Sell Me a Story

March 6, 2013


Jeffrey Spencer, Principal

Jeffrey Spencer, Principal

In his most recent book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink suggests every individual regardless of career is actually a salesperson. The book outlines strategies and skills needed to be successful in the new sales environment.

Part of the focus on the book spotlights education, which is one of two identified industries experiencing rapid growth. Pink looks at a micro level with teachers motivating students while my thinking immediately shifted to school transformation and systems-level change in education. As Theresa Shafer, Online Community Manager for New Tech Network, likes to tell us, people are talking about schools. What are we doing to shape the discussion?

With the growth and promotion of competition between schools, educational leaders must be cognizant of marketing their school’s vision and purpose. From the works of Pink and Simon Sinek, we are told that purpose and explaining our “why” inspires people to action and creates change. If we want to continue shifting the paradigm of public education, we must inspire with our vision and purpose.

In one of the later chapters, Pink discusses the evolution of the elevator speech and identifies a concept called The Pixar pitch. This pitch models after the creation process of a Pixar movie and created a template for pitching your idea. It starts with

Once upon a time ___________ and then transitions into  Every day, __________. One day ___________. Because of that, __________. Because of that, ____________. Until finally ___________.

Applying this to the shift we’ve seen in education immediately swirled in my mind.

After some revision, I came up with the following.

Once upon a time, education was easy. Every day, students sat quietly in rows, memorized facts and figures given by their teacher, and were educated in groupings based on the year of their birth. One day based on high-stakes testing, we were told that the system was broken and must be changed. Because of that, educators looked for ways to create learning environments adapted to these new challenges. Because of that, learning organizations like New Tech Network, advocate for schools that create relevant, authentic work that models themselves on the professional standards of the real-world. Until finally education wasn’t just reformed but transformed into a field where students leave our schools with the skills, values, and dispositions to be productive citizens.

To make this applicable to my situation, I then created an answer that sold the Apex vision and applied it to my situation.

Once upon a time, Decatur Middle School faced a challenge of preparing young people to be successful in a changing, complex world. Every day, students and teacher worked hard to learn standards and be ready to pass ISTEP but it wasn’t enough. One day, a group of teachers wanted to change the way education looked in their classrooms. Because of that, they began a journey that incorporated Project-Based Learning and applying problem-solving and content into real-world application. Because of that, Apex Community at Decatur Middle School was born and joined over 100 schools across the country.Until finally leaners at the middle school engaged in deeper learning to solve real-life problems and were successfully prepared to make a difference in the world.

How would you create a Pixar pitch for your vision of education in your community? How could you use this to inspire all stakeholders and move your vision into a reality?

Public education fends off critics at every turn. By defining our vision and purpose, we can rally our communities around a vision of a successful community of learning. We’re all in sales, what are you selling to your community about your school?

Tags: ,