Schools should be run more like a business…sort of

In a lot of ways schools should be run like a business. Before you cringe and throw your computer across the room hear me out. The mantra that schools should be run like a business is often misguided. Politicians like to tout that schools should be run like a business, because teachers should be able to get their students to work like any corporation. Students should be able to meet deadlines, use teamwork, and function like colleagues. If teachers treat students like employees, then a good teacher can get them to succeed. I disagree with this premise on almost every account. I think people have their analogy mixed up. I am not a manager organizing a team to tackle a goal. I am a salesman. My job is to sell my subject matter to students and convince them it’s worthwhile. The students aren’t the employees; they are the customers.
I recently listened to an interview with Donald Miller from www.storybrand.com. He has this philosophy that sales and marketing are all about story. To sell a product or service a company needs to take the customer on a journey and show them that supporting the company will meet a philosophical need in their life. Isn’t that my job in education as well?
My goal as an educator is to teach students the value of hard work, to teach them that if they put their mind to something they can achieve it. I have to show them that there is value in being an effective reader and that there is power in being an effective writer. I have to sell my subject every day and teach them that on the deepest philosophical level, what they learn in my class will move them one step closer to being a well rounded, enlightened, adult.
This idea that building the story of my class will help me sell my subject to my students was eye opening. According to Miller there are seven parts to any story:

  1. Development of the character- The student comes in on day one, and I have to find out what makes him/her tick as quickly as possible.
  2. Introduce the problem- I have to teach students what problems my class can help solve.
  3. Enter help- That’s me. I’m their Yoda (hopefully).
  4. The guide gives them a plan- My job is to show them a plan to develop and overcome the problems they will face.
  5. Act on the plan- I walk them on their journey to tackle their problems and grow as a reader and writer.
  6. What happens if it does or doesn’t work- I have to teach them the steps to take if they fail. I have to teach them how to get back up and try again.
  7. If it does work, what’s next- I have to teach them how to find the next challenge.

If I can teach using the power of story and sell my students on the value of my class, then they might just learn something.

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