StudySkills Articles

Is Your Focus On Private Schools Response

Two weeks ago, we got an angry response from a subscriber after publishing our newsletter titled, “Is Your Focus on Private Schools?” In that newsletter, we described several pressures facing private school teachers.

In the interest of providing clarity and remaining fully transparent, I’d like to address her concerns. Her letter is in italics. My responses have been inserted (and indented) below her feedback…

Susan,
As one who attended public school, has taught in public school and has 3 children who attend private school, I find your marketing email offensive in its demeaning tone, misleading generalizations and untrue statements. To be clear, I am supportive of excellent public and private education. What do you mean that private school students are “frustrated, stressed and don’t care.” They “don’t care” about what? The private school students I know, including my children, care deeply about the quality of their education and their mental health.

Like you, I am also supportive of excellence in both public and private schools. I’m sorry for any suggestion that seems to contradict this deep conviction.

The article says: “…many of your students are frustrated and stressed. Others don’t seem to care about school. Some of your students place higher demands on themselves than their parents do. Their drive to succeed is intense. You just want these students to come up for air once in a while, and smile. Meanwhile, another batch of students expect the praise, without putting in the work. You want to motivate these students to perform, while putting in consistent effort.”

In the article, we did not say (nor even imply) that “all students” are frustrated, stressed, and don’t care. But, the reality is that teachers are dealing with all of these issues in their classes, even in private schools.

Finally, can you please clarify what we said that is demeaning? What are the misleading generalizations? What did we say that’s untrue? I’m particularly sensitive about accusations of lying, but I’ll get to that in a moment…

As a seasoned educator, you know that all schools (private and public) have a mixture of students with a variety of learning styles and academic motivations. Even schools that offer good study skills classes to their students and teachers (PD) do not reach every student, despite their best efforts. Just as I’m sure not all purchasers of your products have experienced 100% success. You can lead a horse to water but cannot always make her drink.

Yes, as a seasoned educator, a mother of two children with “learning disabilities,” and a former struggling student, myself, I am intimately aware of the variety of learning styles and motivations. However, through my 24 years as a student, 20 years as an educator, and 11 years as a mother, I have consistently found study skills to be the greatest leverage point of success for myself and others.

Yet, even considering the wide-reaching scope of study skills, we’ve never claimed that all purchasers will have 100% success. In fact, we preach about the 80/20 Principle! (Even did so in this particular article.) The 80/20 Principle is universal law with many implications; one of them is that it is impossible for all users of our program to have 100% success. What we do claim, however, is that our program has been proven to raise average student GPAs by 1 full point across a full student-body. And we do provide a 100% money-back guarantee if our clients are not satisfied with their results.

The purpose of your email is obviously to sell your product, but I’m amused (sort of) and at the same time disgusted that you are criticizing “private schools” (as if you can even talk meaningfully about them) as a means to scare parents into buying your product for their children. Aren’t you just fueling this fire of “stress and pressure” you are supposedly concerned about? Or are you trying to convince parents who may be considering private schools to stay in public school and use Study Skills instead? Are you against private education? Your credibility would be stronger in my mind if you clearly stated your motivations for this “article.” Let’s be honest–this is ADVERTISING, not an academic “article”!

Yes, I need to sell my product; I have employees to pay and children to feed. However, we are diligent about telling the TRUTH! We never make something up just to sell it; that goes against every ounce of my/our personal and professional integrity.

Our approach to marketing has always been “marketing through insightful information…” honest, real, and true information. We only promote our materials by providing relevant information based on: real research (our sources are always cited), universal laws and principles, and by relating to the experiences of the people we are serving (including teachers, students, and parents).

My mom, cousins, and close friends subscribe to our newsletter; I wouldn’t waste their time by sharing something that wasn’t true. I wouldn’t do that to you, either. (Besides, you can bet they’d keep me honest… especially my mom!)

Certainly, there’s always a possibility that we might get something wrong. But, that’s never intentional and we are always open/transparent about making corrections specifically out of respect for the trust we’ve earned with our subscribers and clients.

We are different than most academic resources because we address the human experience and emotions that are intertwined with education issues. All of our content serves the purpose of providing useful and truthful information, while being delivered in the relatable context of the human experience.

As far as my being able to talk “meaningfully” about private schools, I went to private school for 15 years and taught in a private school for a couple of years before teaching in public schools. My children now attend a private school after threats of “child abuse” from our local public school over disagreements about my son’s dyslexia. That’s another story for another day and could have happened in any school. But, I certainly don’t have an inherent bias towards public school and against private schools, or vice versa.

However, despite all of my personal experience with private schools, our comments came directly from one of our staff members, who is a former private school teacher, and conversations we’ve had with our private school clients.

We don’t write about these pressures to “fuel this fire;” we write about them to vindicate teachers’ experiences. Teachers may be around people all day long, but their job is often isolating because of the pressures and lack of time to collaborate with their peers.

In the past, I have been a financial supporter of your efforts to promote effective study skills and often found your email communication insightful. However, I am no longer going to support SOAR after reading this email. I am disappointed that you are criticizing private educators (in a general, unsubstantiated manner) in an effort to elevate your product. If I were you, I would stay positive and market with actual good results of users of your products instead of taking shots at privately educated students and their teachers and schools, in a general, meaningless way.

With disappointment,
A.T.

We care very deeply about supporting ALL teachers. Regardless of where they teach, teachers have one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting vocations in the world! As former classroom teachers ourselves, we carry a deep sense of responsibility to support all teachers: public, private, rural, urban, suburban, charter… I’ve re-read the article and I can’t find where we criticized teachers. We have validated the pressure they are under. But I don’t believe we are criticizing them.

I sincerely appreciate your support of our work in the past and am very sorry that I and my team offended you. (We wrote this article as a collaborative group.) However, for the sake of the teachers we are representing, I stand by what we’ve written.

Most sincerely,

Susan

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