Reflections on being a first time teacher (Sessions 1 and 2 of #SMIRL)

The Social Media Marketing (In Real Life) workshop was set up in 4 sessions. Sessions 1 and 2 were instructional, teaching the students key terminology, and guiding them through discussions to draw conclusions about what marketing is and how brands use it to reach an objective. By far, my favorite part of the class were the open discussions we had as a group The students were so curious, and kept wanting to ask questions and contribute to the discussion. It made me miss that confidence and curiosity that we have as children. It made me really appreciate being around them. It made me want to do an even better job teaching this material.

In order to ensure that the first class went well and that the students were engaged, we used a Pepsi viral video featuring Beyonce. You may know the one. It is amazing. We walked the students through the touch points Pepsi made over the first week of the campaign, highlighting things like the teaser video and the key use of hashtags on twitter. Ultimately, we got into a discussion about why Pepsi chose Beyonce as the spokesperson for this campaign. What message were they trying to get across? Why did they use her physical beauty and sex appeal to sell soda?

As much as you may think it was crazy to have this kind of discussion with twenty 13-year-old girls, it wasn’t. Not only did they get to the root of the strategy behind the campaign, they also formed brilliant, strong opinions about Pepsi’s decision. It definitely made me proud. It definitely made me feel like we weren’t trying to do something insane by teaching young women this early. Turns out, they’re hungry and they’re ready.

Here are a few other fun things I learned in the first two sessions teaching at Achievement First Endeavor Middle School:


Teachers study for many years and practice every day in the classroom to become experts in engaging their students and ensuring that they are learning what they are meant to learn. Thankfully, my co-leader Emily spent a good bit of time in the classroom as a Blue Engine BETA. She was gracious enough to kick off the first class, and show me the way. Biggest learning: pose everything as a question, so you are more likely to get a response.


When we were in school, popularity was determined by a lot of factors, but you couldn’t really put your finger on what they were. Today, students can quantify popularity. Many students face daily stress from trying to gain popularity by becoming more “facebook famous”. They will often post inappropriate pictures or statuses, just to gain the attention of new followers. My hope is that in educating students on how brands use social media for marketing, that they will begin to distinguish that each time they post something online, they are marketing themselves. A little bit of conscientiousness can go a loooong way when you are thirteen.


There are thousands of schools in New York. I just so happen to have a friend that works at an Achievement First school and believes in me. This school is likely not alone in their approach to education and behavior, but they have definitely impressed me. The thing that kind of shocks and amazes you upon first interacting with the students at the school are the hand motions the students use to communicate in the classroom. The students “shine” each other when they want to support their fellow students. There is another sign to show agreement, and another one if you don’t agree. It’s pretty amazing to watch, and I now find myself twinkling my fingers at colleagues and friends when I want to shine my support on them.

If you have ever taught before, what are some of the things you learned?