As educators, we tend to live in a special bubble that has its own language (how many more acronyms can you remember?), culture and expectations. Yet, as we are preparing our students for a rapidly changing world, we cannot afford to stay in this bubble any longer. We need to begin to open our eyes to what others are doing in business, the arts, and the community and embedding them into our own educational practices. One of the most exciting ways we can do this is to build a brand. When building your brand as an educator, you’re showcasing to students, parents and your colleagues your educational philosophy, practices and expectations all in a neat little package. It’s a no-brainer!
What is a brand?
At it’s core, a brand is simply the way that someone feels about you and your “product” and how that translates into their engagement with you. Of course, as teachers, our product is learning. So by building a brand for your classroom, you are developing a way for people to interact with both you and the learning processes that you teach. Think of branding as your educator calling card. How would people describe you as a teacher? Exciting? Tough? Kind? Inspirational? You are in charge of shaping this perception, and it’s essential that you do.
Why you should build your brand.
This sounds a lot like building your professional reputation, doesn’t it? Your professional reputation is definitely a part of this. However, branding is also about making intentional choices in threading together a series of pieces that tell the story of who you are and what you sell. We need our students to want to come into our classes and engage with us. To do that, they need a reason to choose to learn. This is the best reason of all to choose to build a brand for your classroom.
Components of a brand.
Think about all of the things that you do to prepare your classroom and your lessons for the students that you reach and teach. What tools do you use? Blogging? Social Media? Professional Development? Collaborative Planning? Start to pull those pieces together into a cohesive unit that showcases who you are as an educator and what you believe in. Here are a few examples:
- Uses blogging in the classroom.
- Uses Socrative and Today’s Meet to instantly get feedback on student learning.
- Engages in #edchat Tuesdays on Twitter for PD.
- Uses a digital planner to organize his lesson plans.
- Brings in Artists-in-Residence twice a year or more to provide students with hands-on learning experiences.
- Sets up her classroom like a studio to engage in artful practices.
- Plays music by master composers to engage critical thinking and listening skills.
- Uses Arts Integration techniques to teach through the content areas.
- Encourages 1:1 and BYOD technology in the classroom.
- Focuses on large projects that are based on real-world problems.
- Utilizes video and social media technology to engage with students and parents.
- Prefers to engage in PD on their own time which they can apply in the classroom immediately.
Each of these teachers demonstrates consistency in their “brand” which follows through into everything that they do. This is a critical piece in being able to clearly communicate what makes you a unique educator and how your classroom is special from the one next door.
It all in the Planning.
We’ll be exploring how to begin building your brand in our next post. What’s great about building a brand is that it can evolve and expand over time as your teaching is impacted by different experiences, but the framework stays the same. So once you have a clear vision for who you want to be as a teacher or administrator, it’s simply a matter of choosing the tools that will support that vision and making a plan for how to implement those tools. In the meantime, start to brainstorm the ways you love to engage with people (both the adults and the kids) and look for a common thread or pattern that would best describe you. From there, the brand will follow!
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.