Sunday, November 25, 2012

Teachers HAVE to be salespeople!

Creating "buy-in," soliciting student voice, and winning over the overall student population of the classroom is paramount in cultivating a rich learning environment in any classroom. One could say the art of "sales" is at the core of what makes the most effective teachers "effective." If any teacher is going to lead a student into the world of discovery, curiosity, wonder, adventure, and/or high levels of engaged mental activity, then the teacher MUST be able to sell the student(s) on what it is that the student is charged to perform. If one asks any teacher whether he or she has heard the questions, "Why do I have to learn this?" or "When am I really going to use this in life?" then the answer one would most likely get in return is a resounding "YES." All students need to believe in the importance of the content to be mastered. Teachers all over are relentlessly efforting students in an attempt to create a culture of learning which students trust the teacher well enough to automatically answer "how high?" when the teacher instructs them to "jump!"

In fact, literature has been written and extensive research has been done by the likes of Alan November, Philip Schlechty and Rick Stiggins (just to name a few) in the area of student engagement and the importance of meeting students where they are.

However, now more than ever... the game has changed. With the advent of social media, students really are a powerful customer with a voice. If a student is bored, he or she just tweets their opinion of boredom. If a student is mistreated by a teacher with unfairness, he or she muses on facebook. We, as educators, need to know that today is the day our clientele really needs to have their insatiable hunger for meaningful learning quenched through environments and lessons which appeal to the students like never before. If not, then the educator's most important critics, (their customers) the students will let everyone know, via social media, that the product the educational system is selling is not worth buying.

I am not sure if New York Times Best-selling author, Daniel Pink will mention this educational phenomenon in his new and highly anticipated book, but the overall sense that times are changing with regard to "sales" and who is the "salesperson" and who is not can be inferred by watching the following trailor for the aforementioned book, To Sell is Human.

The question remains... are we, educators, ready for this new landscape of "sales?" Our customers surely are. They're waiting to buy... who will get their business?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why do teachers teach anyway?

Do we teach to make an impact? Do we teach to prepare students to be productive citizens? Do we teach to assist students with life skills? Do we teach to assist students in the mastering of academic content?

I believe I would answer yes to all of the above questions. What about you?

I ask these questions because I recently had a conversation with one of my own teachers... During the conversation, the teacher made the following comment, "my job is not to prepare my students for the future. It is to teach the standards." I thought the comment was rather fascinating. You see, this teacher is a really excellent teacher. I would be completely fine and even ecstatic if my own child was privileged to be taught by this teacher. However, I believe, like many excellent teachers, the comment is a reflection of what our current system has done to many, if not most, of our finest educators: tricked them into believing our job is only one facet. Our jobs are MUCH more than teaching standards. Our jobs are MUCH more than teaching "to a test." We are privileged and honored each and every day to welcome human beings with great potential and beautiful minds. Let's pause, forget about the standards every once in a while and teach the child. As a reminder... I like the following quote:

"The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives." - Robert M. Hutchins

What do you think? Why do you teach? What do you think our educator's job is?