Every independent bookstore needs to distinguish itself from the chains and online retailers. One really effective way to do this is to provide a service the competitors can’t: you and your knowledge. I’m not talking about handselling or customer service, I’m speaking of providing teachers with their mandatory continuing education credits.
This August Elizabeth and I will be leading two days of in-service training for our local school district. I don’t know yet how many teachers will sign up, but since the district pays for it so it’s free to teachers, I suspect we’ll have a good turnout.
I approached the head of Curriculum Development for the our local district in April about my desire to work together. She was incredibly receptive and really wanted to “keep it local.” She told me what the district needed in terms of hours, content to be covered and what they could pay us. Elizabeth and I then submitted proposals and now we’re planning our sessions.
The real beauty of this is tri-fold. First, we have a captive audience of teachers, many of whom might not be familiar with the Flying Pig, so it’s chance to gain new school orders. Second, we have a chance to really showcase our knowledge of books, which the teachers can use in their courses that fulfill the Vermont curriculum guidelines. Thirdly, I think it will be a great thing for us, and our staff, to know better the Vermont educational goals for each grade. This does not change by district, so I will be more able to help any Vermont teacher find interesting, new books they can use for instruction or enrichment.
Working with the school district makes it easier for us because they do all the work. They set up the dates, they do all the paperwork and coordination. We just work very hard to make the presentations meaningful and fun.
I’ve been going through all my buying sessions this summer with an eye toward the curriculum in a way I never have before. Historical graphic novels I might have passed on, I’m now considering more closely. The fun part of preparing for this is seeing how to think outside the box. Can fantasy novels be used to help explain government and societal changes? Totally. My goal with my educational sessions is to present, essentially booktalk in-depth, with supplemental ideas, books that will help social studies and language arts teachers meet the curricular goals they have to set before them. Each teacher will get a goody bag of some kind. We’ve got lots of posters and teacher materials to give away, will which hopefully be meaningful for the teachers, besides, who doesn’t like free things?
It’s actually really exciting for me to help teachers plan part of their year. Teams come together to plan out units. So, we could see a unit develop at the session based on some of the new books we’ll be presenting. I think that’s really powerful and I can’t wait. The goal of this is to make real human connections with teachers in third through eighth grade, and hopefully these connections will last into ordering season. After the presentations, I’ll post an update on how it went. For now, I’ve got my notebook with me everywhere and I’m a note-taking fool.