Monday, March 31, 2008

Do Teachers Have to Provide Customer Service?

After reading this post “Who do we serve?”, the writer discusses the following questions and answered them according to personal experience. I thought it would be important for me to look at these questions and see how I would answer them according to my experiences.
Who is your customer? I have always felt that my students and their parents were my customers. I have discussed this over the years with many other teachers and was surprised that they don’t feel I should think this way. I feel that I provide a service and it is for students and parents. That is why I feel that communication with the family is so important. I don’t feel that I am better than them but I do feel that I am the “expert” pertaining to their child’s education. Just like I would expect the roofer fixing my roof, I would hope they are an expert in what they do so that they could provide the service that I need.

What is the customer value you provide and how do you measure it? I hope I can teach students to be productive citizens in the work place. I want to teach them skills in order to be independent individuals. The way I would measure this is if they can take the skills learned in the classroom and generalize them in real life situations. I have taught my students to count money, write checks and balance checkbooks, fill out job applications, interview for jobs, wash, and fold and iron clothes, cook simple meals, and develop a budget. I also wanted them to get a job and learn how to keep the job. These are skills they will need outside the classroom and I hope they were able to use them when they left my class.
What innovation best practices do you use to rapidly, efficiently, and systematically create new customer value? Students gave me a list of occupations that they wanted to explore. I would call someone in that occupation and ask them if I could shadow them for an hour. I would then take digital photos of what their job duties entailed. Students would do research on the job they were interested in and make a powerpoint presentation using my photos and their information. Then they would present this to the class.

Another thing I would do is have students hold their own IEP meetings each year. In order for them to be a self-advocate, they had to learn to be involved in the decision making process. They would make a powerpoint presentation to use at the meeting so they would feel more confident. At first they felt unsure, but as they mastered the skill, they became more empowered. Let’s face it, some of these parents have been to an IEP meeting at least once a year and really dread coming in to hear the same things read to them over and over again. Having their child hold the meeting really surprised them and opened up the lines of communication. First the student had to introduce all participants in the meeting. Then I really pushed them to talk about their strengths, weaknesses, and accommodations they needed to help them succeed. Of course, I was the only one that did this at my school and administrators were impressed. I felt as proud of my students as if I was the parent. Students were able to show parents how far they have progressed.

I think we have to constantly ask these questions of ourselves to make sure we are on track. If I got to where I couldn’t answer that, I needed to step back and reevaluate my actions. I liked to ask these questions at the beginning, middle, and end of each year. How do you answer these questions?

Photo credit: Customer Service by The Department


Dr Pezz said...

While I'm not a big fan of business language in education, I like the point you make about who your customers are. My question every year is: t what extent must I go to say I have served (or attempted to serve) my students and parents? Where do you draw your line?

loonyhiker said...

dr pezz: I think as teachers, we know when we have given good customer service. Sometimes students and parents don't appreciate it but I know that as long as I know I have given my best, then that is all that I can do. Too many times I have seen teachers give the minimum service rather than the maximum.