Good Teachers Respond to Demand

The other day I dusted off an old copy of Steve Mariotti’s The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business.  As I flipped through the book (of course, with my nascent blog at the front of my mind), a section heading stopped me in my tracks: “HOW ENTREPRENEURS RESPOND TO DEMAND.”  In this section, Mariotti explains the story of Darryl, a young entrepreneur who started a video game rental service some time ago.  At the time, none of the video stores in his Newark neighborhood offered rentals on video games.  As a teenager, though, Darryl knew that option would be very appealing to kids like himself.  So Darryl created a business and, perhaps subconsciously, responded to the ‘demands’ of the market for video game rentals.  The business rewarded Darryl with handsome profits and his customers with an affordable way to play/try different video games.

For teachers, even entrepreneurial ones, sometimes it is easy to be caught up with ‘giving demands’ as opposed to ‘satisfying demands’ (the word demand is somewhat strong, so it may be easier to think of demands as ‘pedagogical demands’).  Sometimes I get caught up ‘giving demands’ to my students only to wonder, in retrospect, if I ‘forced’ them to spend all of their time satisfying my demands without satisfying theirs?  For me this comes as an uneasy feeling deep inside my stomach — I think a feeling that every educator feels at one point or another.

On the other hand, for some assessments/activities a real symbiotic exchange where my pedagogical objectives and my students’ pedagogical needs are both met.  Obviously, these are the exchanges need to be replicated.  Sounds easy writing it down: just teach to meet your curricular objectives and the students’ pedagogical needs.  I understand that in practice this is incredibly difficult.  The reality is that the needs of one class, well really one student, often vary dramatically (and maybe change daily?!).  So while I hope to stay more in tune with my students’ demands, I think the key is to hone in on large ‘demand trends’ among students.  For example, I see hundreds of good teachers on Twitter every day trying to adjust proactively to meet the demands of their students.  Many conversations revolve around the inclusion of social media in the classroom.  We already know that most teachers work a significant amount during summer ‘vacation’, but can you imagine if every single teacher sat down and really brainstormed different ways to respond to his or her students’ pedagogical demands before class started!?

I think a good teacher responds to the demands of his or her classroom everyday in some way.  For many, it is part of that innate entrepreneurial trait to add value, take advantage of opportunity, and satisfy demand.  Others, I think could benefit from professional development that helps them flip their ‘entrepreneurial switch’ in a very similar way that Darryl’s was by his entrepreneurship class in high school.

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