A New Found Respect for Teachers

Science teachers having fun at the NSTA show.

For the past year I helped launch Legends of Learning as cofounder and CMO. While I have worked with several education brands before, Legends represents my first dedicated full-time experience. Marketing learning games to middle school science teachers has given me a new-found respect for how hard teachers work.

In addition to the hours they spend at school, teachers often work nights and yes, weekends to prepare lessons for their classes, learn about new teaching methods, grading, and, oh yeah, answering parent and administrative correspondence. In short, teachers work hard.

Time Spent

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Teachers invest time not only in the classroom with today’s youth, but also exploring the vast amount of content and education solutions online. Teaching is often a 60-hour per week job, or more.

In spite of the numerous companies generating curriculum content, it can be extraordinarily difficult to find quality materials in this 21st century, post-textbook world. Teachers spend as much as five hours a week researching content for their classroom.

Teachers will invest more time finding content for subjects that are not over-tested for state and national standards, such as science (where Legends of Learning fits in), social studies, language, and the arts. These subject areas are underserved bu vendors. Most vendors build content for English and math since districts, charter school networks, and schools are incentivized to excel in math and English by our current education laws.

Teachers’ research processes extend beyond actually finding potential content; they also have to thoroughly vet it to see if it will fit in their classroom. Think about how much time we are talking about here. These are startup-level hours on a teacher’s salary.

Think about how much time we are talking about here. These are start-up hours on a teacher’s salary.

Sure, they get summers “off,” but not nearly to the extent most of us think. Districts and private schools have teacher training for weeks prior to the students’ first day. Many teachers go to Edcamps and conferences over the summer for professional development or PD as they call it.

To add insult to injury, schools are often underfunded. Most teachers invest some of their own money to buy classroom supplies and explore professional development because they want to do their job.

A Disaggregated Inundated Community

National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes speaks to our ambassadors at ISTE.

What about sharing content found with each other online? Surely that would save time searching, and maybe even help teachers find resources their peers have already tested.

While this already occurs on a micro level, teachers don’t have a central location like Yelp to read each other’s reviews online.

K-12 education is inherently local. Teacher communities are often limited to their district or perhaps state. Online communities develop based on edtech used, social networks, and learning management system platforms, which vary greatly. Often boasting huge numbers, these teacher networks are quiet with little visible activity.

That makes well-connected, internet-savvy teachers who are well connected online highly valuable in some ways. Tech companies have figured that out, and now seek “ed influencers” to help spread the word about Some say this raises ethical issues. As someone in the space, teachers deserve any extra scratch they can make.

And that’s not because Legends of Learning pays its Ambassadors. We don’t. We incentivize them with free access to our platform, company swag, and funding for trips to PD events and conferences. Payments are strictly for our content reviewers, and we do not find those teacher consultants through our influencer networks.

In my book, if teachers can get a tech company to pay them for their efforts and insights, good on them. They deserve the extra dollars because work hard and are underpaid for their very important role in society: Educating the future leaders of our communities.

Over the long term teachers work this hard because they care about the children they educate. It’s unfortunate that more in society don’t understand the effort teachers put forth for their communities. But I do now, and that’s why I respect them so much more.

Winning Beats Fame

Grandma at Shula's

In an era where people chase fame like dogs running down a hare in a field, there’s little discussion about winning. That’s too bad, because winning beats fame every time. It’s imminently more satisfying, yields more benefits, and is much more memorable.

Why do we focus on fame instead of winning? Just look at the obvious. Consider the media attention bestowed on famous people, and the idealism of thought leadership bestowed upon those who achieve notoriety in smaller online communities. Fame seems attractive, like it’s attainable and rewarding. But as time has shown, the emperor often doesn’t have clothes.

Many Internet famous people have had to get real jobs, their dreams of being recognized for their 10,000 Twitter followers have been unmet. But the best can always get a free plane ticket and hotel to speak at a gig. Such are the spoils of nanofame.

Winning Requires Work

Winning – achieving a worthy goal in the face of competition and/or circumstance – is not easy. It’s deeply personal. It could be making a choice to spend more time at home to raise a child who is well-rounded, educated, and loved as opposed to hitting networking events every night. For some winning means building a product or a company and selling it (or not), or achieving social change over a period of years in the face of staunch opposition.

Such hard work is rarely noticed. Being a great parent won’t necessarily win you thousands of fans on Twitter. It often takes years of dedicated committed focus, day in day out, surpassing struggles small and large, always, always with the end result in mind. It requires personal sacrifice as opposed to self glorification.

Winning often means struggling, failing, and learning to become better at whatever the end goal may require. It takes perseverance, guts, and a certain kind of faith that carries one through the difficult days. And there are hard, rough days that force people to really consider whether they have the stuff to survive the journey.

Aaron Strout, CEO of Powered, now bought by Dachis, is achieving some of this kind of success now. Aaron may never be noted as the most popular marketing voice on the interwebs, but he’s certainly one of the most successful ones.

Compared side by side, Internet fame sure seems a lot easier. Heck, you’ll have lots of friends, too. That in its own right may be enough for some, a win.

Yet, fame and the pleasure of its vain fan-based love doesn’t fulfill in the same way as achieving something. Whether it’s love and joy with the kid and their achievements, the rewards of successfully waging a business, the civic pride in having made society better, these things cannot ever be taken away. They are worthwhile successes.

Sometimes fame is bestowed upon someone for their winning ways. The limelight captures them in the moment of their success, a by product of all those hard years of work. Then the pleasure of fame becomes a laurel wreath, temporary and beautiful, capturing a moment in time.

Most winners don’t get caught up in it, though. There’s no proverbial “kool-aid” moment. They are off to the next thing, starting the next company, maybe running a marathon, teaching children, or planting a bounteous garden. It’s what makes them feel happy. It’s something you never want to stop doing.

Do you prefer winning or fame?