How You Can Brand Yourself as a Teacher (and Why It's Necessary)Aug 04, 2021
Let me just start right off the bat and say, when I say “brand yourself as a teacher” I’m not talking to just you teacherpreneurs out there (although this certainly can apply to you as well!).
This isn’t a post to help you create a teacher brand for your blog or website or Teachers Pay Teachers store. Although again, you might find this information useful if you are on that path.
This is a post for ALL teachers, everywhere. If you work with students on a regular basis to teach them all the important things, then this is for you.
But first, I want to challenge you to think about the most well-known teachers you know. Can you sum them up, in a nutshell?
Let’s look at some of the most famous teachers we all are probably familiar with.
Mrs. Frizzle |
"Take chances, make mistakes, get messy"... that's her motto.
An adventurous teacher with a hands-on approach. She believes in igniting students' curiosity and is always up for facilitating some good ole' exploration.
Erin Gruwell [aka, Freedom Writers] |
"Be the kind of people that have enough passion to change the world."
An enthusiastic teacher, 100% dedicated to making a difference. She believes where there's a will there's a way and she’ll do whatever it takes to make a positive impact in the lives of her students.
Mr. Feeny |
“Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”
A major character in the lives of his students. Disciplinarian...adviser...mentor. His wisdom helps his students make sense of the world. He believes the job of a teacher doesn't end when the school bell rings. His timeless lessons live on in the lives of his students years after they leave his classroom.
Professor McGonagall |
“Five Points Will Be Awarded To Each Of You For Sheer Dumb Luck.”
She is stern and a stickler for the rules. She likes to maintain control and has a no-nonsense approach. She believes in pouring all of her energy into her work. Students may think of her as strict, but they respect her for the beacon of consistency she brings day in and day out.
These teachers have a full-on teacher identity that we can easily recall because it’s so ingrained in what we see them do in whichever show or movie we watch them in. This teacher identity is part of what makes up their teacher brand.
What Do I Mean By Teacher Brand?
We all have one... our own “brand of teaching”. But the truth is, so many of us don’t really have clarity on what it is.
Too often, we try to mirror the amazingness we see others projecting, whether it’s from teachers in our lives or teachers on Instagram or so on.
And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having role models and admiring the ways other teachers are rocking out in their classrooms.
But it’s important that our teacher-reality reflects what is most authentic and unique to us. Because that’s where the magic happens!
This is what I like to call our Teachure Trademark. It’s the makeup of our individual values, passions, and purpose that we bring to the classroom.
Your Teachure Trademark is essentially your brand of teaching.
When we are clear on our Teachure Trademark, we have clarity on what drives us in the classroom. We can then work to bring our Teachure Trademark to life in all things related to our teaching.
By the way, this is the purpose behind why I created The Teachure School. The Teachure Trademark is at the foundation of everything in The Teachure School, because this is where a teacher’s enthusiasm lives.
I created a free mini-course to help you discover what your Teachure Trademark is. The other courses in The Teachure School help you apply your Teachure Trademark to literally everything else in your teaching experience.
Why Is It Important to Have Your Own Brand of Teaching?
A brand, by [informal] definition, is something that differentiates something from something else [that’s a lot of ‘somethings’, I know!].
When you are able to define your Teachure Trademark, you can go beyond differentiating yourself as a teacher. Your Teachure Trademark tells your students [and anyone else, for that matter] what they can expect from the classroom experience you design.
So, your brand of teaching is what sets you apart from everyone else and it gives a clue as to what your classroom experience might be like.
Your teacher brand also supports you, the teacher, and here’s how.
When you identify your Teachure Trademark, you get clarity on what you should be incorporating into your classroom experience in order to feel inspired and enthusiastic about your teaching practice.
With this clarity comes added intention to your daily teaching practice.
When you are acting from a place of intention, what you end up doing is rooted in a purpose.
This is a purpose that you can feel excited and passionate about. It’s what makes you eager to teach.
Little known fact [or not], when we are eager to teach, we teach with enthusiasm. This enthusiasm often gets mirrored in our students. Thus, students’ eagerness and willingness to learn can be influenced by our own eagerness and enthusiasm for teaching.
It starts with you.
How To Brand Yourself as a Teacher
Ok, so if you consider yourself a professional teacher, you should know your brand of teaching. Got it.
But how do we do that?
Like I mentioned before, I created a free mini-course to guide you in discovering your Teachure Trademark. This is hugely insightful in helping to define your teaching brand. If you haven’t already, start there.
Here in this post we are going to go ahead, though, and take it one step further when considering how to brand yourself as a teacher.
I’m going to take you through a brand exercise to help you better align your vision of what your brand of teaching is.
I’m no brand expert. Might as well get that out of the way! However, I’ve adapted this strategy from something called a Brand Sprint, which comes from the talent at Google Ventures. This is a strategy useful in the business world for helping companies essentially build a profile of their brand.
Nerd alert: one of my favorite things to do is research proven strategies that work in other realms, like the business world, and re-work them so that they can apply for us teachers here in the world of education.
So let’s take a look at the different steps within this exercise and how you should approach them. Then, at the end, I’ve got a freebie template for you to put it all in action.
Step 01 | Roadmap
Most of us tend to get wrapped up in the here and now. It makes sense that we may get preoccupied with the school year right in front of us, because it’s the one we are currently faced with.
But as teachers, we have a vision that goes beyond just what lays before us this school year.
So for this reason, it’s essential that we look ahead. Even way ahead. This is going to help us think more long-term.
In this part of the exercise, challenge yourself to look ahead 5… 10… even 20 years from now [if you plan to still be in the world of teaching at that point].
Now, I know, we don’t have a time machine so this doesn’t have to be super exact or precise. But it should at least get you thinking about what direction you want to go.
The point of this exercise isn’t to expect to stick to this roadmap you create. The point is to think deeply about what you see yourself doing in the future.
Full transparency here, when I started teaching I found it super difficult to think beyond the year I was in. And when I did try to think ahead, it felt scary and overwhelming and I just ended up shutting it down!
I ended up getting a Masters degree in something that, now, I kind of wish I wouldn’t have. It fit me in terms of where I was at that moment of my journey, but not so much down the road. I paid a lot of money, spent a lot of time and energy, and the bulk of my Masters degree is related to something I don’t even plan to pursue in the future. Bummer.
So even if it’s scary, even if it’s overwhelming, even if you think you don’t have a clue what the future might look like [or, even if you think you 100% already know what will come], set aside 15-20 minutes to really ponder and map it out.
You might surprise yourself.
Step 02 | What, How, Why
If you’ve ever read anything from Simon Sinek, or watched his famous TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, then his “Golden Circle” concept might already look familiar to you.
In this exercise, we are honing in on your purpose. Again, I’ve adjusted this ever-so-slightly to make it more exclusive for teachers.
So first, ask yourself, what is your goal as a teacher?
Ok, yes, that’s obvious… our goal is to teach.
But think deeper. Here’s my example. As a special education teacher, my goal is to help my students show growth.
Next, how do you pursue your goal?
For me, I target skills where my students demonstrate weakness. I then collect and monitor data pertaining to those skills.
Finally, and this is perhaps the most important question of all because it is the driver behind your What and How... Why does your goal matter?
I identified two reasons why my goal matters, the first being because when students show growth it improves their self-esteem and the second because growth helps close the gap in areas where students are performing below-grade level.
I came across an excellent quote that I can’t help but share, which speaks to the power of developing a solid Why that drives you as a teacher.
This quote is from Phil Knight’s memoir Shoe Dog. In case you didn’t know [because I didn’t either], Phil Knight is the creator of Nike. In his book he writes:
“Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.”
There it is. Belief is irresistible.
When you have belief in what you are doing… and honestly, not just when you have belief, but when you are clear on your belief… your teaching becomes irresistible.
Your students will sense your belief, your enthusiasm, your eagerness. And they’ll mirror that to some degree because, as Phil Knight puts it, it’s irresistible.
Step 03 | Big Five
Here, we are going to get more specific about your why.
Your Big Five are the core principles that drive you in the classroom.
When you get clear on your Big Five, it makes decision-making easier when it comes to designing your classroom experience, it helps you get more clear on your purpose, and it sets you apart from your fellow educators.
Your Big Five are the five core principles that represent the foundation of your Teachure Trademark.
Again, your Teachure Trademark comes from your individual values, passions, and purpose.
Remember, if you need some help on narrowing down what your Big Five are, check out the Discover Your Teachure Trademark mini-course [totally free].
Step 04 | Top Audiences
Part of establishing your teacher brand is knowing who you are teaching to, so to speak. We can refer to these key players as your Top Audiences.
The most obvious audience that probably comes to mind is likely your students. Absolutely.
But ask yourself, who else’s opinions do you care about?
You might think of people in your administration or leadership positions in your school or district. Or students’ families. Or other teachers and paraprofessionals who work alongside you. Or specialists you interact with for your classroom. And the list could go on.
For me, in my role as a special education teacher, I noted students, general education teachers in my grade band, my SPED team members, and my students’ learning coaches in the home environment.
We all have different teaching realities, right? So this can look very different depending on the realities of your teaching environment. And that’s ok!
Step 05 | Personality Sliders
In this step of the exercise, you will consider five sliders, each with two extremes pertaining to your teaching personality and style.
It should be noted, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer with these. There are good reasons to be on the left or right side of any of these lines.
First, as a teacher and in the classroom, are you more of a Friend or an Authority?
Are you more Teacher-centered (i.e. lecture style, one-way presentations, etc.) or Student-centered (i.e. self-learning, student-driven, etc.) with your instruction?
When it comes to teaching and classroom design, do you consider yourself to be more Fresh & Innovative or Classic & Traditional?
As a teacher and in the classroom, are you an Open Book (openly share details about your personal life) or Closed Book (you like to keep details of your personal life private)?
Do you consider yourself an Intrapersonal teacher (you work best solo) or Interpersonal teacher (you work best with others)?
Remember, the key is to be as honest and introspective as possible. Ultimately, this tool is for your use only, so don’t be shy to honestly reflect on where you tend to fall in each given range.
Step 6 | Uniqueness Factor
Finally, we need to consider what sets you apart from every other teacher on the block.
Remember my super fancy definition of a brand? Something that differentiates something from something else.
What differentiates you from other teachers out there? In other words, what is your uniqueness factor?
When answering this question, I want you to think about, if I were to walk into your classroom, how would I know it was yours?
What does it look like? What are your students doing? What are you doing? What kinds of conversations would I be hearing? What kind of work would I see on display? And so on. I think you get the picture.
For me, one of the first things that came to mind that I believe sets me apart from other teachers are my “Around the World” themed virtual classrooms I created to use weekly with my students. They represent countries from all around the world and within them are images and links that represent and teach about culture. Culture is one of my Big Five core principles, so I consider this part of my uniqueness factor.
I also noted my focus on a digital literacy community. This is something I’ve termed “LitCom” in my classroom and it serves as a space for students to work towards growth pertaining to a task most of them despise, yet our school is focused hot and heavy on… constructed response questions [i.e. CRQs, or if you’d ask my students, the bane of their existence].
Establish Your Teacher Identity in the Classroom
Once you’ve completed each step of this exercise, you’ll have in hand a concrete representation of your teacher brand.
When you are faced with a big decision related to your teaching practice, you can think back to these prompts and the way you answered each of them. This will help to keep you anchored and true to your teacher identity.
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