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!
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!
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?"
The Beanstalk Project is a group of entertainers-turned-educators with unconventional ideas about how to make education better.