A Business Model for Students and Teachers: A Paradigm Shift
By National Hall of Fame Educator, Alan Haskvitz
Want to improve student achievement the easy way? Teach them about business. Here is an easy to follow plan that can be done in advisement periods.
There is little doubt that successful business leaders would like to take charge of education. There is also little doubt that none of them have spent time teaching students in a realistic atmosphere. However, that does not mean the students cannot benefit from ideas that business fosters such as a business model. What I am proposing is that each student be taught the basics of a business model and use that information to turn themselves into that business, essentially improving their output.
The business plan for the student is essentially creating a marketing plan for themselves as a person and as a potential employee. As they create this plan they are going to find weaknesses that need to be improved by taking action and they are also going to find areas of strength and learn how they can turn these attributes into strengths that can attract others to their viewpoints. Regardless, the business plan is just that, a plan. It can be changed as needed and the objective can also be altered as age and experiences sway viewpoints. However, it is essentially that the plan be reviewed and maintained so that the goals are fresh and assessable. For example, a student might want to select an occupation that they perceive as high paying and seek to direct their objective in that direction only to find that they do not have that same goal when the amount of time and education required is factored into the equation.
Not be disregarded is the importance of items such as developing communication skills in a variety of ways. Speech classes may have gone the same way as shop classes, and so it is vital that such excuses s being shy or afraid are soothed over by opportunities in school. Students may want to run for school office, but are reluctant to speak before a large group. A good business plan must include these opportunities and, win or lose, builds the basis for a better future.
Teaching business in the lower grades is seldom seen for a variety of reasons of which the most vivid is probably that it isn’t on the state’s standardized test. But, creating a business plan and giving students the opportunity to explore, modify, and grow with it can be incorporated in most core subject areas. For example, in math classes problems that require the student to compare various occupations based on income are simple to use, but what can be added to that problem is the cost of reaching that goal in terms of education expenses. Language arts classes offer the opportunity to create essays that allow each student to express their viewpoint and have it critiqued builds character and communication expertise. Having students present work in every class builds speaking skills that are necessary through life. (add more specifics)
A while back a found a museum that offered an interesting lesson that included the Who Am I poem. I modified that to include that Who Am I and added Who Do I Want to Become. I next added the requirement that the student develop a list of how they would meet this change from present to future and to develop a business plan to reach it. The results were called Investing in Yourself and, based on the letters from students I have received years after my class, were life changing. And isn’t that what a good business plan should be, a plan to improve. As the Japanese call it, Kaizen, continuous improvement.
A Step-by-Step Guide
The first step would be to have each student make a list of their attributes. These could include the obvious such as a grade point average, but also organizations they belong to, sports, activities outside of school, hobbies, and even items such as knowing how to juggle.
They need to list these so they can see if any of these attributes can be applied to what the customer, the teacher, wants in terms of performance.
Next, they need to make a graph of what they spend their time on during the course of the day. This should not be taken lightly and having a parent or guardian sign it would be of value. This is their allocation of resources. They also need to add any resources they feel that they may need such as paper, pens, thesaurus, or technology.
The last step of the preliminary stage is to look at their progress reports for the past few years and set a realistic objective for their business. If a student has a C average setting a goal of a B- would be realistic.
So they have now taken an inventory of skills, available time, and an objective for their business.
The next step is to meet with consultants with their plan. They need to meet with their parents and at least two other students in the class to compare their available time and objectives. Each consultant must sign-off on the plan indicating that the objective is possible.
The second phase is difficult because it requires the student to think about and write about the changes that will be necessary for the plan to be effective and the objectives meet. What is the students willing to give up to have enough time to study and reach that goal? What skills do they need to refine and improve upon?
Again, once this has been done the student needs to meet with the consultants and modify the plan as needed.
The next phase is for the student to make a visual of the plan. They can create a PowerPoint or a story board or even a video. In that way they have a record of what their business hopes to accomplish.
Finally, the plan needs to be implemented. This can be done slowly or all at once depending on the plan. Regardless, at the end of each day the student must make an inventory of what was accomplished in reaching the goal. They also need time to weekly check with the consultants and make any modifications to the plan that are necessary. The student must also take this end of week report to the president of the company (i.e. teacher) so that he or she can mark on the class chart if the target was reached. The teacher should have a graph for each student, made by the student, on which the progress marks are made.
Since students have a variety of classes or products, it is best to implement the business plan for one class at a time. Students should also keep a diary of their thoughts during this process to give to the teacher at the end of the unit so that the ideas can be reviewed from the student’s aspect.
Conclusion: In the end the student shall have a much better understanding of four important elements that successful people share. First, they will learn how to budget time. Secondly, they will gain a better perspective on their strengths and weaknesses. Third, they will be able to modify and change plans and direction as objectives are changed. Finally, they will learn to work with others to improve their product, which is their future.