English Teachers are Salespeople

My JTE told me something enlightening today after I explained a project idea to him.

He said, “Japanese students are busy, so if you make everything about ‘if you have time…’ or ‘if you’re free…’ they are just going to say to themselves, “I’m too busy for that…” or “No thanks…”

I often think of my students as kids and don’t appreciate that their lives consist of tons of deadlines and activities (as if they were grown-ups working at a real job).

I hate to admit it, but yeah, they are pretty busy, huh?

That means two things:

One, when I introduce new activities I have to realize that students are thinking, “Oh no! It’s another new pattern that I have to learn…” No matter how good the idea is, the sale for students is going to be in how easy it is to explain and the immediate gratification it satisfies.

Two, I gotta stop presenting ideas in the “if you have time…” passion. No, of course they don’t have time, so I shouldn’t even start down this line of thinking. Instead, I (and we) ought to be more creative in our sales pitch so that the new idea is presented as satisfying a need or want or presenting an opportunity.

I think the pattern is fairly similar to how marketers present messages to sell their products. In that way, English teachers are pretty much salesmen, marketing in ideas and activities rather than commodities and services.

I think the more we study some of the effective ways of presenting ideas, and the better marketers we become, the more successful our messages and ideas to students will become.

So, I recommend two books,

Seth Godin, Free Prize Inside

and Dan and Chip Heath’s, Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die.

Both of these books discuss at length how to make messages that are effective and that move people to action.