An Open Letter to Educators (from a Marketing Guy)
I am not now and have never been an educator (and I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night) so I don’t pretend to be an expert on what goes on in your daily life. I am, however, a marketing executive with a company that markets to educators so I do have an inside perspective. Perhaps you’ll find it interesting (or at least amusing).
My job is to create, produce, and distribute content that attracts attention, develops interest, encourages engagement, and elicits a positive response. To me this sounds quite a bit like the role of educators like you. So I thought I’d share some strategies and tactics of a marketing department. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful (or at least worth thinking about).
Smartest Guy in the Room
Did you become a teacher because you really needed to be the smartest guy in the room? I hope not. Admittedly, if you’re teaching fifth grade math you really need to know the answers, but would it be so bad to let your students feel like they’re smarter than you? Give them the opportunity to teach you.
You might recall the University of Texas study, (Metcalf 1997), that found that people absorb (learn): "10 percent of what they read; 20 percent of what they see; 30 percent of what they see and hear; 70 percent of what they say; and 90 percent of what they do and say."
This might offer a new twist on the whole flipped classroom concept, and it might make a real difference in our kids. Now I’m pretty smart, and often I know the best answer, but, making sure everyone knows it is not very useful. In fact it can stifle creativity and stymie real growth.
Are We Having Fun Yet?
The value of fun in the classroom (or the workplace for that matter) is huge. If you want to zap the energy out of virtually any situation in a big hurry, just make it no fun. On the other hand, doing what you can to inject fun into the day can go a long way towards engagement, interest, and the outcomes of learning. In my office I have about 15 little wind up toys that are an integral part of my team brainstorming sessions. I have found that ideas grow, performance increases, and job satisfaction improves when I take the time to insert some fun into each task and every day – and I’m working with adults. Imagine the enormous effects of fun with children.
Seriously – Way Overrated
I think a lot of people take themselves far too seriously. When I see people do this it annoys me. It especially irritates me when people have overrated their own abilities, skills, and talent. It sends me out the door (mentally, for sure – physically, if at all possible). Developing effective critical thinking skills sort of requires some level of being critical. So take frequent opportunities to lighten it up a bit and allow for some real peer-like interaction, a key venue for learning and growth (and it will make you less annoying).
Bore, Boring, Bored
“I’m bored.” I bet you’ve heard that before. Boredom is reaching epidemic levels, which I find odd since there is such a Niagara Falls-like flow of entertainment resources available. With that in mind, have you stopped to consider how much learning will actually occur when you subject a room full of 14-year-olds to a 40-minute lecture on, well, anything? I suspect they will learn even less than you do when you’re talked to rather than engaged with. Generally speaking, your students want to learn and you want to teach. So how can we get those both handled? Pretty simple answer – BE INTERESTING.
In my world we add color, insert interactivity, or even just change our tone. I figure I get 15 to 20 seconds to catch your attention. I’m thinking 15 minutes is about all your kids will give you. Mix it up.
There’s No ‘I’ in Team
I am a firm believer in the premise that collaboration, thoughtfully executed, delivers results superior to those that the individuals could have produced. I find that the best and most creative solutions are a result of ideas bouncing around between participants with a common goal. Create an environment where your students feel empowered to express themselves, develop compromise, and respect differing views. Team projects, reports, and discussions can be invaluable tools that embed a level of subject understanding that is just not possible in a solo environment.
I need to get back to marketing “solutions that maximize student success while improving staff attitude and reducing budget woes” to people like you – and that’s easier said than done. One last thing before I go: the job of educating young people is a noble one. It deserves far more respect that some would offer. I truly appreciate your commitment to public education and your efforts to positively influence the lives of your students. Your hard work and sacrifice is making a difference in your community, your school, and in the individual lives of your students. THANKS.