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Social Capital
Customizing Education: Valuing Uniqueness
Amazingly, we are more than 25% of the way through the Spring Term. Graduation, as many seniors will remind you, is a mere 46 days away. Much will happen over the coming weeks, however. Research will be conducted, essays written, projects presented, business plans formulated, poems recited, songs written, math problems solved. The list could go on and on - there’s a significant amount of hard work being put into the 139 academic courses we offer.

We often discuss breadth of curriculum on this blog. We highlight the way each Proctor student can choose a path through our academic courses that suits him or her best. We offer a highly customized approach to education because of the courses we offer.

But our customization goes well beyond courses. Our customization is rooted in the foundational understanding that each student is unique.

My Economics of Entrepreneurship class will be reading the Harvard Business Review article “What Great Managers Do” by Marcus Buckingham. The piece leads off by stating, “Great leaders tap into the needs and fears we all share. Great managers, by contrast, perform their magic by discovering, developing, and celebrating what’s different about each person who works for them.”

Throughout our discussion today, we will look at how managers must be chess players, working alongside individuals who possess individual talents, rather than checkers players who have uniform pieces.

We will discuss how we, as potential managers, come to understand individual strengths and how each individual’s strengths are triggered in different ways.

We will explore the benefits of an individualized approach to management: improved accountability, a stronger sense of team and a healthy degree of disruption as the team is able to rethink the best way to do things based on who is working on that team.

We will also investigate how managers must understand different learning styles. Some people learn best when analyzing a task, others when doing a task, yet others learn by watching.

While my class’ focus will be on entrepreneurship, the application of today’s conversation goes well beyond the scope of this course. As a teacher, we act, in many ways, as managers of our students. No, we do not have sales goals to meet, or inventories to manage, but we do have a group of learners that we work alongside each day. Each class operates as a team, and as the manager of that team, we are responsible for understanding each of our students, their strengths, their fears, their triggers for success, and their desire for recognition.

Of the eleven students in my Economics of Entrepreneurship class, no two are the same. In fact, no two students are remotely close to being the same. As Buckingham writes, we must always remember that great [teaching], “is about release, not transformation. It’s about constantly tweaking your environment so that the unique contribution, the unique needs, and the unique style of each [student] can be given free rein.”
Customizing an education goes well beyond the number of courses we offer to the approach to learning within those courses.
Teachers at Proctor understand individual students; their strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles.
When students feel their uniqueness is valued, their potential for learning is limitless!