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Maiers: Refocusing School Brands for Relevance and Avoiding Obsolescence

Angela Maiers

Schools have lost sight of their mission. If they don’t set a new course soon, they risk becoming obsolete.

That’s a stern warning from veteran educator and founder of the Choose 2 Matter movement, Angela Maiers.

The popular education author and speaker recently sat down with TrustED to tell us why school districts need to refocus and rethink their brand—and how doing so will help them better serve the needs of students and families.

Here’s three key takeaways from our chat with Maiers.

Want to hear more from Angela Maiers? Read What’s Next for Education: 3 big mindset shifts for education.

1. Schools need to get back to their original mission

“I think we have to understand what our brand is about,” Maiers says. “Our brand is about advancing human beings.”

Unfortunately, too many schools obsess over the wrong things, such as compliance and conformity. Instead, what they should be doing is developing the next crop of innovators, Maiers says:

“The root word of educate means to ‘lead out.’ Our mission–our brand promise—is to lead out what is not yet visible from inside our children and usher that into the world with dignity, and honor, and respect. The disconnect is our entire brand—as education, as a system, as schools—is about pouring in, and doing it in a more commoditized way.”

While transfer of knowledge might well have been important in the past, Maiers says education’s primary focus now is on equipping students to engage and to lead. It’s time to embrace these needs, she says, and to refocus the mission.

2. Personalized education is essential, and it always has been

Students and families not only want, they flat out expect, a personal learning experience, says Maiers.

“When we look at personalizing and customizing education, it’s what we’ve always done. That’s what has made good teachers invaluable in kids’ lives. We need to get out of the way and let teachers do what they do best, which is notice the kids in their classroom. Honor them. Talk to them for God’s sake. Use their name. Value them. I always tell teachers, you cannot control how kids come to you and the circumstances that happened even seconds before they’re in your presence. But you’re absolutely in full control to create an experience where kids leave different, because of you.”

3. Effective listening has never been more important for schools

“In order to help people, in order to serve them, we need to hear them,” Maiers says.

We’ve talked in the past about how schools are really good at getting their messaging out, but less effective at listening to their students, parents, and teachers. As new education choices emerge, the nation’s public schools are learning that they need to listen to their customers first—or risk losing market share.

Maiers says this is one area where technology is a potential game-changer.

“The most critical use of technology in the world is the ability to listen, to gain insight, and to understand what drives people’s ideas. Once people feel you’ve heard them, they’re open to asking you to help them. That goes back to what I learned 31 years ago in teaching when someone told me, ‘They don’t care what you know, until they know you care.’”

What steps are your schools taking to prove that they are willing to listen and that they care? What do you think of Maiers’ big ideas? Tell us in the comments.