Letter to Teachers, from a Startup Founder: Where’s the Love?

Really, I get it. I used to teach middle school and I still teach graduate students. It’s hard work and people are always trying to get me to switch to a new textbook, content management system, computer application. Some of it is godawful, really overpriced and makes you wonder if the entire group of writers/ designers/ developers ever met an actual teacher or student in their lives .

With the world full of people ready to hate on any comment, I feel the obligation to preface my remarks with, “Not EVERY education conference is like this.” No, duh.

Me, Diana & Trennell at BOOSTI recently went to the Best of Out of School Time (BOOST) conference for after school programs and met a lot of great people. I’m sure all education conferences are full of great people, but this one was an exception in how nice everyone was to the vendors – textbook, educational technology, school supplies, playground equipment – it was the usual group.

A hundred people a day would stop by our booth and ask,

“What is it your games teach? What operating systems? What grade level is this? When is your bilingual game available in schools?”

Or just,

“What is it that you’ve got here?”

HOWEVER, sometimes, when I’ve attended a conference and try to talk to educators about our games, or even the research on effectiveness of our games in a session where I’ve been invited to present, they will snap,

“I’m not interested in whatever you’re selling!”

“I don’t use any software in my classroom that I have to pay for.”

That probably sounds okay when you read it, but not when it is said to you in the same tone of voice that moms on the playground use when a sketchy 30-year-old guy shows up and wants to play with their children.

Sometimes, in exasperation, staff members will say to me,

Do those teachers work for free? We work really hard at making these games and testing them with actual kids.

Yes, I understand that there are snake oil salesmen out there. However, a very large proportion of the small businesses are founded by former teachers or parents, or parents who were also teachers, because they saw needs not being met for their children.

Testing games in classroom

A lot of start-up founders (including us) work for two or three years at no salary (so, no, they really aren’t getting paid) because they believe deeply in the value of the work they are doing to improve students’ chances at learning math, English, reading or whatever their personal passion and expertise.

I know you are busy but I also know that no matter how great of a teacher you are, you can always use a little help in making your class better. The really great teachers in my experience are great precisely because they’re always looking to get better.

Most education startups out there are on your side.

So next time you are at that conference, show a little love.

Thank you.

P.S. You can check out the demo versions of our games here. And yes, they’re free.

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