Selling is greater than teaching.
I was sort of thrown into a career in education. I finished most of my degree while holding a job as a cruise ship performer, and on one fateful cruise walked in my future wife. Long story short, I had to retire and find opportunities on dry land.
Even though I had super marketable skills, (like being able to croon with an acoustic guitar) somehow I wasn’t being offered 6-figure jobs. I had one semester left of school, and had to find a way to bring in some dough, so I took a job in sales.
The first job I took was for a door-to-door sales company that was raising money for the World Wildlife Fund (the ones responsible for the wrestling organization changing their name to WWE). I remember the “interview” which was really a day of training in itself. I got into a car with a young charismatic guy wearing a suit who had a British accent, and we drove to a suburban town outside Atlanta. It was a rush to go up to that first door and see how naturally he struck up a conversation. We knocked on about 100 doors that day, and a couple of people signed up for a monthly subscription to support the WWF.
I took a job at that company, and what I experienced was super strange and also super informative. We didn’t learn that much about the WWF, what we did do is memorize a sales script and practice pitching it to each other. We practiced overturning objections like “I already make donations” or “I don’t have time”. We played games and got each other pumped (one of those games resulted me getting 7 stitches in my head due to getting hit by a giant bell — true story).
See, sales people realize something that many don’t. When you get out there, and you’re a strange dude in a decent neighborhood, and you are going to go bother people when they’re in the middle of ironing, doing the dishes, watching TV, talking on the phone, or dealing with the kids, it doesn’t matter how much you know or how much you care about what you’re doing. What matters is that you’re ready to be there, present with the individual, and you know what you want from them.
You’re also prepared that out of 100 people you talk to, 60 won’t answer the door, 20 will politely decline, 10 will be angry or aggressive, and 5 or 10 will hear you out long enough for you to have a chance to get them to take action.
I wasn’t that successful in sales, mostly because I didn’t believe in what I was selling. However, when I started teaching almost immediately after, I was still in the mindset of sales. I was thrown into a situation teaching music to elementary school kids — my background was in music production, songwriting, and performance, so if anything, I knew too much about the content.
More teachers know way more about content than is necessary, and when we get caught up in that, we forget about what matters most — selling our students on how important it is to learn.
Isn’t it true that if someone wants to learn about something, they will find a way?
And vice versa, if you spoon feed someone, you deprive them of their natural curiosity to find out more on their own.
What’s great about teaching is you have an opportunity every day to use different approaches to sell your concept to the same students. Think about it — yes the odds of sales are low. But now take the same 100 people, see them every day for 5 days in a row. Now you sell 2 the first day, you sell 2 the next day, you change your approach and sell 3 more, and by the end you’ve sold 10%.
What ends up happening is the majority starts to be sold, and once the majority is sold, the rest fall into place. Now, you have a 98% or 100% success rate.
Unless you’re teaching.
We’ve all been there. The teachers sees himself or herself as the one with all the answers. They stand at the front of the room and regurgitate a bunch of information. We are expected to keep our heads down and be silent until they ask us for our input, then we are expected to chime in and raise our hands and participate.
Great teachers don’t do that. There is a time and place for lectures, but those situations should be used for stirring up the purpose, autonomy, and curiosity of students.
I can’t say I get there every day, but I show up. And I change my approach each week, trying to reach more students, and reach them more deeply. My goal as a teacher is for my students to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that when they step into my room their 6 needs will be met. They will feel significant, they will feel certain of our routines, they will experience the surprise of something new and unusual, they will experience a love for the subject matter (music), they will experience growth in learning, and they will have an opportunity to contribute to the class experience.
I may not hit all 6 all the time, but this is the goal. And the end result of that goal for me is that 10 years from now they will still remember and be affected by the way they felt when they were in my room. The will associate that feeling with learning, and they will seek out those feelings and experiences through self-guided learning in the future.
There’s know way to know if I’ve been successful yet, but I’ll tell you this — I’m sold.