Before I went back to teaching, I spent a stint of time working in the corporate world. During this time, I worked for several different companies. Some of the managers created wonderful working environments. Others did not.
I thought it would be interested to create a top ten list of reasons why I enjoyed working for some companies and why other companies fell short. I believe the same principles that make for a great corporate environment can be transferred to the classrooms.
To be clear, this list isn't about things I'm looking for in a school. This is a list of ideas that I. as manager of my class, want students to experience when they take my class.
employer = me : employee = student
Before presenting my list, I would like to say that I have not figured out how to incorporate all these ideas into the classroom. Your suggestions and comments are appreciated!
10. I wanted and fought for the position:
During my college days, I worked at several different grocery stores. I needed money for school supplies and gas for my car. The grocery stores were willing to hire me and I was willing to do the job but I didn’t relish the idea of going to work. I did what I had to do.
When a GUI Designer position was posted online, I applied because I desired the job. I spent hours tightening my resume and mulling over images in my portfolio. I even practiced answer possible interview questions. I really wanted that job.
Conclusion: A great place to work starts when you select the job.
Translation to school: A great class starts when the students are able to select the class.
9. Collaborating with a Team:
Whether it was creating the design for the companies new website or project managing the development of an internal app, I always enjoyed working with a team. Working with other people provides an opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and developing something larger than you could by yourself.
Conclusion: A great place to work includes teamwork.
Translation to school: A great class includes collaborative projects.
8. Value My Input:
My manager used to say, “You’re the expert.” At the risk of sounding snooty, he was right. I was the one who had the particular skill set that nobody else in the company had. That is why they hired me.
Conclusion: A great place to work values the skill set that its employees bring to the table.
Translation to school: A great class is filled with individual students, each possessing special gifts and talents that need to be recognized and valued.
Companies that value their employees realize that it is better to hold onto their employees than it is for them to leave and have to retrain new ones. These companies try to keep their employees happy by offering them certain perks. These perks can range from providing quality, fresh coffee, to giving away tickets to hockey games.
Conclusion: A great place to work keeps its employees happy by offering perks.
Translation to school: A great class keeps the students happy by offering perks.
6. Advancement and Growth:
Employees that are offered no room for growth and no opportunity for advancement will say they are stuck in a dead end job. The best employers offer their employees chances to move up the corporate ladder. Even in situations where there are no more rungs to climb employees can still advance themselves by continuing to become the expert at what they do.
Conclusion: A great place to work offers room for advancement or room for growth.
Translation to school: A great class offers the students room for advancement or room for growth.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Dull boys are bored and bored employees don’t work very hard. It might sound contradictory. The classic cliché manager walks into the room and yells at his employees to work harder. No goofing off. However, employees work harder when they enjoy being at work. That is why I can say that I have won several rubber band fights against my previous manager.
Conclusion: A great place to work is a fun place to be.
Translation to school: I’m not suggesting you break out in a rubber band fight with your students, I’m just saying a great class is fun place to be.
The best stories have the best antagonists. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader, Superman has Lex Luther and Dorothy has the Wicked Witch of the West. These stories work because we live vicariously through the protagonist. A great manager can take advantage of this by creating an antagonist. This antagonist can be external as in, we need to develop a better product than company X, or it can be internal as in, our goal this month is to ship 500 more widgets than last month.
Conclusion: A great place to work includes a competitive aspect.
Translation to school: The movies Stand And Deliver and Lean On Me both have great antagonists. The only caveat is that the antagonist must be something the students want to defeat.
3. The Right Tools:
This might sound a bit geeky but it felt like Christmas when my manager handed me the latest version of PhotoShop to install on my computer. While it is true that I could have accomplished my job with the older version of the software, I was excited to work with the latest and greatest technology.
Conclusion: A great place to work provides its employees the best tools for the job.
Translation to school: A great class doesn’t hamper a student’s ability to get the job done with outdated technology or prehistoric methods. We need to give our students the right tools for the job.
If my job was to stick labels on boxes and the labels had to be placed in exactly the same position on each box, I would be fired before lunch. People need to be creative. I believe this is why PowerPoint includes the ability to add animations to presentations. It’s much more fun for the creator of the presentation to add an animation than it is for the viewer to watch.
Conclusion: A great place to work includes a creative outlet for its employees.
Translation to school: A great class includes creative outlets to every aspect of the class.
At one of the best places I worked, someone was assigned to bring donuts every Friday morning.
Conclusion: A great place to work has donuts every Friday morning.
Translation to school: A great class has donuts every Friday morning (or scones :).