As we inch toward summer, no one quite knows what’s going to happen during the 2020-2021 school year. Both the University of California and California State University school systems recently announced that their campuses likely will not reopen in the fall for in-person instruction. Schools that do open may be forced to shut again in the fall or early winter to contain another fast-spreading outbreak.
This uncertainty is enough to cause an educator—a profession that depends on planning and preparation—to experience a wide range of unpleasant emotions. But educators are a tenacious and resourceful bunch. Instead of waiting for guidance from above, instructors will be doing a detailed COVID-19 overhaul of their curricula when they do all their yearly planning and strategizing: during summer break.
Summer is a very important time for teachers. It’s really the only time they have to evaluate and revise their lesson plans and teaching methodologies. And since they get to do all that work at home, without the distraction of students and grading, and perhaps while wearing shorts, they do it all unpaid.
For companies that target teachers, this is a good time to do some contingency planning as well—to be ready to assist educators no matter what scenario they find themselves in come fall.
Erin Borgstrom, a science teacher at New West Charter High School in Los Angeles, has already started making plans for new curricula she’ll finish up over the summer. As a science teacher, she knows there’s a good chance we’ll be self-isolating again during the second half of the second semester, so the new curricula will include “a lot of distance learning activities” like “virtual online labs that allow students to develop science and engineering practices despite the lack of access to a real science lab.”
Like Erin, teachers want to be prepared next time they’re told to “go remote.” They want their online instruction to be more seamless, equitable, engaging and effective. They want it to be a better experience overall, and they’re looking for help. Companies that provide this assistance to teachers directly will be rich in prospects. Because, with the economy in turmoil, many teachers aren’t relying on their districts to provide funding for what they need. There’s a good chance there won’t be any funding available.
How to Reach Teachers This Summer
Be social: According to the 2014 Teachers Know Best survey by the Gates Foundation, teachers find out about products largely through word-of-mouth. But with teachers’ lounges out of operation and professional development focused on getting through the current school year, opportunities for in-person recommendations are limited. This means that teachers are largely relying on social media for inspiration. Your marketing shouldn’t be limited to social media (teachers still seek information through online searches and publications), but it should be highly shareable.
Highlight the reward: Educators will spend a good amount of time learning something new if it has a clear and measurable reward. The usual rewards include increasing learning outcomes and reducing stress. This is even greater now as teachers attempt to master authoring and conferencing tools, learning platforms and other technology that may be completely novel, foreign and for many, unwanted. If you can truly save instructors time and reduce stress by minimizing the learning curve or if you can help their students meet learning objectives, they’ll make the investment.
Make it easy: Remember, teachers are doing all this work over the summer without pay. So, no matter how much they love what they do, and no matter how much your product or service will help them over the school year, they will not spend weeks of their limited time attempting to figure out an overly complicated product or service. If you want to reach teachers, make it easy.
Be a partner: Part of making it easy for instructors is providing them with the tools to succeed. Teachers have varying levels of technical acumen and interest. If you assume your prospects have tech proficiency, you’ll lose a large percentage of the market. To reach the most educators, provide a range of support features, including clearly written instructions, webinars, instructional videos and live customer assistance.
Offer more: Teachers are looking for more than just products and services to aid their online instruction. They’re also seeking information and resources. The more add-ons you can give to teachers, the more valuable you will become. This may include providing newsletters, email blasts, blogs and videos that provide them with strategies, recommendations, and research that may be directly or indirectly related to your product or service.
Don’t wait: Even though most teachers won’t dig into their 2020-2021 planning for another month or so, they’ve already started brainstorming. Therefore, your marketing outreach should start as soon as possible and should continue through the summer months.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice is one that we can all use right now, “show empathy.” This may be a great opportunity for you to increase your customer base, but for educators, this is a time of great turmoil. They are being asked to do their jobs in ways they’ve never trained for, while attempting to provide a sense of normalcy and security for their students. Teachers are responsible for our children—for their education, mental health, and safety—and in this time of uncertainty and fear, that’s an overwhelming weight for one person to carry.