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How Working at Apple Helped me Become a Better Educator

posted Sep 12, 2017, 9:33 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Sep 14, 2017, 3:24 PM ]

How Working at Apple Helped me Become a Better Educator





I had the privilege and honor of working for Apple, Inc. on the retail side for 4 years. While there I was able to learn and grow as an educator, yes, as an educator. I was a Specialist, but at Apple, I always felt like so much more. Immediately, I could tell that the culture and climate at Apple were different from any other school or organization I had ever worked for (and have yet to find one that parallels my experiences).


I never felt like my job was to sell products, and I actually rarely ever sold because Apple tapped into my unique experiences as an educator and allowed me to find my niche. My job at Apple was to enrich the lives of people; just like in education. As a Specialist, I was able to lead workshops teaching customers and educators alike how to get the most out of their devices. I helped mentor other employees and even got to work with educators from all over the United States as a part of the ConnectED project.


In addition, some of my favorite types of events at Apple include Apple Camp in the summers and the Field Trip during the school year. Both offered free of charge. These in conjunction with the myriad of workshops I taught, now called Today at Apple, were a natural extension of everything I loved about education and combined two of my passions: technology and education.


As I continue to strengthen my skills and competencies as an educational leader, I cannot help but reflect on my time at Apple and wish our education system took a page or two out of the Apple playbook. Here are 7 other ways working at Apple helped me become a better educator:

Core

When I started at Apple, I attended three days of orientation, affectionately called Core. Of course at Core, new employees learn about the core of Apple (pun intended). What I loved most about Core was that we did not spend that time learning about the products, we spent that time learning about Apple's why and our role in it. We learned how to listen to customers, resolve conflict, and the culture and climate of the organization.


What if in education, we spent more time teaching about the why, not content knowledge, but how to thrive in the culture and climate of our schools, and how to deal with the varied needs of our stakeholders including students and parents. Before the school year starts many schools and districts offer professional development and training around content; however, do we spend enough time reflecting on our missions and visions and how to meet the social and emotional needs of our customer, the students?


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Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP of Apple Retail and I

Credo

Apple’s Credo has changed since I left, but the essence of the message and its purpose are still the same, and my favorite line is still there: “At our core, we believe our soul is our people.”


Enriching lives

We are here to enrich lives. To help dreamers become doers, to help passion expand human potential, to do the best work of our lives.

 

At our best

We give more than we take. From the planet, to the person beside us. We become a place to belong where everyone is welcome.

Everyone. We draw strength from our differences. From background and perspective to collaboration and debate. We are open.

We redefine expectations. First for ourselves, then for the world. Because we’re a little crazy.Because “good enough” isn’t. Because what we do says who we are.

We find courage. To try and to fail, to learn and to grow, to figure out what’s next, to imagine the unimaginable, to do it all over again tomorrow.

 

At our core

We believe our soul is our people. People who recognize themselves in each other. People who shine a spotlight only to stand outside it. People who work to leave this world better than they found it. People who live to enrich lives.

 

I think as schools, districts, and educational institutions and organizations, we sometimes forget the big why: the students. At the core of education are the students, but sometimes politics, policymakers, and other people put other priorities first. Educators cannot forget that the soul of this country and its education system are our students.



Fearless Feedback

“Open dialogue everyday” is how Apple describes Fearless Feedback. It is my belief that this was the backbone of Apple’s culture. Learning that you can ask peers, superiors, or subordinates to give and receive feedback was a critical part of growth and development. It all starts with positive intent. Everyone knows that we have each other's’ best interest at heart, and the best interest of the customer, and we want everyone to do well.


Fearless Feedback is guidance and encouragement through dialogue that helps others maintain or improve behaviors to have a positive impact. I feel like more schools and districts need this genuine exchange in dialogue. When it becomes the norm, we help teachers, administrators, and district leaders grow. It all starts by assuming positive intent, knowing that we are all on the same team, and not letting emotions get the best of us.


Genuine feedback works sort of like bank deposits, we recognize when others are doing well and we build up an account of positive feedback, so when we have to make a withdrawal with negative feedback, the effects are mitigated.


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Acknowledge Align Assure

There are times as educators when we deal with our internal or external customers (students, parents, and/or community members), and we have to be problem solvers and mediators, that’s where the three As come in handy: Acknowledge, Align, and Assure. As a teacher and instructional coach, I used the three As a lot when dealing with tough situations.


A – Acknowledge that a student, parent, or colleague’s concerns are valid.

A – Align with the student, parent, or colleague, agreeing that you would feel the same were you in his/her shoes.

A – Assure the student, parent, or colleague that you will be able to solve their issue to their satisfaction.

The three As can help in many situations, and helped me with students, teachers, and administrators. Always use your best judgment and remember to find common ground because we are all on the same team and want the same outcome: student success.

About Me

When I started at Apple, one thing we did so that other employees could get to know us a little better was by creating a single-page About Me. This allowed you to tell your story, background, interest, and inspirations and helped your new colleagues easily spark up a conversation. This was a great way to connect and get to know the newest family member because we truly did become a family working together.


Since working at Apple, I have gone on to work in different schools, districts, and organizations, and have made it a point to always send out an About Me, so my new team can get to know me a little better. This would be a great activity to have students do at the beginning of the school year or new faculty and staff at the beginning of the school year. Building community and feeling welcome are vital to building a positive classroom and school climate.


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I Don’t Know, but Let’s Find Out

This may be a tough idea for some educators, but one of the common misconceptions at the Apple Store was because I work there I knew everything and had all of the answers. That couldn’t be further from the truth; however, I knew how to find the answers and tapped into all of my available resources. So if I didn’t know something, I would simply say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out.”


The Apple Store was full of talented, smart, and amazing people with a wealth of knowledge in a variety of different areas, from music, videography, photography and so much more. Each of us had unique talents and strengths and that’s what made our team so great, but we didn’t operate in silos. That's why I love Professional Learning Communities (PLC), teachers work closely together and can leverage the unique strengths of the team no matter whether it’s content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and/or technical knowledge.


As an educator, I learned to reach out to my teammates, instructional coaches, administrators, and district resources if I didn’t have the answers I needed. Too often, teachers feel like they have to know it all, but that is just not the case. Let’s show our students that we are humans too, and vulnerable, and make mistakes. Let’s model for them how to be resourceful and how they can leverage each other to learn and understand.

Clap Out

So, there is a tradition at the Apple Store, when an employee leaves because of a new opportunity, promotion, or whatever, on his/her last day, all of the employees clap them out. When I was starting my master’s program, I no longer had the free time to work at Apple. On my last day of employment, my colleagues lined up from the back of the store to the front of the store and clapped as I left the building.


This is done as a way to say thank you. Thank you for working at Apple, thank you for being a part of our family, and thank you for being a part of this team. This seemingly insignificant gesture is usually always bittersweet and emotional. As I closed that chapter of my life, I could not help but cry because I truly felt like I was leaving my family. To this day, some of my closest friends are the people I met at Apple.


I just imagine teachers and administrators being clapped out at the end of a school year as they transfer to new schools, retire, or make career changes. Teaching is the noblest of professions but also one of the hardest. This gesture just shows them that they are appreciated, their service was appreciated, and that it was nice to have them as a member of the school community.


Mason's Clap Out


One more thing…


I know I would not be the educator I am today if it not for my experiences at Apple. It made me a better educator, but more importantly, it made me a better person. I learned empathy, compassion, patience, and understanding. All skills educators need to perform at their best. I hope you can take something away from my experiences at the Apple Retail Store to help transform your classroom, school, and/or district. I know that the work you do is hard; the way you feel is valid, but I know with these tips and a steady resolve, you will make it through.




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