How can the book industry engage teachers, and why should they? Drawing on their extensive history with the middle school market, Melanie Jeffs, Director of Digital Products at Orca Book Publishers, examines the unique challenges and rewards of engaging teachers.
To begin with, teachers are wary of social media. Google “social media in middle schools,” and you will find articles on internet safety. If teachers are talking about social media in the classroom, they are warning their students about the hazards to be found online, and this wariness extends to their personal use of social media. On top of which, teachers need to be hyper aware of their lack of privacy when using social media. In both Canada and the US, teachers have been fired over social media posts, sometimes for surprising reasons.
Despite all this, some teachers are using social media in interesting ways, and the discussion about using social media in the classroom is sure to continue. This video, put out by the Ontario College of Teachers, presents a good summary of a typical teacher’s attitude toward social media.
Unlike most other professionals who work with information, teachers are not sitting in front of internet-connected computers all day. Because they log fewer hours on the internet, they are less comfortable with digital communications than, say, your average book industry professional.
These factors mean social media engagement with teachers is near impossible, but meaningful engagement is far more possible.
Because teachers don’t sit in front of internet-connected computers all day, they’re not inundated with a steady stream of promotional emails. So when they do check their email, they actually read them, and they’re very likely to respond to calls to action. And if they think a colleague would benefit from the information in an email, they will forward it.
The most important factor in teacher engagement is what they’re doing while the rest of us are sitting in front of our computers. Teachers are standing in front of a group of kids, many of whom would rather be somewhere else. And they are trying to engage those kids.
As a result, teachers really respond when they’re on the other side of the engagement dynamic. This is similar to a cook enjoying a meal that someone else prepares. It can be a challenge getting to the point where you have an opportunity to engage them, but once you do, the rewards are huge. If teachers feel you value their input, they will give you more than you ever asked for.