The Business Lessons Learned From a Trip Back Home

I donated a day to return to my hometown of Crothersville, Indiana to present a lecture for an in-service meeting of the school’s teachers and administrators.

I have to admit that well before the program even started I was already feeling scared to death. Sitting in the front row was one of my former teachers!

Part of the problem I experienced was caused by my memories of the tremendous crush that I had during my elementary school years on this then-cute, petite very young teacher. On my return home, I naturally looked forward to seeing her again. However, the image in my mind of her was of the way she looked when I was in the third grade. Imagine my shock to see her now — 62 years old — and noticing that her stretch pants had no choice!

Of course, she was just as shocked…standing in front of her was not the skinny, bespectacled eight-year-old kid with the “burr” haircut of her memories. It was a mid-40’s guy with a mustache and a bit of a potbelly!

Being more that just a little nervous, I decided to start my presentation with a very standard question that many speakers and authors ask to begin a lecture to teachers. “Let’s start by having you tell me,” I said, “what you believe is the biggest problem is for educators in today’s world.”

I thought I knew the answers these teachers were going toabc kids give. Naturally, their biggest problems were going to be: 1) the discipline of the students, 2) encouraging the involvement of parents, 3) dealing with change and, 4) funding challenges in education.

Imagine my surprise when my former teacher raised her hand and declared, “Scott — I believe the biggest problem in education today is ‘Sesame Street.'” I immediately responded with a profound, “Huh?”

Calmly, my former educator asked me “Scott, who taught you your ‘ABC’s’?”

I answered truthfully, “Well, my mother and my grandmother.”

“Of course,” she said. “However, for the last 30 years, young people have been taught their ‘ABC’s’ by ‘Big Bird,’ and ‘Bert and Ernie.’ That means they arrive on the steps of this school for their very first day of formal instruction expecting to be entertained as they are educated.”

“Wow!” I thought. Then I realized, my elementary school teacher was still teaching me.

For the past three decades and more, we have taught everyone in this culture that education — as well as training, selling, motivating, managing, serving and everything else that a business is supposed to do, and everything else that is supposed to happen in life — will be integrated with a degree of entertainment.