Mathew Needleman is a salesperson with extraordinary talent. He sells ideas that are not necessarily exciting – or even of any interest – to his buyers. And, his buyers are the most critical, most important people in the world. Mathew teaches K-5.
According to Mathew’s blog, he studies the antics of CNBC’s Jim Cramer for ideas on reaching and teaching his students. Mathew says, “[Cramer] takes what could be boring and incomprehensible and makes it engaging and completely understandable…” which is exactly what teacher Mathew does. He influences his students to learn by doing something fun, unexpected and totally appropriate. (I loved his idea of quickly tossing a bean bag to demonstrate the idea of a comet flying across the sky! Read his blog for more.)
Because I taught 7th and 8th grade English for 4 years (and also, as a faculty associate at Arizona State University, taught other English teachers how to teach English), I have a special place in my heart for men and women like Mathew. They change the world.
But it’s not only those who teach students who have the opportunity to change the world. Each of us can. We just have to care enough about our topic and the people we’re presenting to to make our own mark.
Ben & Jerry were given 15 minutes to sell Congress on their position to increase funding for poor children. They could have used their time to describe the pitiful conditions many American children live in. They could have created bullet point PowerPoints and added photos of starving children to the mix. They did neither. Instead, they handed boxes of Oreo™ cookies to each person in the room, asking them to build two towers: one with 3 cookies, and the other with 17. And then they stopped talking. When the Senators realized that no more directions would be forthcoming, they opened their boxes and started building. In the midst of this austere setting and serious topic, there was laughter, engagement and suspense. When most of the group had built their towers (some more than once), they stepped back to the lectern. “Ladies and gentlemen,” they said, “this is what we spend on useless projects in this country (and they named a few projects such as the 12 lane highway in the population 1200 town).” Waiting a moment to allow that to sink in, they pointed to the tiny tower, and said, “And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what we spend on our children. (Pause) We think this is wrong. Thank you for your consideration.”
Fifty words (or so). They respected their “buyers” enough not to bore them with statistics or useless words. They respected their buyers enough to force them to sit up and listen. They engaged their “learners” in a way never before seen in the halls of Congress – appropriate, creative and simple. They made their point.
It’s all in the presentation.