In the past few years, there has been a growing belief (not among educators, by the way) that schools should be treated more like businesses. I want to counter that belief with one of my own. I think outside industries need more educators.
As a teacher, I had to plan months in advance, fine-tune my plans weeks ahead of teaching them, and then still alter them a few days prior to the lesson to make sure they best fit the needs of my students. And guess what, after all of that, we might have a snow day or a last-minute convo, and my planning would change yet again. Flexibility and adaptability are a necessary part of every school teacher.
As a teacher, I had to learn twenty-four different little personalities. I had to discover their best learning style and their preferred learning modes. I had to get to know their parents, home lives, and past academic experiences. Their needs were put before my own every single day. On top of that, I had to make my classroom fun…somewhere they would look forward to coming to each day. Somewhere they felt safe and encouraged to take risks.
As a curriculum director, I had to look at data for our entire school district. I analyzed testing information from various sources. I had to delve into the layers to determine gaps within our system, and how they compared with state and/or national trends. Once I found those areas, then I had to work with the different stakeholders involved, to better meet the needs of our students. I learned teaching styles and personalities of the all of the teachers in our district, and the leadership styles of the administrators. I provided articles, trainings, and one-on-one assistance to serve them best. Some pretty amazing initiatives were born from analyzing our district, what we provided, and what our students still needed. RtI, high ability programming, 1:1 implementation and a community-wide reading initiative were all born from data analysis, conversations and collaboration.
As an education consultant, I take all of these past experiences, and roll them together to plan trainings, tailor individualized coaching sessions or create online courses to further the professional learning and growth of the educators I work with. We are working from a shared vision, goals, and intended outcomes. The training I am a part of has to go much further than just the face to face time I have with the teachers/administrators. There are no “one-and-dones” as far as I’m concerned. I am an educator, and always will be. I care about what I’m teaching, and what is being learned.
This has led to some great discussions with people regarding the professional development provided in noneducational settings (aka businesses). One colleague, an HR specialist in a large school district and president of a professional HR group, shared with me an experience he had when mentoring people who were providing training in a business setting. He asked them what the intended learning outcome was for the training. The men were confused. They asked him what he meant by learning outcomes. He elaborated, “What do you want them to take away from today? How do you expect them to apply the learning to be more effective at their jobs?” They said something to this effect, “We don’t care. We just get up, talk through our powerpoints for a couple of hours and leave. Our job is done.”
This mentality makes zero sense to me. That is a huge waste of everyone’s time. Businesses need good trainers. They need people who will present relevant learning in an interactive method. They need people who share expectations, and leaders who will follow through with accountability measures after the training is over.
Businesses need people who constantly analyze the effectiveness of the organization (at all levels), look for gaps within the organization, and how it compares locally and globally. Then, they need to do something with that information. They need to have real conversations with a variety of stakeholders, working together toward a shared vision.
And lastly, businesses need leaders who care about their employees. People who learn about their personal lives, their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses. They need leaders who want to develop the people working with them to better the organization at an organic level.
So, while education can take some cues from the business world, I’d add that the business world could stand to learn some lessons from school systems and the educators who make them successful.