Think about your favorite restaurant. What is it about that particular restaurant that makes it your favorite? Chances are it is the combination of a quality product, good service, and the ambiance that keeps you coming back for more. If any one of these three areas were below standard, you might not return and probably wouldn’t recommend the restaurant to your friends.
Now think about your physical education program. While your students don’t have a choice whether or not to frequent your establishment, if you are trying to promote your program, then a satisfied customer is your first order of business.
First, take a look at your product. Do you have a quality physical education program that has a variety of skills on the menu? While students will say they always want to play a certain game, they only know what they have experienced. Continually changing and using a variety of techniques, technology and differentiating the instruction will keep students from getting bored and keep them moving with purpose. Furthermore, a student that finds your class intellectually, as well as, physically challenging, will be more likely to talk about, “what they did in gym, today,” to their parents.
Next, how is the service in your gymnasium? Teachers have a variety of classroom management techniques, and while safety and order should be taken into consideration when developing a routine, the focus of the class needs to be about meeting your student’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive needs. Take a moment to virtually step into your own classroom as a student. Now, ask yourself if you would want to be taught or disciplined with the language and tone of voice you use. A student that feels safe from verbal and physical harm in your classroom will sing your praises for the rest of their life.
How about the ambiance? While this may sound silly, students, parents, other teachers, and administrators will think that you are a fabulous teacher simply because when they walk by the gym the decor is visually pleasing. Posters, word walls, colorful equipment and a fun variety of music, create a welcoming setting for your fabulous cuisine.
Realistically, there are very few restaurants that become successful by just opening their doors for breakfast and closing them after dinner. Getting patrons through the door takes many different types of marketing. If you are trying to promote your program to parents and administrators, then you are going to have to go the extra mile. Not to mention the fact that just because your students are not in your classroom, doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to provide them with learning opportunities they can access at other times of their day.
For example, do you have a website? If so, what’s on it? Any successful business in today’s market has a website to advertise their product. Your website should have your students’ schedules and the class expectations so that parents know when they need to be prepared for class. Likewise, if your curriculum and grading policies are clearly defined and available, parents can support your lessons at home while you are teaching a unit in class. Provide a web page for students with enrichment links and activities and provide a page for parents with links to supporting leagues, programs and educational information that they can explore. Also, continually posting photos and videos will keep them coming back to your site.
Old school advertising can be as effective as new technology. Take ownership of a bulletin board in a hallway and/or the cafeteria. Anywhere that students, parents, and administrators will see it. Make sure to change your bulletin board at least bi-monthly. A bulletin board that is faded with torn pictures is worse than no bulletin board at all. Display pictures of students in action and have educational information in large age appropriate text.
Does your school put out a newsletter or any regularly scheduled communication to parents? In your newsletter article, you can focus on a different grade level, class, lesson, educational topic, or event. Have it proof read for spelling and grammar. One spelling mistake takes the focus off your program and onto your credibility as a teacher.
Specials!!! Every restaurant will have specials that give their menu some added punch. It’s never a meatloaf or a pot roast but a Bouillabaisse or Crème Brule. What is your specialty? Advertise it! Whether the event takes place during or after the school day, inviting parents to your class to see what you’re teaching and how much their children are learning is invaluable. Use all the bells and whistles: decorations, music, and student ambassadors to seat or serve the parents are just a few ways to make the event special. Don’t feel like you have to do this on your own. Partner with a school, community, or charity organization to increase your exposure. High school clubs like the National Honor Society and Key Clubs are required to do community service. Join with other teachers to do cross curriculum events or the PTA to do family events. Jump Rope for Heart and other charities are always eager to sponsor events in the schools.
Finally, networking is the single most important way to promote your program. Most people will walk by your gym and see children having fun (at best) or organized chaos (at worst). Without you speaking out about what to expect from a quality PE program, your program will be viewed as little more than an extension of recess. Take every opportunity to speak about what’s new in your program. Ask to speak at back-to-school night, PTA, and faculty meetings. Get to know the parents of your students by being available and visible at parent/teacher conferences and attend other special events. For the truly advanced tech savvy teacher, you might want to check out www.Edmodo.com. It is a social networking site for teachers, students, and parents. You can connect with your students online as though they were in your classroom. Parents can view their students work through a parent portal. You can also connect with other physical education teacher groups. Also for the techie, the Coach’s Eye is a videotaping app that allows you to send video clips of student performance to parents. For the not so tech friendly, send home positive notes and certificates and make “Sunshine Calls” to highlight exceptional skills and behaviors.
Marketing your program is work but if you are passionate about what you do and truly believe that you make a difference in a child’s life, it is well worth the effort. So next time you are at your favorite, restaurant/clothing store/sports club/social event, take a closer look at how the advertise and figure out if it will work for you!