Over the past 18 weeks, we’ve had an opportunity to think about education in different ways. Most importantly, we’ve focused on strategies that best serve students and, therefore, our entire society. These strategies have their roots in management best practices. Let’s review what we’ve learned.
It is up to the teacher to set the stage. This can be done in many ways including the look of the classroom, the way in which students are greeted and the teacher’s visible attitude including body language, professional image, etc. During Week 2, we discussed the importance of setting expectations whether you’re a team leader in business or a teacher. Teachers are responsible for designing, implementing and evaluating learning adventures that meet the needs of their students. The mantra should be: “There are many right answers.”
Brett Schultz, senior project manager at Abbott Laboratories said “Usually the project dictates the skill sets that are required. Based on the skills required, we will look to identify people to become involved.” This isn’t the case for classroom teachers and it wasn’t the case for the contestants on The Apprentice. During this last task, Tana and Kendra were each provided with the three most difficult team members. As it turned out, they had the skills required but they needed a reason to apply those skills.
Where Are We Going?
That well known philosopher “Unknown” said, “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.” Nothing could be more true. Whether you are in business or education, your goals should be written, measurable and regularly reviewed by all involved. Goals also have to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
Schultz agrees. “I try to build the relationship with my team every day but in particular on these kinds of projects by reviewing the stated work effort and relate it to our charter/mission/goals and priorities within the landscape of current projects. If they can see the relevance to the business they are more willing to make the sacrifice.” Both Tana and Kendra began the final task disappointed in the team they’d been given. The difference was in doing what Schultz suggests: defining how and why the work is relevant and useful in the big picture.
Which do you believe? “People are our greatest resource.” -or- “This would be great if it weren’t for the people.” Your choice will determine your destiny. According to Theodore Roosevelt, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
Whether it was a conscious choice or simply mimicking behavior she’d seen in school, Kendra followed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow wrote that lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied. Kendra began like a traditional teacher letting her team know she was going to run a “seriously tight ship.” This appealed to the Maslow’s second tier of needs, the human desire for stability and consistency. Once this was established, Kendra formed a team where people were given relevant and important tasks. She gave them a sense of belonging, appealing to the third tier of needs.
Tana, on the other hand, told her team they were at liberty to make decisions without her. When they did and failed, she was not supportive. This strategy was contrary to Maslow’s theories. He explains that violence and anger is the behavior that occurs when humans are deprived of lower needs such as safety. When safety – including stability and consistency – is provided, people can move to love needs. These include feelings of acceptance, appreciation and belonging. Not only did Tana’s team not feel accepted, they didn’t feel safe. Therefore, they didn’t perform.
In the classroom, meeting the students’ psychological needs is required if they are going to learn. Marc Changnon, Education to Careers Coordinator for Champaign Unit 4 High Schools agrees. Changnon says it’s important to “Care about students. Listen to them. Try to understand them and always be there to help them find their way.”
And The Winner Is…
Kendra was there for her team and, as a result, she heard the magic words “You’re hired.” Where did this 26 year old woman learn her skills? Probably through the same combination as Schultz: formal training, watching other leaders and learning from experience. If we provide our students rich experiences in each of these areas, they will be comfortable with a process of life-long learning that includes asking questions, taking risks and creatively using their resources.