given one experimental workshop at an international academic conference, as well as produced a semi-professional tanz theater performance at the business university where I work. Last August I also gave a creative workshop to communication managers from major Finnish companies and organizations. All these activities being related to my unique Business Ballet method that I have been developing for the past 17 years. So the question is, how much do I have to accomplish in order to be regarded an expert rather than a harmless clown, or at its worst, a delusional megalomaniac with a futile mission?
Well, for a long time the clown mask was a convenient disguise when working with unorthodox artistic methods in a business school. However, now I don’t need the mask anymore. I know for certain that I have a valuable contribution to the business education community. In my Business Ballet courses I have witnessed shy students develop into masters of stage performance. And I’m proud for all of them. This is a skill that makes a difference in the business world. Last Friday and today I had the wonderful opportunity of giving two workshops to a group of Japanese students from Osaka Gakuin University. Naturally, in the first “Beam me up for Business – Presence and Performance” session we started with embodiment and kinesthetic awareness – only later moving on to speech practise. And hour by hour I saw the students grow in confidence, until being able to take articulate possession of the stage. In the case of the Japanese group, I was the only teacher they met during their two-day stay at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, so I had enough time to go deeper into my method. A great reward to me after all these years of working in solitude. Many times it would have been so much easier to just stick to conventional Business English teaching.
Clown or cool? Well, actually I don’t care anymore. I’m happy when I see students leave my workshop with good posture, confident gait and a smile on their face, ready to take possession of the world. In an era of technology and smart-phones, I have seen postures get worse – so there seems to be lots of work out there for Dancing English Teacher. One of the greatest inspirations during the past years have been Associate Professor of Social Psychology Amy Cuddy at Harvard Business School and her famous Power Posing exercise. Whenever somebody looks at me in disbelief, I drop the name Amy Cuddy into the discussion. Today my Japanese group left Helsinki with the word “Power!” – so now they have a life-time tool for being more confident as performers as well as in everyday interaction. I as a teacher need no more validation.
And the latest turns of Dancing English Teacher? Currently I am co-writer for an article that is part of a PhD thesis. In April I’m contracted to give a Business Ballet workshop at the International Staff week and, finally, in May I’ll do internal staff straining at Haaga-Helia. So, clown or cool? Well, maybe still a little bit of clown – and any actor would know that the classical clown is the hardest part to perform. Usually you need a lot of life experience to make a good clown. So cool, yes! And definitely clown – as I often find adult seriousness dull and uncreative.