Should teacher have an agent like any other showbiz worker?

Intellectual property contract, filming agreements: schools are embracing the legal turn of teacher’s production. If the board considers I am an actor, where is the studio?

I know that in a class, there always is something of a show. But let’s face it: I am too plump to be a Hugo Boss model, my voice is too shrieky to get me on the singer lane, and my acting is, well, let’s not talk about it… Nevertheless, here it is, my employer joined a 4 pages long “filming agreement” to my last teaching contract!

Digital transition, at last!

My first feeling when I received this contract (first after a flow of anger, fear, suspicion, and fear again) was to acknowledge the fact that at last, schools are taking seriously the fact that we live in a world of digital products. Yes, the world of education is changing, and here are some signs:

  • As an independent teacher and IT trainer, I have put some tutorials online where they can be freely accessed
  • Some big universities are tackled by projects like Udacity, or Khan Academy
  • For the first time in history, students can have what every generation has hoped for: the possibility to learn, when they want, where they want.

So, with all this, schools and university are seriously updating their recruitment process to make sure that their digital world is as protected as their physical one. All in all, this is a good news.

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

Are teachers an asset or a cost?

The question feels threatening if it asked by a stakeholder… but really, it should be asked by the teachers themselves.

When am I a cost?

  • When I read my text to the students
  • When I repeat the same content
  • When I don’t advertise the student’s production (and mine)

When am I an asset?

  • When I create engaging class with interaction with / among students
  • When I update my content
  • When my class ends up with advertisable productions (from student and from me)

Advertising… Fame. In the list of the teacher’s new SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunity, threats), the notoriety of the teacher stands still as an important aspect. But maybe with a broader meaning than before.

From e-reputation to e-usability

Academic reputation has long been held as the first indicator for hiring a teacher. Now, it seems that your e-reputation is strongly taken into account too. (Let aside the question: can a YouTuber be worth as much as an author published in Science or Harvard Business Review?)

A teacher has to understand the digital era in which we swim: for him/herself, and for the students. If the teacher doesn’t produce online articles (even small like this one), at least the classroom should create the opportunity to make the students noticed by recruiters online. Some of the class projects should now include publication of students productions: articles (on LinkedIn for instance), translations, forum help, video tutorials…

The school of secrecy is replaced by gen-Y and gen-X habit to display things… The difference between students posting their every moves on the spot to all their friends is that school manages the steps toward publication in a definite workflow to make sure the student’s e-reputation is styled. And teacher have to take care of that.

(Un)Reusable material

It seems to me that most of this pedagogy of the digital age is not “recordable”. When I create a discussion in class, when I help student find ideas, participate, and produce… I am not sure how this can be used to replace me by a recording. So why bother with a “recording agreement”?

From teacher to YouTuber: create a professional e-reputation. (Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash)

Because it is great for the teachers too…

…Under certain conditions

Ask any actor’s agent what the conditions asked for filming: 1)only shoot me on my best side, 2)how much money for the film, 3)which percentage on the derivatives.

If I were to be filmed, I would definitely ask for some of those conditions:

  • What is the investment made on quality camera and microphones (I don’t want my e-reputation tarnished by some bad level material)
  • Who will be post-producing the film? (I want to have my say)
  • Will I get training (how many days) to learn how to behave professionally in front of the camera? (I want to make a good impression, for me, for the school: this requires the right amount of preparation — just like an activity without the corresponding security training shouldn’t be allowed)
  • How to write a good script? Who will be responsible for it?

So if you are a headmaster or a dean, maybe you should forget about your next Disney trip seminar and propose your future e-learning teachers if they would like to improve their professional acting skills. A decent training with a filming professional can also be fun for a team. Usually teachers are curious for new stuff, and they know their world is changing…

The digital project of the school

Headmasters, HR teams, please, don’t listen only to lawyers. Sending a recording agreement without any explanation takes you on the verge of communication disaster. Instead, set the foundation of a profound project, talked through with you teachers.

Take this not like a legal constraint, but like a great change management project: MANAGE IT through its various dimensions!

Each teacher might have some ideas of what she or he can improve to help the team enter the digital era… Talk about it!

And then there is the money question…

Teacher, if you can’t negotiate… hire an agent!

I wish I could recommend the first “teacher agent agency”, but I am afraid I don’t know any. I guess this kind of services are going to appear. YouTube changed a lot of things for the movie industry, and I guess that e-learning is going to have the same effect on education. Agents might take the shot.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash