Set continuous goals, work to meet them strategically & quickly, and measure completion of those goals to determine in a tangible way if they helped your business grow and move forward. Adjust & modify future goals, then repeat!
Shayna Pond believes that good professional development trainings should be actionable and accessible to all educators. Shayna is President and Co-founder of Model Teaching, a professional development provider that supports effective education for better educators. She is a former teacher and administrator with over a decade of experience serving pk- 12 schools. Through Model Teaching, she works to support teachers across the country to develop actionable implementation plans and utilize the right trainings and resources to help improve classroom teaching & student achievement.
Where did the idea for Model Teaching come from?
Prior to Model Teaching, I worked first as a teacher and administrator and then co-founded an intervention tutorial support company with my husband, where we primarily supported low performing schools and districts. We worked with students struggling in an academic subject and provided intervention programs to help improve scores and help students meet grade level standards. We would often also help teachers with strategies and ideas for their classroom and would coach them and provide trainings for teachers who felt they could use additional support to improve student learning. What we began to realize is that supporting students was only one small piece of the puzzle in addressing increased student performance. We realized that often teachers didn’t have access to professional learning that was truly personalized and addressed the needs of their unique student populations and groups within their classes. So, we built Model Teaching to help address diverse student needs by building an easily accessible online platform for teachers that drilled down to specific instructional areas we know teachers needed help with. More important though, is that we created courses that required planning and instructional design as the teachers work through the course- where they leave each course with a plan for implementation that they can try out immediately, and options for our instructors to provide detailed feedback. Our platform also provides a management feature where campus administrators- if approved by the teachers- can track progress of teacher courses and provide their own feedback and support both within the platform, and through classroom observations using our observation checklists that are customized to each course.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I love checklists and short- and long-term goal setting, so each morning after sending my kids off to school I review my previous evening’s daily and monthly checklist. If I don’t have a list ready to go first thing in the morning, I am much less productive throughout the day. I typically spend my days focusing on working towards completion of 1 big item from my to do list and completion of several smaller items. I also check in on my content writers and other employees and check for any new edits or feedback I need to provide, and I make sure that feedback to our users is updated in our course platform. I have the luxury of working from my home, and typically end my major tasks for the day around 3 pm to pick up my children from school- but I work for a few hours after they go to bed each evening on housekeeping items, like responding to emails.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My husband (my business partner) and I have always been the kind of people that just “figure it out”. We do definitely plan, and we actually hold business meetings every Friday to review progress and refine our strategic goals. But, we tend to build something quickly based on specific observations we have about a process, get feedback from others quickly on our approach or plan, and take that information to refine and rework our ideas. We complete many iterations of a project and work hard to ensure we provide only valuable, high quality services and support to others- but we have learned that it’s better to jump into an idea and figure it out, rather than be paralyzed by perfection and fear.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The E-learning industry is projected to continue to grow as more and more groups learn the benefits of a more personalized and accessible approach to learning content. But currently, many online courses- especially in the education space- don’t provide adequate rigor and quality of training to teachers. We really feel that Model Teaching is set up to meet the coming demand for high quality and actionable course work that can be provided via an e-learning platform, and we’re excited that we can provide valuable courses and effective resources that will help improve teacher performance in a rapidly growing industry.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m an overthinker and a highly reflective person. It’s important to me to review each day’s events, my interactions with my employees, clients, or anyone else, and ask myself how I can improve. While some may consider this a weakness that might inhibit productivity- I believe that it supports how efficiently we are able to do our jobs day to day. Reflection allows for us to pivot more quickly in our business when we need to, allows us to better support our employees and customers which in turn improves our business, and often significantly increases the quality of the work we produce.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Your anxiety stems from lack of experience- so take more risks, mess up and embarrass yourself, and say yes to everything early. I look back at some points in my life and almost can’t understand now why I would be so worried about a particular issue- whether it was speaking in front of a large group, wondering how or whether to let an employee go, concerns with revenue numbers or collecting payments, or anything else that takes experience to understand both how to handle the situation and how to put things into perspective. Fear comes from not experiencing failures or tough times, so fail early and often so you can grow into a wiser individual that can better take struggles head on.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A good personality is always better than an individual’s credentials, experience, or work product. People pleasers, individuals with a strong work ethic, and a good attitude are what carries employees through difficult tasks at work and what pushes them to strive to maintain our vision of doing great things for students and teachers. Often institutions, especially in education, want to focus on years of experience or other resume building credentials as a measure of an effective teacher or employee. However, I believe that an individual’s degrees, where he or she graduated, GPA, experience, etc. is much less relevant- you can train an individual to do anything well if they have a solid work ethic from the beginning.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Goal setting: Set continuous goals, work to meet them strategically & quickly, and measure completion of those goals to determine in a tangible way if they helped your business grow and move forward. Adjust & modify future goals, then repeat!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Work on the hard stuff. Day to day, it’s so easy to finish the menial tasks that allow you to just maintain your routine like responding to emails, writing a new blog post, answering calls, bookkeeping, etc. It’s in comfortable processes where we stagnate. In order to grow, you should constantly do the things that are uncomfortable and challenging to you. Do the hard stuff- schedule a presentation at a conference to showcase your services and talents, even if you hate public speaking; spend late hours revising end editing a work product, even if it bores you; take time to build your successful marketing campaign, even if you don’t know where to start; exhaustively analyze your finances and stick to a stringent budget, even if it’s easier to spend for convenience. Focusing on the hardest parts of your business is what will set you apart and allow you to expand and grow more quickly. We all need to work on the easy tasks too, but I focus on ensuring I have a big goal that is aligned to a really important area of our business- that’s the most difficult thing to do but also the most important.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Gosh, only one? I fail constantly, and often I consider how I could have made a better decision, improved a conversation, or considered an alternative approach to a situation. I think the key here is that I’ve overcome every failure and strengthened myself and my business by treating each failure as an opportunity to learn and do better next time. So, I’m not sure I can narrow down one moment that I can point to as a model for how to overcome adversity. I think that the only true failure is not learning from a past mistake, and I strive to continuously improve and outperform myself each day.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are a lot of organizations that set up and build schools across the globe to help poorer communities in need. The problem is that often after the schools are built, there is less support to keep them sustained- continuous training & support of teachers, for example, is critical for a successful school, yet many non- profits focus less on sustainability of the school they helped build. It would be incredible for someone to partner with non- profits that help build these schools to offer support systems and professional learning experiences for those teachers as an ongoing charity effort focused on sustaining the schools long term.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We recently bought some gift cards for our employees as a thank you for being part of our team. We had reached a small goal in our business and simply wanted to do something to show our appreciation to our team members. We tied this gift card to very specific praise on the work each person was doing, so they had something tangible to reflect upon to better understand why we value each person’s contribution to the company. I think that specific, positive praise and small gestures of appreciation go a long way in building a community of employees that care about each other and their company.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Teamwork.com monthly license- it’s a content management system that is affordable and user friendly. You pay by the user, so if you’re a small company with only a few employees it’s very cost effective. We use it in our course development process. Before teamwork, every iteration of our courses, editing fix, new resource development, or new idea created was sent through email, google drive, and drop box across multiple individuals working on various parts of the course design. As we continue to grow, we realized that we couldn’t continue building content in this way. One core feature of our online courses is that they are very standardized, streamlined, and well- aligned. We felt that we had to show that same care within our business operations as we do in the final products we produced. It’s wound up saving us so much time, streamlined our editing process, and ultimately, we feel, allowing us to produce even greater quality courses.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Zig Ziglar’s Secrets to Closing the Sale – I think it’s an applicable book to any industry and any individual. But listen to the audiobook version so you an experience Mr. Ziglar himself speaking to you- he is positive, confident, and motivated. Many of the topics he speaks about we all know, but don’t always act on strategically and consistently, so I often go back to his audiobook for inspiration.
What is your favorite quote?
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. By Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winning physicist.
Of course, here, Dr. Feynman was referring to the process of experimentation in the scientific method. But, this should strike a chord in teachers too, where education decisions should be driven by evidence, and diverse classrooms mean teachers must closely monitor how their instructional approaches actually impact student learning- and should only select the method that improves performance, regardless of the latest trend or district requirements. A lot of times individuals cling to ideas that they feel should work but ignore what happens in practice- allow yourself to be reflective and to analyze each scenario to determine whether the idea you’re implementing is actually the best solution.
• Fail early and often to better tackle hardships that come your way head on.
• For success, always do the hard stuff first.
• Set goals daily to maintain productivity.
• Show appreciation and praise your employees often to build a strong business.