It’s a Sunday afternoon. You’re driving home from wherever and you see a sign that says, “Open House.” You follow the sign to the house. It’s a house that looks amazing from the outside, so you decide that you might as well take the 15 minutes and wander through.

As you walk in you see some features you love as well as some things that make you cringe. But the realtor that’s there… she saw that cringe. And so she starts to give you the full sales pitch. She goes back to those things that made your eyes sparkle. She talks about the neighborhood and the schools. She shows you the back yard that has a deck and fire pit. She shows you little things that you didn’t notice that give this house some character. She goes back to those things that made you cringe and talks about the simple things you could do to improve them. And you nod along realizing that she’s right, this could be your future home.

Twenty minutes ago you were having a normal Sunday, and now you are considering the largest purchase you’ll ever make. How did this happen?

Let’s go back to the beginning. That sign announcing the open house. How did it catch your eye? Were there balloons? Was there a description that excited you?

When you looked at the house, was it well maintained or rundown? When you saw the realtor, was she passive or excited to tell you about this amazing opportunity? Did she highlight the amazing finishes, decor, perks of the neighborhood or did she focus on the things that need improvement? Did she convince you that this house was worth thinking about, even if just for a few minutes?

You know all the answers because you’ve all seen how sales people work. Presentation is important, excitement is important, taking a minus and making it a plus is important.

Now think about how you teach. Are you a sales person, or are you just there to deliver content to the warm bodies in your classroom?

As a geography teacher, I think my content sells itself. I talk about the WORLD!!! I talk about cultures that students have never heard of. I present them with issues that will impact them in their lives. I show them places that are so beautiful, words don’t do them justice. But here’s the thing… some students just aren’t buying that content.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how we need to stop making students memorize maps. In that post I mentioned how my son who is now a 7th grader spent last year hating world geography. I talked about how his class had biweekly quizzes on maps that he had to memorize. But I wanted to know more, so I had a long talk with him about why he hated geography.

He hated memorizing maps (which I get). He said they watched videos that “said a lot of stuff, but nothing worth remembering.” They did worksheets that required him to spit back content from the videos. But the thing that got me the most was his last statement: My teacher just didn’t really seem like she cared about the class, so I didn’t either.

We need to sell our content. We need to sell our classroom culture (even the most subjects you find boring can be saved by a classroom culture. Sell yourself. Students need to believe in you and know that you believe in them.

So as you start this school week, think of your students not as children taking up a seat, but as potential buyers for your classroom. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Does the physical space of your classroom make them want to see more?
  2. Are you selling the content, the culture, and yourself?
  3. And ask the question that Dave Burgess says in Teach Like a Pirate: If they didn’t have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?

How do you sell your content to students? Comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @cheffernan75!

And as always, join #worldgeochat every Tuesday at 9 Eastern/8 Central.



3 thoughts on “Teachers, you are in the sales business

  1. Hello,
    May I include this blog article in my presentation at the Virginia Council for Social Studies 2017 Conference. I’m presenting on The Three Appeals of a Global Perspective and I’d love to recommend that teachers read this article. Thank you for considering.


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