we are all students.
through my lens as instructor…a personal teaching statement.
Fresh out of graduate school and only five years into the beginning of a rock-star career in marketing communications and management, I felt the itch to be in front of the students rather than one with the students. As such, I started substitute teaching part-time at the local college and found a great high from not only leading a class, but also encouraging discussion, debate, thoughtfulness, and insight from varying age, ethnicity, gender and work lifestyle.
In those first few semesters, I was likely prepping far more than the students themselves, as I was terrified they would ask questions I couldn’t answer; thereby, feeling the need to know everything to prove myself. Eventually; however, I learned that not every instructor does know everything, nor is there magic in that which we do know. Humility comes from a student explaining a new way to look at an idea, questioning a test answer, or politely finding discrepancy in the text.
Today, over 25 years into a marketing, sales and communications career, that itch has not faded, it has blossomed. No longer do I lead a class, I am also a student. I learn from each new group of students; sometimes those who fly through with an A, and absolutely from those who work hard to capture a C. They each teach one another, and I am a guide along their journey of knowledge. One amazing and inspiring discipline, one branch on the tree, one sign on their road.
And while prep is still critical, my own confidence in my craft, coupled with years of global and domestic marketing and management experience, has enabled me to demonstrate variations in textbook language and outside-the-classroom application. I can spot a challenging definition and translate. I can carefully define tactics to support strategy. And with years of experience, I can see strategy and tactics as two very different, but critical ways of thinking.
The application of marketing must engage the student, meaning products/services they understand and/or frequent, so, together, we find the marketing appeal, objective, strategy and tactics to facilitate discussion and student interest.
My career outside the classroom has been one of privilege. I have over 20 years experience- both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) – marketing communications, community outreach, public speaking, crisis communication and sales strategy, both domestic and international. I have additionally held a number of local community Board roles, including president for the local American Marketing Association (AMA) and Administrative Champion to a starter Toastmaster’s International club for a 1500 colleague-based hospital. No class misses a hint of my background. Each are touched by examples from my wide range of healthcare and consumer product experience in a way that aligns with AMA learnings and Toastmaster International guidelines.
Each semester, I ensure students understand they are a brand ambassador for their school, work, favorite sports team, etc., WHILE marketing their own personal brand at all times. My icebreaker may be intimidating on day one, but it never fails, as students ‘Toastmaster’ their way to the front of the classroom to ‘Be the Brand’ through an introduction of themselves to new classmates.
Laughter, story-telling, leadership, owning your personal brand image, public speaking and thoughtful weekly online chapter article searches, assure me students walk away with not simply memorization of chapter information, but also the ability to conceptualize and translate into something memorable. It is critical to me, and I assure transparency to the students, that they learn what they need in our time together, not a box full of memorized terminology.
Candidly, there are times when textbook language doesn’t fit how a meeting in front of the Board of Directors or a C-suite executive will flow outside the classroom. Those individuals may not be trained in marketing lingo, so the student must understand the root of their classroom work before they are truly available to deploy learnings in an experiential approach.
I am a high energy, fast-paced instructor. I expect students to do the work, engage often, connect with fellow students, and in return, I give them concrete examples of both my personal successes and plenty of opportunities along the way where I learned through error. We laugh, we push one another, and they do not leave the course without a thorough understanding that we are ALL marketers, even without the title or the paid experience on our LinkedIn profile.
Someday perhaps, I will find a way to teach that concept to managers, students and peers universally and outside my classroom.
Be the Brand.