This is really simply a response to a post that elfwreck made in the community. I am posting it here because it is rather long (too long for an LJ comment), because it has been an ongoing issue in the larger Witchcraft community, and also because my answers are personal to how I teach and conduct myself. If you are so inclined, read the original post before reading my response.
This is rather long because this is an ongoing issue that has come up before in several forums that I participate in, and as such I have given it a lot of thought. This is, obviously, directed at your #4.
I think you have brought up some valuable points. These are all things to consider when entering into a paid teacher/student relationship, whatever your role in that relationship may be.
I obviously have a different take on it, both because I paid for my training in the Feri tradition, and also because I am now a teacher in the tradition who charges money for classes. I will detail some of my own answers to these problems in order provide another view on them.
I do think that it is important to have some type of exchange for my time… most often in our society this comes in the form of money, but in recognition that there are many who simply cannot afford to pay I also offer work trade for the majority of my classes. In some cases I prefer it. I have also created a resource for students to find other teachers of the tradition, at least some of which do not charge money and whom I recommend highly.
The other potential problems that you identify are simply that… potential problems. If addressed consciously by the teacher then they need not manifest. For example, I have let paying students go because I felt that they were not willing or able to actually do the work, or simply because I felt that they were not a good fit for the tradition.
I am upfront with my students that even completion of my classes does not guarantee initiation of any kind. And I continue to stress that fact along the way.
I have also seen what happens to students when they stop classes (both paid and non) and how some have problems because of the lack of support from their previous teachers. There is no easy answer to this. The problem has less to do with paying and more to do about the teacher/student relationship at its core. My answer is to make myself available to *anyone* with questions about the tradition and the work, regardless if they are my current students or not. Obviously prior students would be in a better position to receive tailored advice from me as I would know their situation better, but even dropping out of my classes does not mean that I will never talk to you again. 😉
It dehumanizes the path by replacing social & personal ties and obligations with monetary ones.
This is by no means an absolute. For some people I suppose it can do as you say, but even to imply that this is automatic is to take a decidedly narrow view. My relationship with my teacher was genuine and heartfelt. I never felt that I was not personally tied to him simply because I was paying him money. I understood that he needed the money in order to make ends meet. I was happy to be able to contribute towards his living expenses, especially when I felt that I was getting so much more from him than he was getting from my $40-60 per month.
As for the student’s obligation after classes are at an end… this is largely in the mind of the student anyway and not-paying for classes no more guarantees ongoing loyalty then paying will guarantee said loyalties will abruptly end. You are correct that it is something to address, however. Here is where communication is of key issue. I also think that where class-time can be charged for, it becomes rather dangerous to charge for actual initiations. Those, I strongly feel, should be offered freely but I will not place myself in a position to judge another who might engage in the practice, other than perhaps refraining from recommending them as a teacher. I mainly prefer to worry about my own work and practice and let others do the same for themselves.
On the flip side of the issue, there are also problems that can be associated with NOT charging for classes… I know of at least a few situations in which teachers who adamantly DID NOT charge for classes (unwittingly?) created atmospheres in which students felt obligated to provide “other” forms of compensation, creating a rather co-dependent relationship. In some cases this has manifested as sexual favors. Not exactly healthy, IMO.
Now, this isn’t to say that this will always (or even often) happen in classes that are provided for free… (I would suspect that the vast majority of free classes are not subject to such degradations) I just mention it to point out that there are potential problems in whatever we do and it is a good idea to be aware of that.
It’s prostitution… something sacred sold to the highest bidder.
I think this was meant to be a jab against those who charge for teaching, but it actually came across to me as kind of amusing. I am recalling the sacred prostitutes whom I hold in high regard 😉 I think, however, I know what you’re getting at, but I do not necessarily agree with your statement. Charging for classes does not automatically equate to “selling to the highest bidder”. If I actually sold my class time on auction then I would agree. But I have set fees for my time (well, sliding scale, anyway) along with a willingness to work with the individual should they not be able to meet those fees. A hardcore stance against charging for class time implies that only those individuals who are independently wealthy should be able to teach the Craft, ignoring the contributions that can be made by those teachers who still struggle to make ends meet. Were I not charging for my time, then I would simply not be able to offer the classes that I do. I, like most people, have bills to pay. I have to buy groceries and pay for electricity, and gasoline, and everything else that humans in our society are usually required to pay for. The insistence of some that I should offer my time for free or else be labeled a “prostitute” is, quite frankly, insulting. Or at least it would be if I didn’t keep thinking about the sacredness of the world’s oldest profession. 😉
In the end one main thing that I have done to try to alleviate these problems is to make sure that the fees that I receive from teaching do not represent the bulk of my income. I make most of my living as a writer and artist. But were I not able to change for the time that I spend preparing for and teaching the classes I offer, then I simply would not be able to offer them, plain and simple. It would be nice if I had enough money to offer them for free, but I’m just not there. I don’t think that I should be judged as being “less than” based on my financial situation. This smacks of socio-economic bigotry, which I doubt you intended.