Sunday, January 4, 2015

If More Teachers Thought (and Taught) Like Marketers

An older movie from the 90s made me do some thinking.  (More on the movie later)

Some teachers are really good.  Some…not so much.

Then again, kids don’t listen nowadays.

Have you ever heard that before?  Have you thought that, or even possibly said that?

It’s true that most kids (and people) don’t really want to learn.

Okay, that’s not really true at all.

What’s (often) missing?  What keeps many people from being motivated to learn what teachers are presenting?

Maybe it’s intelligence, which is true…to a point, but there is something even stronger:  motivation.

Many of us don’t want to learn, unless…teachers took out a page from some of the best marketers.

How can thinking like a marketer help teachers?

Marketers are always trying to find ways to capture people’s attention.

Many teachers simply “expect” students to pay attention, because “that what they’re supposed to do.”

Some students have better manors than others and will pay attention regardless.  Some students will never pay attention, regardless of what you do.

However, how can teachers reach that “middle group” of students who begin undecided?

If more teachers considered the answer to this question, rather than assuming it is simply the responsibility of the student, more students would pay attention.

For example, take a look at us as grown-ups.  How many things can we learn online?  Just about everything, but do we?  No; there is just too many things available for learning for us to try learning everything.

It begs the question, how many things would interest us…IF they got our attention?

However, getting our attention isn’t enough.  Once we’ve noticed them, now what?

Marketers are always trying to find an angle that allows its market to see things in a certain way.

It’s great that we GOT the student’s attention, because we’re loud, persistent, or even intimidating.

However, that’s only the beginning.  HOLDING that student’s attention might be even tougher.

The best marketers don’t simply shout their message.  They find ways to answer the question, “Why should we care enough to KEEP paying attention?”

Many students are much more intelligent than we credit them.

Maybe they’re doing poorly in class, but does that mean they’re dumb?  Sometimes, but many times, it’s simply a sign that the teacher has not done his or her job.

Many students are smart enough to know to pay attention when they understand why they should care.

The best marketers are trying to find ways to keep people interested or tap into something that motivates the listener, viewer, or reader to respond.

The best teachers try to do the same thing.

In the movie Renaissance Man, Danny DeVito plays a role as Bill Rago.  In this movie Bill is a former, unemployed marketer who gets a temporary gig teaching on an Army base.  His students are in basic training and, more or less, are on probation.

These students are known as being “slower” than the other recruits in basic training.  These students need to take and pass Bill’s class to avoid being booted from the Army.

These kids aren’t responding to Bill, and he’s not sure what to teach them.

In one of the first classes, he tells the students to bring reading material.  One recruit brings comics, and the other recruits are barely better.

However, one of the recruits asks Bill Rago (the teacher) what HE is reading.  He responds that he’s reading Hamlet.

Remember, these recruits are known as the slow kids.  (There was another name for them, but I’m not writing that here…something like Dumb as Dogstuff.)

When one of the recruits asks the teacher what is Hamlet about, the teacher thinks for a moment and gives a classic response.  The teacher explains that Hamlet is about sex, fighting, and incest (and whatever else).

THAT got these students to want to learn more.

The marketer-turned-teacher presented Hamlet in a way that would intrigue young students who were mostly rebellious about the formal education system into wanting to learn more…wanting to learn more about Shakespeare.

Imagine how most teachers would have explained Hamlet as something like “a tragedy written by William Shakespeare at an uncertain date between 1599 and 1602.”  (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Yeah, that seems relevant to me…some stuff I can’t understand from a time period nowhere near when I’m living now.

Nope!  Even the most obedient students would not be moved by that response unless they had prior knowledge of Shakespeare and why studying him was worthwhile.

The best teacher approaches lessons like a great marketing presentation.

They find a way to GET your attention, and they find a way to MOTIVATE you to want to know more.  (That means they are KEEPING your attention.)

If only more teachers thought like marketers…

How often do we see marketers who simply think that people “should” pay attention?  How often do we see marketing campaigns that fail to TRY motivating us?

If only more marketers thought like great teachers…

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