Saturday, July 2, 2011

Your Responsibility or Your Cause? A Prelude to my "Enchanting Schools" Series

One of my favorite writers today, Seth Godin, suggests that in today's world everyone in your organization is a marketer.  In schools, particularly private schools, efforts to "market" your school must now use an inclusive model that involves teachers, alumni, parents, and trustees.  No longer can schools depend solely on the work of the admissions department to maintain enrollment.  Today, everyone at the school plays a part.

This is a difficult stream to navigate for school leaders.  Many teachers do not understand their role in "marketing" their school.  The result of this confusion leads to a growing disconnect between the need for the administration to maintain a big-picture view of the school and the teacher's need to focus on their class above all other responsibilities.

Effective leaders connect the "marketing" need of the school to the desire for teachers to do a great job guiding their students.

Making this connection may require varying approaches based on the individual teacher, but I believe that part of developing a team approach to marketing schools is shift the conversation from a discussion about "responsibility" to one about "cause."

"Responsibility" implies an external force working to motivate teachers to perform their roles.  There is a noticeable contractual relationship between school and teacher when responsibilities are discussed.  When you think about all the roles teachers perform (instructor, coach, actor, lunch duty, traffic duty, etc.), the situation many teachers find themselves in can become overwhelming.  If you take your responsibilities seriously, and you should, more responsibilities can quickly lead to confusion, conflicts of interests, and conflicts of time.  Fear of not fulfilling your responsibilities also creeps in and begins to strangle innovation, creativity, and passion.

On the other hand, your "cause" is personal.  In order to be addressed, you must mobilize others to join with you to make a difference.  A cause is something greater than the self.  Responsibilities are functions of the job and little more.

Teachers need to begin to view their classes as their causes, not their responsibilities.  Offering an enchanting, enriching, stimulating, and interesting course is a cause that most students and parents want to support.  Teachers who do this are, by default, marketing their school.  The challenge is found in helping teachers embrace such a position and providing practical support that helps create an enchanting school experience.

Over the course of five future posts, I will begin to outline some suggestions for how schools can become more enchanting.  Drawing from the outstanding book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki, these posts will build a platform for school leaders and teachers to examine their schools as opportunities to provide learning AND enchanting environments.

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