28 November 2009

Public School Fail

Report cards are supposed to show you how your child is developing and provide feedback on how to improve your childs' learning experience. This is done through grading (work, effort and test results) as well as evaluating each child's interpersonal and organizational skills. Some of this can be reported as a grade, but some things are less tangible and require written feedback in order to guide our children in their learning journey.

Yesterday, we received the first term report cards from our kids and I really have to question the Calgary Public School Boards' grading system:

Here's how it is supposed to work: The child is graded on his/her accomplishments and effort for each grade/class and the teacher is to comment on what the child has done right and what the child can improve on.

Here's how they do it: The child is graded, of course, but the teachers do not comment on the child, at least they don't use their own words... their comments are selected from a pre-approved list of comments.

Check out the highlighted areas (click to enlarge):
This is not a criticism of the teachers, it is a criticism of the system. And, I'm not knocking the entire public education system, just the practice of this type of written response reporting - we have had nothing but great teachers to date for all of our kids. So, this is not knocking teachers, unless they have a choice in the response, which I am assuming they don't. I'm sure that the database of programmed responses was devised with good intent: keeping comments politically correct, reassuring and positive. From a liability and risk standpoint alone this is a good idea. But these are our kids were talking about here, and we want actual feedback, not a selected response that is a near match to what they are thinking.

When the educators aren't allowed or choose to not string together their own sentence to evaluate their own students, it's downright offensive. If the system is to blame then the system needs to change and allow for teachers to do their jobs - feedback through reporting is a huge component of teaching and without it, you can't expect improvement or expect average students to achieve any level of advanced learning.

Now, if it's the teachers that are being lazy and operating in default mode, then pick another career... obviously you're not taking your job seriously and don't care much for your students' personal growth. I am hopeful however, that this particular teacher did this on purpose to expose this charade in reporting.

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04 November 2009

Branding Stories

Every brand has a story. Many marketing professionals, including yours truly, believe that communicating this story will lead to a brands success. But, where does the story come from and what exactly is the story?

Here are my quick thoughts on to identify your brand story:

1. History.
Your brands history is a story in itself; how did your brand begin, what changes were made along the way, how did your brand evolve - these are all questions you can answer to form the history of your brand and if the history is compelling, can differentiate your brand from others. Brands with good history stories that come to mind are: Nike, Goodyear, Safeway, Ford, Ikea, 3M, Ferrari, Hewlett-Packard, Zippo, Harley Davidson, and Coca Cola. There are many with great brand histories - these companies do a good job of communicating their past as a cornerstone to their brand offering. Even if you are relatively new, documenting acheivements and turning points in your brand, demonstrates history.

2. Beliefs. Your brands beliefs are a story; what is important to your brand, what drives your brand forward, what does your brand strive for - these are questions you can answer to form the beliefs of your brand and lets consumers know what you stand for. Brands with strong beliefs are: Apple, Hewlet-Packard and Sony (Innovation), The Body Shoppe (Natural), Trader Joe's (Fun), Ferrari and Nike (Performance), Rolex (Quality), Bentley (Craftsmanship), Walmart (Cheap). No matter what your belief is, you need to communicate it and be known by it. Consistency in communicating this story helps to solidify what your brand stands for with consumers. A brands beliefs are typically tied to a genuine passion of the company founder or leader.

3. Personality. Your brands personality is an evolving story; how does your brand dress, what mood is your brand, is your brand friendly, is your brand assertive, is your brand trusting, is your brand open to dialogue, is your brand unique - these are all questions that you can answer in the look and feel of your brands marketing materials. Brands that have unquestionable personality are: Apple, Ikea, Google, Hasbro, Disney, Swatch, Kraft, Kellogg's, Yamaha. The personality of your brand should instantly instill feeling and emotion towards your brand. The look and feel or personality of your brand should support and act as conduit for your brands beliefs and history. The colours, fonts, style, copy, imagery, sound and wordmark should all work together to communicate your brand personality. The personality doesn't happen by chance, it should be carefully and strategically designed by a professional.

Communicating these stories can be done several different ways - I can cover that another day though... for now, start thinking about your history, beliefs and personality. These three brand story points will also help to define your brand motto, and vice versa.

There are several ways to approach your brand story, these, in my opinion are the three most important ones and are the base for all others.

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