Chantell Manahan is a teacher and Tech Mentor at Angola High School. She joined Newmind as a fellow for the HECC 2015 conference.
During my student teaching, my cooperating teacher gave me the best advice I ever received about teaching foreign language: “Foreign language teachers are, first and foremost, in the business of marketing.” It doesn’t matter how well you know the language or how carefully crafted your lesson plans may be, you will be out of a job (quickly!) if students aren’t signing up for your course! Ensuring students know about your class and have a positive view of it and its usefulness leads to more job security.
After teaching and following this advice for several years, I finally heard it echoed in Dave Burgess’s Teach Like A Pirate. Burgess explains, “I believe great teaching incorporates many of the same skills and techniques used in successful salesmanship and marketing–and I use them all” (31). By selling education as a necessity, a life-enhancer, or the latest hot product, teachers can build hype that leads to brighter futures.
I found myself reminded of that advice again when I had the opportunity to join Newmind Group as part of their EdTech Fellowship for the 2015 Hoosier Educational Computer Consultants (HECC) conference. I was able to attend the three day conference in exchange for a few hours each day to help build hype around Newmind Group and all they do.
Discovering the hook
Tasked with helping build hype around the Newmind Group booth, I tapped into Burgess’ pirate philosophy (see above), and knew that we needed a hook to grab the attention of conference-goers, just the same as I’d need a hook to entice students into enrolling into a class. I decided on two: the Contest Hook and the Props Hook.
For the contest hook, I reached out to my PLN on Twitter. Since many of them were in attendance, I simply offered a Newmind Group phone power bank to the first of my followers to stop by the booth to make a contact. My friend Rachel arrived out of breath, because she literally ran from her session to the booth! The next day, attendees were watching for a contest from Newmind Group, so I ran the same one.
The props hook was born from sheer luck. Stacey, the Newminder in charge of our merry band of EdTech Fellows, had added a stack of Newmind notecards to her supplies at the last minute, and one of them just happened to be a mustache! After tweeting a picture of myself sporting the ‘stache to the conference hashtag, I offered for anyone and everyone to visit the Newmind Group booth to take ‘stachetastic photos. We tweeted many of them throughout the day, and attendees were drawn to the laughter and props at our booth.
Just like my students in my own classroom, teachers and education technology leaders need to feel like what we’re “selling” is unique, relevant, and useful. Why is this English class going to be different; what can you offer me that no other teacher before you has? If we have great answers to these questions, all we need is a hook to grab their attention in the first place! At HECC 2015, contests and props created that spark we needed to get attention, just like an attention-grabbing board message or the right song playing when students enter my classroom.
I had an amazing time meeting new people and sharing the different ways Newmind Group could help them out with devices, training and migration. In my first real experience in marketing and public relations, I can definitely say both my student teaching supervisor and Dave Burgess are correct; to be a teacher, in some ways, is to be able to sell your class!