Teaching

How to get noticed in a noisy world (or classroom)

Noise

Flickr: pamhule

It’s a noisy world.

Everywhere you look, someone’s trying to sell you something. Someone’s trying to convince you of an opinion.

There’s a pull for people’s attention everywhere.

That’s definitely the case in classrooms. Students have plenty of challenges for their attention.

After-school activities. Social media. Video games. Teenage relationships.

Even the cows outside my social studies classroom when I attended my west-central Indiana high school. (Especially when they started giving us demonstrations on bovine reproduction.)

I’ve written about how it’s part of teachers’ jobs to sell others – students, parents, administrators – on their ideas.

As teachers, part of our job also is battling distractions. They’re more prevalent than ever before.

“Platform,” a book by world-class blogger and leadership expert Michael Hyatt, explains how to “get noticed in a noisy world.” Hyatt says building a platform is important for anyone with something to say or sell.

Teachers definitely have something to say. We don’t want to say it without being heard.

Here are some of Hyatt’s principles for platform building that apply to teaching:

1. Don’t ask for more than you give. Think of spammers. It’s all about them and what they want you to do. They ask without giving.

If teachers keep making withdrawals from the Bank of Students’ Attention, the balance will reach zero pretty quickly.

The teacher-student relationship predicates that the teacher ask for more than he gives. But whenever possible, give back. Talk to students. Go to their activities. Make them feel important. Reward them with something sugary (that always seems to work).

2. Add value. In platform-building, this means thinking of the audience and giving it something worthwhile.

In teaching, it’s basically the same. Sure, education is built on the idea of providing valuable content and experiences all the time. But students don’t always see it that way, especially in today’s instant-gratification culture.

Give them something they can use today. Something they want today. A fascinating news blurb. A relevant joke. Something sugary (wait, haven’t we touched on that already?).

[RELATED: Influence. 8 ways to harness it in the classroom]

3. Write shorter posts, shorter paragraphs, and shorter sentences. Teachers may not write for their students like bloggers write for their audiences. But we do present content in a similar way.

Again, content overload is everywhere. We all get bombarded with messages everywhere. Don’t add to the problem. If a four-minute explanation works as well as a 15-minute discourse, why go for 15 minutes? Think KISS – keep it simple, stupid.

In the words of Rusty from “Ocean’s Eleven,” “don’t use seven words when four will do.

4. Engage in the conversation. Hyatt writes that building a platform means interacting with followers. People want a personal connection, and to do that, you’ve got to reach out to them.

In teaching, it’s the same way. Students don’t just want to hear you teach. Be yourself. Tell them your stories. Connect with them. Engage.

Some other ideas from “Platform”:

  • Provide a “wow” experience
  • Imagine possibilities, dream, and write those dreams down
  • Give stuff away (something sugary, maybe? It always comes back to that!)

What are your ideas to break through the noise to get noticed in the classroom? Post your thoughts in a comment!

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