Teachers need to “sell” their subject to their students.


It’s the last week of summer and as I’m joining my teenage nephew for a plate of my favorite carnitas for lunch, I think, “What a different experience, me as a teacher, and he as a student, have in anticipating our return to the classroom.” Him, possibly dread of homework and the pressure of studies. Me, a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

We all know how crucial the beginning week of school can be. First impressions can only happen once. That’s what makes them “first”. One element that I have come to value is the idea of “selling” my subject or curriculum to the students. Winston Churchill once said, “Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” Which in the sales world translates, people don’t buy what they don’t like being sold. So, at the beginning of each year, I take it upon myself to “sell” my product or my subject (which is English Language Arts) to my students.

Here’s irony for you, as English teachers, we teach students how to evaluate literature or stories, but often we forget how compelling and powerful story telling can be as a tool for our purposes. When it comes to “selling” students on the value of our class and curriculum, story telling can be key. Consider this video:

It tells a story, a story about the power of language.

One way I get “buy in” from my students at the beginning of the year is to show this video. It’s short but compelling, and it tells a strong story: that language is powerful and meaningful. Just the slight change to the blind man’s sign had a dramatic impact.

The pitch is: learning to use language effectively is a life-changing skill. Without a command of language, opportunities will be missed. My course is designed to help students harness the power of words, and let that skill give them influence over their future.

Now that’s a pitch. That’s “selling” my subject and class to the students.