What CEOs can learn from elementary school teachers

It’s been a crazy week here at 7 Generation Games. Maria was first at the Native Innovation Ed Tech Summit debuting our new game, and then at the White House speaking on a panel on women entrepreneurs. As for most of the rest of our crew, we have been busy making version 1.0 of Making Camp, our first game that runs on a tablet.

Last night, coincidentally, Maria and I were both in Washington and she stopped by my hotel room to commiserate for 15 minutes before falling asleep from exhaustion.

We were talking about the need to focus more on marketing – but how can we do a podcast, blogs and interviews with everything else on our plates? Look at us, we’re having this conversation on the other side of the continent from our homes!

3 kids in front of a stuffed elephant

I happened to be in DC as part of a trip I took with a group of middle school and high school students. (Random fact about me: I teach judo. ) Once a year, we take the students with the best attendance at judo practice and the best grades to an event out of state that combines judo and education. This year, it was judo training in Washington.

All teachers are extremely busy but elementary teachers have a particular catch. They have to teach math, language arts, social studies, science, art and PE. One of the teachers on the trip mentioned helping his friend cut up and staple 48 construction paper pink hearts for some art project being done by 24 second-graders the next day.

That’s when it hit me – what if teachers thought like CEOs? We wouldn’t have math in schools. Don’t believe me?

Their conversations would go like this:

Right, I KNOW math is important but I’m teaching social studies, science, reading and art. Plus, the kids need time to play outside, that’s important, too. Between preparing lessons for those other subjects, grading papers, meeting with parents – all important, right – there’s just no time. The only option is to not spend weekends with my family or not have summer vacation and I’m already spending my weekends and summer doing lesson plans and not paying enough attention to them as it is. I’m sorry, we’ll just have to have math next year.

The brilliant thing that teachers do is SCHEDULE every subject and then the disciplined thing they do is KEEP to that schedule.

Making a schedule is the easy part. Anyone can make a schedule, just like anyone can make a budget. Keeping to it is the hard part.


So, here is where I think CEOs should imitate teachers.

  1. Identify everything that you truly think is important – marketing, financing your business, software development, making widgets, administration, accounting – make a list.
  2. Schedule every activity you truly believe is important. They don’t all have to be scheduled for an equal amount of time or every day but they all DO need to be on your calendar.
  3. Keep to that schedule!

After all, how would you feel if your third-grader came home and said ,

We didn’t do math this month because Ms. Grundy was really busy teaching us all of the other subjects so we just ignored the schedule.

Now, Mr/Ms/Dr CEO, you may claim that your job is more demanding or chaotic than teaching elementary school, in which case I will just say HA!

(Also, remind me to tell you about the time my husband, who was an executive in aerospace company, threatened to set a whole classroom full of preschoolers on fire. That’s a post for another day.)

In your spare time, check out Forgotten Trail – play it on your computer in any browser. Canoe rapids, catch fish, learn math all for under five bucks!Characters with dog traveling across a map

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