Recently I was asked by one of my colleagues, Meryl Ironson, to speak with our 8th grade students about branding. Honestly, for whatever reason, I never that about the importance of students starting to think about and begin to build their own brand in the physical and virtual worlds. Whether they know it or not, students are being monitored by others on a daily basis. Their actions in school, on the playing fields, and in social media spaces paint a solid picture of who they are and what they will become.
The purpose behind my visit to Mrs. Ironson’s 8th grade class was to get students thinking about who they are as human beings and what they are truly passionate about and how this translates to a brand they are intentionally or unintentionally creating. We started the discussion by defining the word brand. Students quickly realized that they had a pretty good understanding by sharing examples related to Steph Curry and Under Armour, and shedding light on what their parents do for a living. In one of the classes, a set of twin sisters shared how they use Instagram to brand their family farm. How cool is that? We also had a transparent conversation about the negative ways you can brand yourself and how that creates a hole that sometimes you can not dig yourself out of.
I then shared my experiences with branding in the educational world and the passion I have in helping educators enhance their effectiveness. A look at how Black River Middle School tells their story through social media and how our students contribute greatly to the brand we have created. From a district wide perspective we looked at how our district is doing the same thing through the #WeAreChesterNJ hashtag. So not only are we trying build a positive brand in the physical world through the actions we take in the school setting but also in the virtual world with how we convey all the great things that are taking place on a daily basis.
So what are the next steps we can take as educators to ensure that students begin to think about and actually start planning out their brand? One of the first things educators, and adults in general, can do is model what it means to have a brand. Then, expose students to how others in their age group or idols they admire get the word about all of the tremendous things taking place in their lives. Guidance and support can be offered as students start to plan out the steps they will take to ensure their brand is where they want it to be. It’s almost necessary now that middle or high schools offer a branding course of sorts. Now more than ever, people of all ages have opportunity to create a solid brand that helps move the story of their life and passions forward in a positive direction. Let’s start to have serious conversations as school stakeholders around how we can work with students to ensure they are successful in the future.
Brad Currie has been in the field of middle level education for more than 17 years as a coach, teacher, and administrator. He currently serves as a Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation for the Chester School District in Chester, New Jersey. Brad is the 2017 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year and part of the ASCD Emerging Leaders Class of 2014. He is the co-founder and co-moderator of a weekly Twitter discussion for educators called #satchat. Brad has authored four books including 140 Twitter Tips for Educators and Hacking Google for Education. He presents nationally on educational technology and social media in the school setting. Connect with Brad by following him on Twitter @bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.evolvingeducators.com.