Teachers As Salespeople

I’m trying to not get a big head but Speaker Sue has posted a very nice write-up on my entry about using Jim Cramer as inspiration for my teaching. Whereas I have been working with the metaphor of teacher as entertainer, engaging an audience and making your show make sense, Sue presents the same story in the context of teacher as salesperson. She makes the point that it’s all in the presentation and teachers (who are selling something their audience doesn’t necessarily want to buy) have the challenge of making it interesting.

Then Scott McLeod points to Seth Godin’s entry on marketing decisions. Seth calls it a poor marketing decision to yell at a classroom full of students because just two students are misbehaving. What you’re creating, he says, is a room full of unhappy customers.

Thinking of students as customers and teachers as salespeople what are you doing in your classroom to make sure the customers want to come back?

Here’s one more article I’ve been meaning to comment on for a long time looking at corporate branding in the context of schools. Trang Lai, in her podcast review of “Good to Great” talks about the need for schools to think of themselves as brands. Looking again at the interaction of a teacher yelling at a classroom full of students, what does this say about the brand your school represents?

10 Responses to Teachers As Salespeople

  1. This is so true. I like this article. I will start to think of myself as a salesperson and my students as customers who need to be won over.

  2. This is a great question: ‘what are you doing in your classroom to make sure the customers want to come back?’

    Of course you have to care in the first place…

  3. Not a new metaphor. I’ve used it myself when explaining what I do to people who ask me what teaching is like. A lot of the skills I learned in retail, I use in the classroom. I’ve heard other teachers use it as well. There’s a lot of truth to it though. I hate the entertainer metaphor because I don’t feel it’s my job to entertain the students. No matter what things I try, I can’t make some things entertaining, but I can certainly try to “sell” my “product” to the students in many different ways, sometimes even tricking them into learning (just like when you get tricked into buying something at the store).

  4. Good point, Scott, about teachers having to care about students’ experience in your classroom.

    I guess four_alarm, I don’t like the metaphor if you’re talking about tricking kids. It sounds too devious. If you read the original articles it’s more about valuing students as people and making your interaction with them an important part of the teaching process.

    In regards to the entertainer idea, while teachers are not expected to do a song and dance, I don’t think we can say our job is not to entertain or at least engage students (I’m backed up here by the California standards for the teaching profession CSTP). I”d be interested to hear what you teach. Generally using realia or some sort of visual model as well as opportunity for students to talk with each other is what’s needed to elevate a boring lesson.

  5. This is so true! I often approach teaching as my own business. The students are my customers… I have to give them the best “product” or “service” in order to make the satisfied (get them to transfer to their chosen university) and keep them coming back for more (taking another one of my classes).

    I do have to point out that there is a major difference: whereas giving your customers everything to make them happy will earn you more sales, giving all A’s just to make students happy will ruin your credibility. But the analogy seems to work for the most part.

  6. Nick,

    In terms of classroom behavior and grades, there will be times you make decisions that students don’t like. However, their experience with you is mutually respectful if they appreciate that you’re consistent and fair.

  7. Pingback: So You Want To Teach?

  8. It’s a shame that in this situation the customer is NOT always right… :)

  9. I totally agree with all of this. For years I have seen myself as a service provider and my students and parents as the consumers. I have even convinced (or at least tried to) convince my students that being a student was their “job” like mine was to be a teacher. When you look at things from a different perspective, it makes it easier to explain why you do certain things.

  10. Because I teach marketing, which is all about making the customer happy, even if they do not know it, I am constantly aware of what I am doing to make satisfied customers. What is really funny is that many of my students come back years later and tell me, “you were so right about everything you taught us, I’ve used so much of it.” When they sat in my class, I only annoyed them.

    I give out lots of rewards and awards, one being a trip to San Francisco for all the students who have a 3.0 g.p.a. at the semester. I just counted, and we have 27 who will be eligible for the trip. They can get this reward all three years they are with me so they keep signing up for more classes. I like returning customers.

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