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Part 1: Following the Model of Corporate North America - REALLY! Valuing Membership THEN Engagement

Updated: Sep 7, 2019

In the next three weeks, I will be writing about the notions of membership and engagement. In my experience, our North American education system, and more specifically, BC Education System, has focused on how to better “engage” our students. In the past two decades of my teaching career, I have noticed a heavy focus on how to keep kids interested and to make sure they’re not bored: to, essentially, keep them “entertained” = “engaged” so they stay in school.

However – I think we’re chasing a false reality. In our drive convince our kids to “like” being at school by creating ways to engage them – we are losing sight of what really compels our youth to attend:

• They generally like/ love to learn (brain science says this)

• They like being with other people and socializing

• They like learning from people who they consider mentors

• They look to belong…..

So – how can we truly engage our kids???? Let’s look to a consumer giant for the answer….

My wife was the one to take us out on our first date. Yes, it’s true – we are quite the modern couple – she even insisted on paying. That brisk autumn afternoon, with the sun shining and the wind causing the temperature to be a slightly chilly 10 degrees (celsius – and maybe I’m making this temperature up but honestly, it’s always 10 degrees in the fall in Vancouver), I picked her up at her home, and she directed me to a place I had never been before having come from a small family of 4 (no true cousins extended immediate family) – Costco.

There she bought me a hotdog and a drink – and it was delicious. I later found out that I had to buy a membership to have this – now seemingly exclusive – deal of a meal, and that within these hallowed walls I could also get other exclusive deals only available to members. Without a thought – I put down the amount required at the time – and 19 years later, I am still a loyal Costco Member.

That’s how they get you, right? Places like Costco, Hotel Chains, Credit Cards, Gyms, Websites (gas buddy, Trip Advisor, BLOGS!!!!) - they all prey on the fact that human beings have this inherent need to belong to something and feel important: to be made to feel like the only person in the room at any given moment. On sites like Trip Advisor (yes I’m a member – ToastyinCAD – read my reviews!), they encourage you to write and rate hotels and restaurants and every time you do you get points and are “rated” as a reviewer. There are no discounts, there are no frills or deals – other than the pure joy of having more write ups than others and being a higher profile “member”.

(Don’t believe me about the gym? Check out this clip from the show “Friends”….try quitting the gym one day…. )

If corporate North America knows how to keep their customers, why can’t schools figure it out? Costco doesn’t need to do flashy things to keep their clientele interested – they already have them by making them feel like they belong to something exclusive. Credit card companies don’t need to “engage” me in fun activities or send me free passport wallets and bags to make me join; I get the cards that make me feel like I belong to something special: do I get a lounge pass? Is the card black instead of a funny colour? The ultimate (and I don’t have one….) – is it made of metal???

Next week, I will be quoting parts of my thesis and some stats about why membership is NEEDED prior to engaging kids in school. Quite honestly, there is nothing we can do to engage young people in our schools for an extended period of time without first giving them the opportunity to experience membership in the school community.

More about that next week…I’m hitting the 3 min read mark, and I am now hungry for a hotdog and soda….

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