Classrooms with a Startup Mentality

What if we treated class like a startup? I read an article recently that posed this question, and it fascinated me. According to Forbes magazine, a startup is “a place full of smart, relevant banter and out-of-the-box thinking. It empowers a group of experts, thinkers, and collaborators to utilize their talents to bring an idea to life.”

We constantly talk about teaching students real life skills. You know – the inevitable question raised every year that begins with, “When am I going to use this in the real world?”

But when you approach class like it’s a startup, you break down traditional conventions that may be the thing holding students back. Nothing has been more frustrating to me through the years than seeing students with limitless potential and gifted abilities just shut down because school is boring to them. And yet, these same students light up like Christmas when you offer them a problem to solve that lets them think outside the box. Isn’t that the real-life scenario they are craving all along?

Because it’s school though, you can offer them the opportunity to grow and stretch their abilities while also offering a safety net. How many of us allow fear of failure to keep us from ever trying? We need to show our students that trial and error is not just part of the process but a welcome byproduct on the path to success.

So why have a startup mentality in class? Think about the very definition of a start up company: “The action or process of setting something in motion.”

I love that definition when applied to one’s learning! What if class offered the opportunity for students to get inspired and set their own learning path into motion?

When you use school as a platform for a startup model, you exchange your role as teacher for a guide. Students exchange traditional modes of learning for hands-on, real life critical thinking. End results become tangible plans and products for change. But, most importantly, students are engaged and enthusiastic because they are in charge.

What are some important steps to take?

  • Find strong leaders.
    • Every successful startup begins with a leader, full of vision, who can help others focus on the task at hand without getting lost in the details.
  • It takes a team.
    • No one person can do it all. It takes a team dedicated to the shared goal to accomplish anything.
  • Everyone matters.
    • The team is only strong when everyone is pulling their weight. Find the perfect roles that capitalize on individual strengths.
  • Take time (but not too much).
    • Be sure to communicate a clear timeline as your team works. Deadlines matter!

Why engage in a startup mentality? It’s certainly not because you want or expect students to create the next big thing. Instead, you want them to realize the power they have to build, create, and just think for themselves. That is a lesson worth its weight in gold!


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