What’s Your Unfair Advantage?

I’ve been listening to an interesting podcast series called “Start Up”  It’s a podcast about a company, oddly enough a podcasting company, trying to create a new business. In one of the early episodes, they are looking for investors and one of the potential investors asks them, “what is your unfair advantage?” In other words, what do you offer that is going to make this venture succeed?

Your unfair advantage. I like that and in fact used it in a recent presentation. As Gary Stager says, “one of the best things you can do for your students is to be an interesting person.” I think today this is more important than ever. If you think of teachers who had the greatest impact, I’ll bet there was something unique about them. Something that stood out and set them apart. I thought back to my school experience and the teacher that came to mind was Mr. Einarson. He was my high school Canadian social studies teacher who was a rock and roll historian. The stories and insights he told were quite fascinating to a teenager. It made his class the one you looked forward to. It was without question his unfair advantage.

In an age of ubiquitous content, it’s becoming glaring obvious that relationships are far more important than ever to be a successful educator. I keep hearing words like “scale” and that concerns me. Many reform ideas focus on standardizing and scaling education. I don’t want teachers who are the same and you don’t scale relationships.  When teachers are free to share who they are and what they are interested it has a positive impact on their classroom. A while back I wrote about the need for teachers to be artists and while that is about teaching and learning, utilizing your “unfair advantage” is about the classroom environment.

John Spencer wrote about genius hour for teachers which made me think about how many passionate teachers I know are passionate about teaching but I’m not sure about their interests outside of school. We know how all consuming a profession teaching can be but is creating time for other interest not only important for survival and well-roundedness, it’s important for your students to see that life is rich and interesting outside the walls of the school. While I can talk about learning and education for hours, I love meeting teachers who have strong interests unrelated to school.

Good teachers look for what makes their students unique. The want to know their interests to help them learn and connect to them.I wonder if students were asked “What makes Mr./Mrs/Ms ___________ special?” about all the teachers in your school, what would they say? What would they say about you? What is your unfair advantage?

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