Example of Value Creation in Education: At the Michener Center, U of Texas, Austin
As many of you know, I have been writing about Value Creation in education. Much of the discussion has been generic. That the role of a teacher is to go beyond just imparting knowledge but to create value by showing the student how the knowledge is used by others, what they do with the knowledge, and how the student can use the knowledge and benefit from it and enhance his environment (employer, society etc.)
A few days ago I had the privilege of witnessing this Value Creation in action. This was at the Michener Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Michener center has assembled brilliant talent in fiction, screenwriting, poetry and playwriting. Students in the MFA (Master’s of Fine Arts) were graduating, and the graduating class spoke about their amazing, life changing experience.
The one thing all those graduating said was that the teachers and staff just gave and gave and the students just took and took. The giving was selfless. I wondered what value was being created for the teacher. Was it just satisfaction? Was it more, the pleasure of helping people become creative and successful? And I remembered my article that creative people did not need incentives for creating and helping others create value. Incentivisation does not increase creative power, but may create the environment (like the grants to the students). But the teachers were not incentivized by higher salaries for creating the value they did. They gave because that is the nature of secure and creative people to create more value, and to get satisfaction from doing a better job than others.
The students went on to talk about how their fellow students created value for each other—by example, when they wrote or did something well; by witnessing the disappointment and disillusionment and the lows their fellow students experienced, and helping each other to get going and try again; by giving emotional support. Much like what the teachers gave them.
The teachers gave them the enthusiasm, the secure environment, the emotional strength to go through the winning and losing, and helped them manage the emotional highs and lows. The staff gave them emotional support in their private lives, their special needs etc. and a sense of being part of a family and being at home.
But what was common was building the sense of security in the students, when they felt insecure, inadequate and unable to cope, or unable to find that whiff of genius that could help them with a flow of brilliance, and happiness.
What struck me were the enormous emotional bonds that the students had formed with the teachers and their fellow students, the gratefulness to them. Many cried, as they related their story of growing at the Michener Center.
I had written earlier about the need to be secure to create value. Insecurity can come from when you are growing up or in your work or personal environment. And so the teachers and staff created the environment for fostering talent and security.
One teacher told me that the students were inherently talented, and the teacher’s role was to make the student use the talent and grow. An environment of trust, of belonging, of self-belief, of relying on colleagues and helping each other (creating value for each other), by building emotional strength and bonds helped the students rise to their inherent abilities. And that is what the teachers did. They also helped the students to unlearn so that they could learn faster.
And the importance of unlearning and learning and unlearning.
So this is an example of Value Creation in education by teachers and students, and how you too can create value.
It is not incentives! It is not self aggrandizement that makes creative teachers create value. The students too will realize that their creativity will flow despite incentives or lack of it…and as they grow, they will find that if they can create value for their readers, by getting them to learn, or to get an emotional bond with the writer, or making the readers feel good about themselves. Then the writer will become even more successful.
As one teacher said, when you leave, walk backwards so that it appears you are coming in. Or that you are still with us and you belong.
And when you walk away, ask if it is the experience or the memory of the experience that was more important.
And if you as students and teachers consciously start to think of value creation as your role, you will find that all of you will enhance your offerings because now you have added yet another dimension to your creativity and work.
Will you, the student become a value creator? Will you use the special ability the teachers helped you find and hone to become value creative writers?
With special thanks to some unusual value creators: Jim Magnuson, Elizabeth McCracken, Michael Adams (all of whom I met), the other students and staff of the Michener center.
Your comments are welcome.