Teacher Caught Entrepreneurial Bug (Interview)

Suzanne

A big hello and welcome to all of our educators around the world that are viewing this great conversation that I'm going to be having! I'm super excited to be sharing with you, my speaker. So I am Suzanne Klein, the host of your Freedom For Educators Virtual Summit, where I help you go from dreaming to doing. As an elementary teacher owning a seven-figure business, selling it, and now teaching you how to do it too. I'm honored to be able to interview some incredible educators to entrepreneurs, and this one is all that. So you're going to enjoy this session today. And as we are talking about the freedoms, she's going to be talking about purpose and in particular, purpose freedom. So let me introduce you to Michelle Stimpson. Thank you, and welcome Michelle.

Michelle

Thank you so much for having me Suzanne. It's my pleasure to be here today.

Suzanne

Excellent. Thank you. So just a little quick introduction to Michelle. She's taught about every grade, 3rd through 12th in Dallas Arlington and Cedar Hill, Texas. Go Texas! And a best selling author as well who has combined her love for reading and also writing and teaching and has written more than 50 books and short stories, that's a lot of writing. So she's going to share one of her books in particular with you, which I can't wait and do a reading from it as well. So when she left the classroom over 15 years ago, she managed to remain in education in the field of education and consulting and coaching while publishing as I said more than 50 books and short stories. And that's interesting. So let us jump right in, and if you thank you for sharing your story with us today, you could say a few words about what you hope to share with our listeners today.

Michelle

Certainly. Thank you again, Suzanne, for having me. I think part of one of the reasons that I wanted to be a part of this forum is because I want teachers to recognize that options exist. A lot of us know that our purpose is to help people to share information with people. I think it's important that we recognize there are many many ways to do that and that your purpose and what you're doing right now on this season of your life needs to align, so that it's fulfilling for you as well as the people that you’re serving.

Suzanne

Absolutely, very well said. So if you could paint a picture for our listeners why you decided to leave the classroom and how you did it.

Michelle

I started teaching seventh-grade math, and it was a challenge for me. I thought that I wanted to be a teacher forever. I had always taught my dolls, and I had always had all these amazing teaching dreams and ideas, and it came as a surprise to me that I wasn't as fulfilled as I thought I would be in that role in that capacity. And so I left teaching a couple of years after I started for a couple of different reasons. First of all, I recognized that at the time that I was in my life with two small children, I had just gotten married. Lots of things were changing in the industry, and it was a lot. And I had to preserve my sanity quite honestly. Second of all, I realized that there was a part of me that enjoyed making lessons and enjoyed being creative. I wanted to do some things that ended up being monetarily rewarding as well, and so did a little entrepreneurial bug inside of me that enjoyed creativity and also enjoyed helping other people. I wanted to be able almost to syndicate myself and be able to help people integrate my income as well. So it was a combination of many things.

Suzanne

I love that entrepreneurial bug that you talked about, and I know you'll be talking about this later and just how well-spoken you are is exactly how your books read. Which again I'll be talking about in just a bit. But you know a lot of teachers are scared to leave teaching. You know it's the paycheck, health care, the pension that's keeping some people feeling stuck as you know, what else can I do. I get it. I mean, I was there too. I leaped, and I left all three of those things you did as well at one point for sure. So did you have a lot of money before you left teaching you where you had a big inheritance or what?. How did that work?

Michelle

I had none of that. I don't think anybody who ever leaves teaching leaves with a lot of money. But no, I didn't. I was waiting for that pot of gold thing that didn't come. It got to a point where I realized that my sanity, my hope, and my dreams for myself had to be accomplished. So it wasn't just a matter of me leaving so much, it was I had to, I didn't have a choice. I wasn't even clear exactly what my purpose was at that point, but I knew what it wasn't. And so it was more a matter of that than anything else. So when I left the classroom, I didn't have a whole bunch of money. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I realized that I might make a little bit less, to begin with than I did as a teacher which wasn't a whole lot in the first place, but I was willing to make that sacrifice for the sake of my family like I said and also because I just knew there was more that I wanted to do. Not that teaching can't be the core for somebody else but there are things that I wanted to do in that bug that just kept scratching and itching right. I had to get out of things, and I also wanted to be an example for my children. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to teach and then leave, and I will tell you that having been outside the classroom. And going back to the classroom made me a stronger teacher in the times when I did go back because I wasn't just talking hypothetically about the real world. Some of us have only been in classrooms on one side of the desk or the other we don't even know what the real world is. And we're preaching these 21st-century collaboration models and all these kids and taking notes that we have got ourselves. That's what's in us. So I think it's almost hypocritical to stand up in front of kids and say follow your dreams do what your heart says. And then we haven't had the courage to do it ourselves. So I think it's important that we recognize that that the gap between what we preach and what we practice and take logical steps to pursue closing that gap for ourselves.

Suzanne

Wow, and that is powerful and is such straight talk. Michelle, That's what I love about you. It's like you don't mince words. You go right at the truth of the matter and the heart of the matter. And for some, it's a little dicey to hear it, but it's a message that people need to hear, and I know that you believe in having the best teachers possible in the classrooms because we know that that's what's going to help children ultimately.

Michelle

And so yeah, let me add to that if I may, I still work with teachers over the years. I've always kept my foot in the industry; even when I was writing now and touring the country promoting works. I've always had an opportunity to consult and do independent work with school districts and charter schools that were struggling. Even if there was a state agency that I've worked for many years before. And so I don’t know why people feel like if you leave, this is all you make like you can't ever stay in the field in some way. But I do think it's important again. Having had the experience of working with teachers over the years. If you don't want to be there, you're not helping anybody. You're not helping the kids. Kids know when you don't want to be there, and it's not healthy for you or them if it's not what you want. You may leave and find out, oh my gosh, teaching was the best thing I ever did, I cannot wait to get back! You will have a new appreciation of what you do if you first make sure that you're that you attached your own purpose, and you try to look at that close.

Suzanne

Yes, very inspirational and well said, and I love how you realized how important it was to be open and available. And truly you know the universe can't bring you what you need until you step forth and say “OK, I'm going to get unstuck.” I'm going to do what I need to do to fulfill that need inside me to do my purpose work, you know. And so I think that was excellent what you said and it's also beneficial to the teachers who feel like they want to do more and learn more and be more, but they feel trapped with money fears. And so let's talk about purpose for a minute here purpose freedoms precisely. So you're writing gig? Your purpose I mean not to give air quotes because I think you have a feeling you know you have lots of purposes as you're serving the world, but you are indeed a great writer, and I know this because I purchased Michelle's book on Amazon and you can too! A little plug there for you, Michelle, and then you'll see the rest of her 50 books, but this book I bought when I was researching to see if I could help teachers. If there were teachers out there that wanted to leave teaching and start an education business, a non-education business particularly with the focus of doing online business, that's my gig. That's that's what I came for. That's my jam, you know. So I was looking to see if there are teachers out there that needed my help. And so when I was doing the research, I found myself Michelle's book, and I have to tell you it is such an easy read it is so well-written. There is no fluff in it whatsoever. And which by the way, stay tuned because Michelle will be sharing a fluff-free free e-book with you that you're not going to want to miss. And so the book also even has a pro-con list about leaving teaching, and so it makes the decision a bit more clear based on Michelle's writing. So would you mind just reading a paragraph for us from your chapter 1? What you say is so good, Michelle, and I don't want our viewers to miss out on hearing this critical juncture that you pose in the book.

Michelle

Certainly, I would love to and let me say that it's funny, the sales for this book pick up around April or May. Kind of when people are in the decision, I'm always thinking year around. But yes anyway I guess the book is not just the tips things that you can do it how to relate what you do as a teacher to what might work in other fields but also the affective part of what it means to leave teaching and so here's a quick paragraph I'd like to share with you. “I don't want you to view your decision to leave the classroom as even the slightest hint of failure. This is a matter of realizing who you are, what we were created to do, what you were not created to do, and then discovering the best avenue for you to serve your world with your unique self.” That, to me, is the whole purpose of this book. I didn't write it to try to get people to leave the classroom for goodness sake; we don't need teachers who want to be in the classroom to leave. That's the last thing we need. We don't need this massacre. But I think it's a gift. If you do decide to leave, if you do feel like this is the time for me to try something different with my gifts and my talents, it's important to recognize that there's more than one way to do that. There are plenty of avenues open to teachers because based, and I mean teaching is like the hardest job I’ve ever done in my life. Once you can do that and do it well you have no idea how marketable those skills are — the soft skills of speaking to people , the skills of reading data analysis, project management, you do this every day. So I don't know if they recognize the gifts that they have and how to package them in ways that can benefit others and benefit us.

Suzanne

Absolutely and I have to say I teared up when you read that paragraph because it's so simple but yet so profound. That's what I'm talking about with your writing. It just comes across so simple but yet so meaningful. So thank you. And I think about you know when we're talking about purpose. Michelle, if you wouldn't have followed your purpose, we wouldn't have the opportunity to read one of your 50 books and maybe more coming up. I mean, it's just it's like if you hadn't shared your gifts with the world, none of us would have been helped and healed. And so I thank you for following your purpose, and I genuinely believe that that's the message that you're trying to share with others is just do it, go for it, you’ll figure it out as you go.

Michelle

Exactly and I think teachers are really good that I mean we generally do figure out things as we go what happens in 1st grade is not what is going to happen in 4th grade. Right? So that ability to make those decisions in the moment and to trust yourself to move forward is something that you practice every day, all day.

Suzanne

Yes absolutely. Right, so let's talk about entrepreneurship now. How has being an entrepreneurial educator given you freedom with your family.

Michelle

Well, it's it has been such a blessing to me, especially as a writer. There's a lot of things that I can do anywhere. So I can be writing while on with my kids at gymnastics practice. More recently, my mother had a stroke in 2012. And so she moved in with us at one point. And I just needed the flexibility to be able to care for her. And that's not something that I would have had if I were teaching at that time. We went through her living with us, and then she moved out, and then we went to all whole gamma there was independent care and assisted living and nursing. So all of that even though she wasn't in my home, you still get calls the middle of the night, you still need to do different things, and so the flexibility was more important than ever. And even before that, my husband and I have two kids and when they got to that age where they're too old for daycare after school daycare but not old enough to drive yet, and they're coming home and not having somebody there. I had one kid that was fine. He would just come home, eat a sandwich, play video-games and it was okay, but then I had another kid with a social butterfly. She would have been the one that needed extra supervision. And she was a great kid, but 13-year-olds need to be supervised if you ask me. Having the independence and the freedom to say, "this is what I need, is what my family needs right now in this season of life." Being able to work and keep my purpose and to working my career around these different seasons of life has been awesome. And now my mother has passed on. Kids are out of the house. And now I'm in a position where I can do some full-time work still in the field. So I've taken a position at another with the company that has used me over and over for these for many years, a grant came up, and we did a two-year thing, and if it works out, I'll stay. And if it doesn't, then I'll leave. But the flexibility to be able to do those things it wouldn't have been there had I not been open to receive it.

Suzanne

Yeah. Yes absolutely. And I'm sorry to hear about your mother. 

Michelle

So do I, but I have no regrets about those days.

Suzanne

Exactly. Because you were there, you were there with her, and that's it. That's a gift. A complete loss. Yeah. That's wonderful. Well, we're coming to the end. I just wanted to there is one last kind of piece that you talk about you know with being not having that entrepreneurial bug, and I said I was going to come back to it. So I want to come back to it. Did you want to share just a little bit about you that may be encouraging for others that you know are thinking about leaving or have gone from different classes to different classes or try different things and still not sticking. What kind of stuck for you?

Michelle

Well, I think that the news that there are certain things that you can do you can start small. You can start with some summer things you can begin with, maybe a smaller venue of people that you're going after. I mean, you don't have to necessarily abandon everything that you know. So I think the Internet has given us the opportunity to kind of scale things start small and go bigger. But I don't think you're ever going to get started with anything at all and even find the little things that you can scale if you stay stuck. If you don't say you know what, this is important to me; this is important that even if I decide to blow this thing up the day after I retire let me get it started, let me get the wheels going. Let me get started learning the things I need. So that when that time comes, I can grow into it, and I'm ready for it. And the funny thing is once you start and you start to see the possibility you're probably going to make that decision sooner than you think. 

Suzanne

And those are the educators that I would love to help. The ones that are starting to feel like they're ready to make that jump and make that move, and there are things that teachers can do right now while they're currently in the classroom that will help prepare them to test their ideas. Think about their niche. Think about it. Yeah absolutely. So thank you for saying that. And I love that you said about that online and how truly for the first time we have so many more opportunities open to us when we can Instagram message a fortune 500 CEO. You know we've never been able to do these things before, and the access to technology and how creating an online business is much easier today with all the software. So anyway I digress. But I did want to mention that so we are coming to an end. We are actually at the end. Oh, I know I need to have you back on the show to talk about your publishing secrets and the fantastic self-publishing. I mean, that's so tough going, and you did it, and you did your own self-publishing. We need to have you on again to talk more about how you independently self-published. If you just quickly tell them what your freebie is that you have to offer.

Michelle

Yes definitely. I have for the past three summers conducted a workshop for teachers who want to be authors, and I mean teachers make great authors by scripting lessons and that kind of thing. There are some things that teachers have to consider, in particular, situations about your name, things about taxes — stuff like that. I think teachers need to be aware of if they're looking at going into writing. So my freebie is five tips for teachers who want to be authors something to think about, and I look forward to hooking up with with the people who are watching and viewing and helping in any way possible.

Suzanne

Absolutely. And Michelle, I hope that maybe when you look to take this part of your business online, perhaps that's something that I can help you with because you know you could market just for teachers and publishing strategies just for teachers. Definitely. 

Michelle

Oh my gosh, I heard that girl. So in my heart because teachers we're starting at a level that's a little bit higher than the general public and maybe even a lot higher. And so there's an advantage that we have. Having gone through and written research papers in college, yes, and many of us are teaching writing right now in classrooms, and so we have an advantage over the general public when it comes to this work.

Suzanne

Yes. That's such a great point I didn't even think about that. But did you know that J.K. Rowling who wrote the Harry Potter books. She was a teacher.

Michelle

Wow. I did not know that, but it does not surprise me, especially if you're writing children's books and young adult books. You know what's going on with kids more than somebody else who just wanted to do it based on what they remember from when they were back in school. You've got an inside track into your audience.

Suzanne

Absolutely. So to get Michelle's freebie, you click the link over there, and that will be an excellent opportunity for any of those who want to write themselves and get published. Just a quick mention if you are a busy teacher, and who isn't, and you're struggling to keep up with all of our great kernels of truth; as Michelle has had such a power-packed session with us and conversation that is not to be missed for sure as our speakers that are lined up they all have super important informational, inspiring messages. So if you're having a hard time keeping up, we have the all-access pass for you; the VIP access gives you a lifetime of watching and viewing pleasure. So take a look at that with the link down below. So with that Michelle, it has been an absolute gift to talk to you. I have to tell you I was excited about the fact that you wanted to be a speaker for our Freedom For Educators Virtual Summit because you're a perfect match for the inspirational, motivational talk that you gave today and our conversation. So thank you again.

Michelle

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. My pleasure. 

Suzanne

Thank you Michelle.

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