Schools are full of difficult students.
The disengaged, the uninterested, and the downright defiant. And every teacher knows that dealing with them is draining.
But does it have to be?
We recently conducted a Customer Service SHSM workshop for a class of 50 “disengaged” students. At least, we were told they’d be disengaged when our well-meaning teacher-host led us into the classroom.
To be honest, I got the same first impression when I entered the room. The students were sitting in small clusters but they were each in their own world. Their eyes glued to their phones and their minds scurrying away from the room.
To the pleasant surprise of our host, however, they didn’t stay that way for long.
Our customer service workshop is based in storytelling. I asked the students to share their experiences being a customer - the good, the bad, and the deliciously ugly. Since misery loves company, these students jumped at the chance to gossip a little. Within minutes, most of their phones were out of mind.
Storytelling is the bread-and-butter of our ability to make sense of the world.
When someone starts sharing a story, we lean a little closer to catch all the details. When we can relate, we want to respond with stories of our own! There’s never a dull moment!
Our teacher host even got in on the action and shared a few stories of his own. The students were right there with him, gasping in disbelief as he described the time he was chased out of a store after asking to speak with the manager. And then he had the class in stitches when he told how he once managed to finagle four extra scoops of ice cream for free (which resulted in an extreme ice-cream headache). After the workshop, this teacher shared that he’d felt really connected to the students that morning. Sharing stories is powerful stuff.
A journalist once lamented to me: “The 3-bullet powerpoint slide has killed people’s interest in learning! Our brains think in stories, not bullet points!” Sadly, many teachers haven’t yet got the message.
Every little kid loves storybooks. Movies, TV, Netflix. Even social media lets you create stories. The best videogames - they create narratives and journeys for the players. It’s all stories!
In our opinion, one of the best investments a teacher can make is to mine your past for stories. Find the connections to your subjects. Search the internet for interesting examples and applications if need be!
Don’t be afraid to tell a bold story - even one that’s a little provocative, perhaps. After all, Hollywood doesn’t make blockbusters about “moderately ho hum” events - they go big! Find a story that’s relevant to your subject, and you’ll have people hooked. Get THEM sharing a story about your subject, and they’ll be engaging each other without even realizing it!
Stop Sitting in Rows
How are your classroom desks arranged? More importantly, why have you arranged them that way?
If YOU wanted to learn something, would you go sit in a small desk behind someone else? How about directly in front of a few colleagues? Of course not!
“But my options are limited!” you exclaim. “We have a square room with square desks, and way too many students most of the time. What am I supposed to do?!”
It’s definitely a challenge, but we’d bet there are options you haven’t yet considered. How could you make your room more comfortable, collaborative, and conducive to learning?
Need some ideas? Sure!
How about something more like a theatre – curved lines of seats with NO desks? This is where you’d lecture or do short presentations. Or set it like a library – some independent spots, and some larger tables for group-work. How about a circle of seats with no desks? Or a U-shape of desks? Or a carpet on the floor? Or cushions? Try bringing in a couch, or a few bean-bag chairs – your students will love it.
Maybe you change it day-by-day? Or from moment to moment? Maybe you could invest in some tennis ball feet to make the desks more moveable without the horrific floor-scraping sounds. If you have a huge room that offers lots of options simultaneously, that’s great, but I’d bet your students could learn to reset the room in under a minute. Most students will be happy to have something physical to do!
Lessons, collaborative work time, independent reading, tests, special guests, big group discussions… each function deserves its own ideal setup. Invest the 2 minutes, and I guarantee you’ll see improved productivity and engagement.
If you’re still stuck for ideas, perhaps the best place to start is with your students. Go ahead! Ask your students if they like sitting in rows; ask them how THEY would design the ideal classroom setup! But only ask if you’re willing to listen.
What an exciting time of year. So much energy and promise and the spirit of possibility.
But, as one of my teacher friends put it, “it’s too bad it only lasts for a week or two.”
Well, with that attitude…
I kid. A lot of teachers just sorta expect the energy to fade after day one. But does it have to? Does student engagement necessarily have to drop after the first day? How can we keep our students wanting to come back to our classes again and again?
It’s so important to recognize that the things we do with students NOW are setting the tone for the rest of our time together. We all know that first impressions really matter!
My friend Mark teaches 4th grade phys ed, and has some great ideas about engaging students. He said, “The key is to set the tone. Get students excited about something on day one, and you can always leave them wanting more.”
He went on to describe his tactic:
Do you remember getting to play with the parachute? It’s the best thing when you’re in the fourth grade! Nothing gets my students more excited than when I walk out of the supply room with the parachute in my hands. It’s like magic!
So, on day one, you better believe I’m bringing out the parachute. They’re gonna have the time of their lives in that first class. After that, they look forward to coming to my class because they know there’s a chance it’s parachute day. And when they show up willingly, it’s easier to teach them new skills and ideas.
It’s so important recognize that the things we do with students now are setting the tone for the class. After all, we all know how long first impressions can last.
There's a great rule in presentation skills: Start strong! When we facilitate workshops, we strive to kick things off with something fun and energizing that helps students find a reason to care about the content. We’ve learned from our favourite teachers that before you can teach the subject, you have to build excitement for the subject!
So ask yourself:
What tone are you setting for your class?
How are you helping students care about the curriculum?
What can you do right now to inspire excitement for your classes?
Perhaps you can start your class with a game, or a demonstration, or even a performance! Maybe facilitate a conversation about the benefits of your class for students - not just in the future, but right now! Maybe encourage students to develop their own goals and questions for the class, or collaboratively create guidelines for technology use or rules of engagement for creative conversations.
Whatever you choose, share your enthusiasm and have fun. Your energy is contagious!
Pack More Into A Day For SHSM!
Setting up certifications and SHSM programming can be onerous and time-consuming. There's a lot to think about!
The good news is that there are also lots of ways to make it easier!
Teachers are always tight for time, and so are students, so if you can pack more value into a single day with your SHSM programming, everyone wins!
With so many certifications, Career “Reach Aheads”, “Experiential Learning”, and the new SPCE (Sector Partner Contextualized Experiences) to fit in, it’s worth thinking about how you can create events that will do double (or triple) duty!
As you think ahead for next year, here are 3 ideas to help you plan smarter!
Option 1: In-School Workshop Day
2 Certifications, Plus an Optional Lunchtime Social or Career Panel.
Benefits: Cheap, simple, no permission forms, students still have lunchtime to do other “school things”
Drawbacks: “Same old school” feel
The In-School Workshop Day is a great way to get up to 50 students two certifications with ease. The convenience of having a Beanstalk facilitator come to your school and work around your schedule makes this model the most common type of SHSM programming. This can also be shortened to a half-day morning or afternoon session if you only require one workshop, and fits within your bell schedule.
Option 2: On-Site SHSM Conference
2 Certifications, Partner Site Tour, Lunch, Career Panel Reach-Ahead, Experiential Learning Opportunity
Benefits: Exciting new venue, extra-engaging for students, and more boxes checked in a day!
Drawbacks: More organizational effort - permission forms, transportation, can be more costly
On-site conferences are a fun and engaging way for students to be part of a full-day event that combines a reach-ahead tour and career panel, two SHSM certifications, and potentially even an experiential education piece (though this usually requires the teacher do a bit of follow up). The number of students may be limited based on what the partner/venue can accommodate, but it's usually possible to find a partner that can accomodate 30-80 students. It requires more planning and transportation, but we think it's worth it; students get so much more out of the experience than just certifications! In the past, The Beanstalk Project has partnered with CoMoption - Hamilton's premier co-working space, as well as the Toronto Marlies. We co-hosted a SHSM Day at the Ricoh Coliseum while the team practised a few feet away!
Option 3: Multi-School SHSM Conference
2 Certifications, Career Panel Reach-Ahead, Motivational Keynote
Benefits: No limit on numbers, multiple schools and/or sectors in a single day, choice of certifications, bigger event is inspiring, opportunity to meet students from other schools, shared & memorable experience across the board, cost savings by combing resources.
Drawbacks: Need the right venue, transportation, logistical planning.
If you're looking to collaborate with other schools, this is a great model. You get the impact of a large event with the convenience of an in-school workshop. You provide greater choice in certifications by having two or more facilitators run concurrent workshops, and a big keynote finale (or opening) is a great way to get students feeling inspired and motivated by their experience. Plus, students love meeting new people and seeing that they're part of something bigger! Planning considerations include deciding which school (or other venue) is the best equipped to be the host, as well as allowing time within the school day for busses and transportation. But, schools can benefit by pooling their resources and giving students the most choice in achieving those SHSM seals!
You’ve probably heard the great news that the Ministry of Education has announced increased funding for experiential learning: Career/life planning, technical skills development, and expansion of SHSM!
But, the question remains - how do we get more students involved in SHSM? It’s the teachers, counsellors, and students in the schools - on the ground level - who will actually do the “selling” of SHSM.
We teachers don’t often think of ourselves as “salespeople,” but we are! It doesn’t have to be slimy or icky. For us, “sales” is about “helping people with their buying decisions,” and the “buying decision” students need to make is this: “What should I do with my time?”
We think SHSM is a worthy product to be sold. So let’s steal a few tips from sales professionals to help boost the SHSM enrolment numbers!
#1. Focus on the benefits, not the logistics. People buy shoes because they believe they’ll jump like Michael Jordan, not because they’re made with fancy rubber. We need to advertise SHSM not by telling people where to sign up or how long the workshops last, but by sharing the benefits as students experience them. Consider a few potential marketing slogans that are made to speak to the things that matter to students.:
#2. Give away free samples! There’s a reason Costco gives away free stuff at lunch time: It makes people buy more stuff! (It also makes us go to Costco at lunch time…). How might your SHSM program give away samples to give people a taste of all that you’re offering? Consider these ideas:
#3. Promote like a pro. Great marketers know that people buy on emotion justified by logic - not the other way around. So we need to make it emotional! A few specific tips:
Speaking of referrals... do you know someone who could use this information? Please forward this along! And invite them to sign up for our article series so they never miss another tip!
Connecting with students can be challenging. Having coached and helped some of the most disengaged students, we've learned how to guide youth to connect with their authentic goals.
Coaching as a discipline is growing in popularity. Top execs pay big bucks for coaches. But what is it that a coach does?
The role of coach can be contrasted with the role of a consultant: A coach empowers, while a consultant advises. A coach offers questions, while the consultant offers explanations. A coach focuses on listening, while the other often focuses on delivering expertise.
In the classroom, many teachers are comfortable in the consulting role, but miss the opportunities to act as coaches for their students.
Think about how you most frequently interact with your students… What does it look like? How do you sound? What do you talk about?
When teachers are purely consultants, students become passive, disengaged, and learn to wait for someone else to give them the right answer.
Coaching, on the other hand, helps students tap into their natural motivations, feel empowered, and generate their own solutions.
Here are a few simple tips to help you tap into your inner coach so you can help even more students find success. Try them out, and we know you'll see immediate results!
The Coach Approach:
Helping others tap into their natural motivation, feel empowered, and generate their own solutions.
5 Tips for Classroom Coaching
1. Ask students what workshops THEY want.
Students are way more likely to be engaged if they are part of the selection process. A quick survey will help ensure they have a personal interest in attending the workshop.
2. Invite non-SHSM students to your workshops.
Use your events as an opportunity to show non-SHSM students how fun and unique the program can be! Ask workshop providers if they'll charge a flat-rate fee so you can invite some extra students. Whether you hand-pick students or put out at general ad, an invitation may yield some new student interest!
3. Use the workshops to promote the SHSM.
Your workshop is bringing in outside voices to engage with students in new ways. Use this exciting dynamic as a way to showcase the SHSM program for the whole school. Advertise it beforehand, and showcase it afterwards!
4. Get a great workshop provider.
A workshop won't be great without a great provider. Do your research when looking for a facilitator. Check out their testimonials. When booking, ask key questions - Have they spoken to students before? Do they have repeat business? For more on this, stay tuned for a future email in our series about how to choose an awesome workshop facilitator!
5. Get a great space.
Make it a special event! Try hosting the workshop in a new space; get kids out of their typical classroom and into a new learning environment and you'll see the energy levels change.
6. Offer food.
Students LOVE free food. (Who doesn't?!) Not only that, but hunger can be a real distraction when it comes to learning. Consider some inexpensive, healthy snacks - chopped veggies and hummus, or fruit, for example. Students will keep their energy up, and the free food may even entice others to join the session. (Tip: Avoid processed and carb-heavy foods like muffins, bagels, and granola bars - while sometimes promoted as "healthy," they spike blood sugar and then put students to sleep.)
7. Take photos and videos to use for future promotions.
Photos are videos are great tools for promoting your SHSM program and future workshops. Your school can also use them to feature your program in a newsletter or on their website. Who knows - perhaps your board is looking for some promotional shots! Try engaging your art or media departments to find student photographers. (Be sure to get permission from students and facilitators before publishing any photos.)
8. Invite administration to welcome the students.
Administration is often looking for ways to connect with students in positive, exciting contexts. Invite principals or VPs to stop by to visit. Better yet, have them introduce the special event. Students will see that admin cares about them, and it will keep everyone on the same page about the significance of co-op programming.
9. Invite guidance so they can be better SHSM salespeople.
Guidance counsellors are often the ones signing students up for the SHSM program, so they should be there to see first-hand what it's all about. If they can see how much fun students have in their workshops, they will be better SHSM advocates in the future. You'll see your program grow!
10. Know what you're really teaching.
Of course we want students to have an edge when entering the work force, but we all know it's about the WHOLE student. SHSM workshops provide awesome opportunities to explore deep skills like self-confidence, working with others, and life skills. Keep in mind that life is not just about the "work path." Approach things holistically and they'll want to be involved because they'll see that you care about them as people!
Trying to find workshops that meet your students' SHSM Certificate requirements can be a daunting task. Some organizations run date-specific workshops at their locations, while others will cater to your schedule and come to you. Some SHSM providers advertise publicly, others advertise only through educator networks, while still others have great programs but don't advertise at all. So where do you start when looking to book?
It turns out there are LOTS of non-intuitive, unexpected types of organizations who offer workshops - you just have to try reaching out to them! SHSM teachers have told us they need some leads to start off - a bit of direction to focus the search.
To help you out, consider what types of workshops you're looking for, and read our recommendations for who to contact in your community!
Category: Soft Skills
Common in: All Majors
Elective Examples: Customer Service, Leadership Skills, Ethical Considerations, Conflict Management
Benefit: Students learn deep skills that will benefit them in all facets of their lives. Complex and vital, soft skills allow students to become better professionals, peers, and people, and give them an guide for how to interact in a complex world.
Where to look:
Common in: Agriculture, Aviation and Aerospace, Construction, Energy, Food Processing, Mining, Manufacturing, Transportation
Elective Examples: Working at Heights, Electrical Safety, Confined Space Training, Lockout/Tagging
Benefit: Hands-on trades training prepares students for the reality of this challenging work. Most importantly, it gets them excited to work with real objects/scenarios in a realistic environment.
Where to look:
Common in: Business, Information and Communication Technology
Elective Examples: Compass /map/global positioning system (GPS), Programming, Internet Security, Radio Operator
Benefit: Our work is becoming more automated, digital, and connected. Give students a head start on future developments through an experience working with contemporary technologies.
Where to look:
Common in: Arts and Culture, Business, Hospitality and Tourism, Non-Profit
Elective Examples: Event Coordination, Project Management, Ergonomics, Fundraising
Benefit: The core practices of most business and organizations lay here. Whether students are interested in charity work, starting their own business, or working for a large organization - strength with these skills will set them apart.
Where to look:
Common in: Energy, Environment, Forestry, Horticulture and Landscaping
Elective Examples: Habitat Restoration, Tree Planting, Ozone Depletion, Pleasure Craft Operator
Benefit: Many Majors involve work in our outdoor environments. Getting students out of the classroom and into the great outdoors is always a great thing! Hands-on work helps develop resiliency and a tangible connection to nature.
Where to look:
Category: Health, Counselling, and the Public
Common in: Hospitality and Tourism, Justice, Community Safety and Emergency Services, Non-Profit, Sports
Elective Examples: Self Defence, SafeTALK, Allergy Awareness, Fitness
Benefit: Our communities rely on the dedication of our first-responders, counsellors, and health care providers. Prepare students for work in these fields by teaching them how to deal with challenging issues now so they are prepared for the future.
Where to look:
Common in: All Majors
Elective Examples: Stage Combat, Surface and Underground Orientation, Spa Etiquette, Food Handler Certification
Benefit: SHSM Majors have their own unique electives that don't fit neatly into general categories. These electives often provide more specialized training for students who are clear on their career goals. However, they could also be used to expose students to new possibilities they hadn't considered before. A great opportunity to get creative!
Where to look:
Are you looking for an awesome speaker for your SHSM program? Students have to complete workshops – some mandatory, some elective. Once you’ve found a potential presenter, you’ll want to check them out. The following 6 questions will start great conversation and will help ensure your presentation will be a winner!
In general, a 10- or 15-minute phone call should be enough to get an idea of whether a presentation is a good fit for you and your school. Here’s what to ask and what to look for.
1. “What’s your experience with student workshops?
2. “How do you make your workshops engaging?”
3. "What are the logistics involved?"
4. "What is your pricing model?"
5. "What is your organization all about?"
6. "What other benefits can you offer?"
Many SHSM teachers tell us that they have trouble tracking student achievement within the SHSM program. Once they get students enrolled, they need tools keep them on track to earn their red seal!
There are two kinds of tracking we recommend: Overall tracking and per-student tracking. Overall tracking systems should help you monitor broader objectives and measurables - enrolment numbers, attendance at events, placement schedules, etc. At a very basic level, a few simple attendance sheets would fit the bill.
The second tracking system is our focus here – the Per Student Tracking System. This system allows you to monitor the progress of each student individually – a sort of checklist for both you and the student to show the requirements they’ve completed and the ones that are still outstanding. Of course, there is the official SHSM Record – an online tracking tool, but it’s not the most convenient for regular check-ins and visualization of your progress.
We advise creating your own simplified tracking form for you and students. There are lots of ways you could create this, but the important thing is that it’s simple enough to be usable. Keep your students on track and accountable!
Here are some key things to consider when tracking individual students through their SHSM program:
If you want an example, we’ve drawn up a very rough draft template that might inspire yours. It’s simple, visual, and it leaves spaces for course names, workshop titles, and descriptions of relevant experiences.
Most importantly, remember that ANY system is better than no system. If tracking is a challenge right now, consider how you could make a very basic system to reduce your stress and help more students complete the program!
Do you have tips you can share? Got a great idea for how to track student success? Comment below!
The Beanstalk Project is a group of entertainers-turned-educators with unconventional ideas about how to make education better.