Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Self promotion

Gradually, as my teaching style has changed from traditional and classroom-focused to experimental and real-world-project-focused, I've had to adopt another style that didn't come naturally.  I've had to be an advocate for the accomplishments of my students out in that real world.

Doing something that makes a public difference is all well and good in itself.  But how much it's magnified when other people know you've done it!  Most of these projects aim to accomplish something concrete, but almost all of them can handle an additional goal -- to let other people know about the need that the project is addressing.  To achieve that goal, you need to utilize the communication channels that exist to get the word out.  And that means not being shy about asking people to open those doors for you.

Some are under your control.  Make a website; put up a YouTube video; link to them from your Facebook or Twitter feed.  But beyond that, you need others' help.  Ask your friends to retweet and spread the word.  Call the newspaper.  Get a photographer to your event.  Suggest a story to the campus newsletter.  Invite participation by folks beyond your classroom walls.

If any of that comes through, it means what you're doing has intrinsic interest.  Others can participate in the awareness campaign for reasons that mesh with their own goals.  Then the ball's back in your court -- publicize their publicity through the networks of which you're a part.

The reasons for doing so aren't self-aggrandizement.  It's a further step in making the activity real and consequential.  The more the outside world takes an interest -- and takes up the cause -- the more the students at the center of it all aren't just doing a class project.  They're setting something in motion that is bigger than their grade, bigger than the semester, bigger than the academic game we all learn to play.  They can start something that attracts other people -- that has gravity, that has legs, that inspires and moves people to action.

That's reason enough to let go of any remaining humility and recruit anyone you can to help you shout it from the rooftops.

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