What’s your BRAND?

One of the sessions at Kenan Orientation this summer that left the biggest impact on me was the session Mark Townley did on creating your personal brand.

I had never thought about having my own personal brand before.  After all, I wasn’t selling anything – or was I?

I remember a quote by math educator Dan Meyer from one of his first videos.  He said

“I sell a product that no one is really interested in, but is forced by law to buy.”

That quote resonated so deeply in me as a public school educator.  Many of the kids who come through my doors aren’t necessarily doing so willingly.  And if they’re not all that excited to be taking my class in the first place, maybe I do have a bit of a sell on my hands.

And yet, kids seem to enjoy my class, and kids who haven’t had me yet seem to hear enough from other students that many of them will tell me that they look forward to having me as a teacher.  Maybe I have been promoting a personal brand all along, but just wasn’t consciously aware of it.

In Mark’s session in Cullowhee this summer,  he helped us to create our personal brand by directing our thoughts in three directions:

  • First we considered our EMOTIONAL appeal – how would others describe us, what kind of personality are we known for.
  • Second, we thought about a DESCRIPTIVE modifier – something that speaks to our style of instruction, how we do what we do.
  • Finally, we pondered our FUNCTION – what do I offer my students, or what makes my class different from other classes.

Let me tell you, this is a LOT harder than you would think!   I’m not sure that many of us spend all that much time thinking about ourselves this deeply.   It took me quite awhile to get three words that felt like they were really me.   Then taking those three words and creating a personal brand message led me to


I could spend some time trying to explain why I chose these three words, and how it is that these words reflect the kind of educator I hope I am increasingly becoming, but that would be all about me – and that’s pretty boring for anyone but me, I would think.

So, instead, let me try to explain why this left such an impact on me.   To be honest, it’s all Mark’s fault.

As Mark shared his personal brand, and how it has impacted him as a person and educator, he shared a challenge that he made with himself related to his personal brand.  For an entire school year, Mark decided to be diligent about passing every choice and decision he would have to make that year through the lens of his personal brand.

Hopefully Mark won’t mind me sharing that his brand is “Compassionate, Relevent, Experiential Learning.”   For that entire school year, every time he was faced with making a decision, he asked himself if what he was about to decide was consistent with his brand.  Was it compassionate?  Was it relevant?  Did it speak to opportunities for experiential learning?

If it did, he was inclined to move forward.  If it did not, he was inclined to let the idea go.

Man, I loved that idea.

In any given school year, most of us will have an enormous number of options placed before us, either professionally or personally.  It’s often incredibly hard to know which to commit to and which to walk away from.  It’s hard enough sometimes trying to decide whether or not to commit another class period or two to a piece of content we’re working on!

But, thankfully, Mark has given me a way to make wise decisions that are consistent with the things I value, and the things I try to display to my colleagues and students.

I have a passion for teaching kids and a passion for mathematics.  Any option that feeds and furthers that passion, or even better, helps infect others with that passion – I’m in.

I want what I teach my kids to be relevant to them – so anything that gives me an opportunity to make math seem more real and necessary to them is an opportunity I’m ok with jumping in to.

And I want my kids to feel like they’ve been challenged.  I want them to learn by facing challenges and overcoming challenges.  So I need to model that with them, but I also need to model that in front of them.

So…what’s your personal brand?  And how might you benefit from figuring out what it is, and, even more importantly, making it a lens through which you do what you do?