Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Jerry McGuire Business Plan

by AJ

OK.... here it is... off the cuff version 1.0 of my "mission statement":

1. Euphoria and insane quality over standardization and quantity

One student. More would be nice, but ONE is all I need. I will take that one student as far as they can go with the English language. One student, a coffee shop, and a free internet connection. Thats my startup plan. I will eat, drink, live and breathe with one thing in mind... help that student kick ass with English.

2. Coach, not "teacher"

No to: boss, authority, expert, boring lecturer, exams, grades, rules, textbooks, standardization, one size fits all, "teaching", tradition and convention, grammar-drill-translation, pain and boredom...

Yes to: close relationships, custom built authentic materials, custom built learning plans, manic focus on "non-linguistic factors" (emotion, experience, confidence, social ties), extreme individualization, "coaching", mutual learning, research proven, comprehension and communication, pleasure and euphoria....

3. Total Accountability

Traditional education is nearly devoid of accountability. Admin. holds teachers accountable for paperwork, observing bureaucratic rules, appearing "professional", observing working hours, following a dress code, "legal considerations", meetings, etc.

But there's virtually no accountability to students. In past jobs, whether the students actually learned or not, whether they were satisfied or not, or whether they gained proficiency in the language or not were not accountable factors. Amazingly, no one seemed to care. No measures of student expectations and needs. No accountability for increasing their level of language acquisition. Run a boring, confidence sucking, ineffective class... using methods known to be inferior (by the bulk of research, (direct error correction, grammar translation,...)-- and no one minds (except the students!).

Plan-- reverse this model. Total accoutability to the student... and only to the student.

The student pays only if completely satisfied. Most schools require payment up front... Ill accept it at the end of each month's instruction with the following commandment: thou shalt pay me only if you feel you got your money's worth.. only if I delivered on my promises and only if you feel you increased your acquisition of English. If you are partially satisfied, you may give me a partial payment at your discretion. Not satisfied- do not pay.

A viable way to do business? I'll find out. Does it make me accountable (in an "excel or starve" kind of way)? Absolutely.

4. No advertising

Honestly, I have no idea if Seth Godin and Tom Peter's ideas are sound business. What matters to me is that they appeal to my temperment.

Therefore-- no advertising. The marketing plan: create something remarkable! So remarkable that students feel compelled to talk about it. So remarkable that they feel compelled to drag their friends and family to the program.

Ill call this the Vipassana approach. Goenka's vipassana courses do not charge a fee... they ask only that students donate at the end of the course "what they think it was worth" (and what they can reasonably afford). Furthermore, no one asks you for these donations when the course is over... there is a desk, and you go there and make a donation if you like.

There is no advertisement for the course. No magazine ads. No flyers announcing the next one. No billboards. Nothing.

Yet he's built a worldwide network of centers with this approach-- simply because the course is absolutely remarkable.

5. Find amazing deviants

My ideal students... the ones I want, are the super-freaks. These are the ones who have a compelling reason to learn English beyond "the school says I must study it". Focus on learners with an autonomous streak.... potential entreprenuers, independents, those dis-satisfied with the traditional educational system.

Experiences at TU suggest this group is quite large.... larger than many educators believe.

Experiences in America suggest that millions of immigrants fit this description.

6. Never Arrive

Non-stop evolution. Never arrive at THE approach or THE method. Always innovating, always experimenting, always incorporating new technological tools and new research,...

A software development mentality... endlessly putting out new versions of the "effortless curriculum". Forever beta testing.

An open source mentality... students as course developers, students as materials creators, students as teachers, students as business partners.

Total transparency.... it all goes on the blog- failures, doubts, success stories, disasters, genius ideas.... No closed source "secret curriculum". Passionate engagement with excellent teachers and thinkers...

Obsessed with feedback (from students, from teachers, from passionate enemies, from raving converts).

7. Learning, Evoloution, Transformation

Learning, not teaching, is priority number one. Seek strange and wild sources: blogs, books, personal contacts, students, teachers, deviants. Read far and wide outside the field of TESOL (where the best ideas come from). Know the research! Focus on research aggregators (Krashen, Trelease, etc.) to stay aware.

Always and forever a language learner. Always and forever a "student-teacher".