The fifth of nine blogs in serial format, adapted from Mike Connor’s Cornerstone Keynote Address at the Association of Independent Schools Admission Professionals’ (AISAP) Annual Institute in Nashville, July 8, 2013. Connor addressed 200 admission professionals from around the world. Connor's topic: Becoming Your Own Brand and Value Proposition!
I spent the early part of my education career as an elementary, middle, and high school teacher in public and independent schools. To this day, that experience continues to inform every aspect of my career as an education marketing consultant.
Right behind ROI, evidence of transformational teaching and learning is the most powerful influence on enrollment and retention. Families enroll and reenroll based on evidence that your teaching methods are leading-edge and that your teachers’ skills are far beyond competent. (And if teachers aren't continually learning, they should NOT be teaching!)
Our families expect and are paying for not only individuated and personalized teaching, but for transformational teaching and learning.
Here are six concrete suggestions that will increase your ability to lead in this critical second element of value – ensuring transformational teaching and learning.
1. Are you yourself able to articulate the most important educational goals that will prepare students best for the world they will inherit? There are plenty of resources out there: I’d recommend NAIS’ Schools of the Future or simply running “21st Century education” through a search engine.
2. How often do you visit with individual teachers or sit in on their classes? How well can you express to others outside the school your teachers’ highest aspirations for their students?
Do you ask them, “What do you want each child to learn from having known you?”
Do you ask them, “What life lesson are you hoping your students will gain after a year in your Algebra 2 class,” for example?
Do you ask them, “How do you ensure that you can help parents meet each child’s emotional, social, and academic needs?”
All of your teachers and staff need to be able to answer these simple, reflective questions.
Furthermore, you need to curate their answers to these questions in order to paint a vivid picture to a parent about where your school is going to take their child and their family, who is going to take them there, and why they are the right people to do it.
3. Do you make sure each teacher can and will sell up to the next grade and division? Can you also ensure that the teachers in the Upper Divisions will reach down and scoop up the younger students? And if for some odd reason you can’t lead on this, do you make sure the Head and Division Directors do?
4. Can you prove your total curriculum is intentional — the academic agenda, the emotional goals, the social outcomes, the athletics – that they are not haphazard or dependent on the personality of the teacher, but rather that they logically and developmentally build on what came before?
5. Does your curriculum foreshadow the benefits and outcomes that will occur if your families continue with you? Can parents applying to preschool see the benefits of continued attendance through the 6th grade? The 8th grade? The 12th grade? The scope and sequence of your curriculum needs to be easily understood by your parents.
6. Have your teachers earned a reputation for teaching other teachers?
Your families basically want to know where you intend to take them, how you intend to get them there, and the worthy qualities of those who are going to accompany them on the journey.
Make sure your teachers and coaches understand that you -- as the enrollment management professional -- are their strongest and most passionate promoter, and that you can talk specific success stories about them and their students. You need the teachers. They hold all the credibility cards from the parents’ and students' point of view. And teachers need you, too, if they want to continue to teach the students they want.
Next: The Third Dimension of Value: Constituent Orientation