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Teachers: The Product Managers of Education

Austin Meusch
May 23, 2023

In my role overseeing product at Speakable, I have had numerous experiences that have shaped my understanding of the edtech industry. However, one insight that continually resurfaces is the significant overlap between my job and that of a world language teacher. The similarities are striking, and they underline a previously unexplored facet of teaching - teachers as the product managers of education.

Teachers: The Pioneers of Product Management in Education

In the world of technology, the role of a product manager is akin to that of a ship's captain. They navigate the direction of the product, leading a team towards constant enhancement. Their job is not just managing; it involves strategizing, prioritizing, and collaborating, all to ensure the product aligns with the company's mission. They have to be adaptable, responsive, and aware of both user needs and market dynamics.Interestingly, the role of a teacher, especially in world languages and ESL, reflects the same characteristics. Every lesson they craft is, in a sense, a product that has been carefully tailored to the students - the end users. Each lesson is born out of a defined objective, be it mastery of vocabulary, comprehension of complex grammatical structures, or the development of communication skills in a new language. The teacher, like a product manager, is responsible for ensuring these objectives are met.

The Art of Lesson Customization

An exemplary teacher has the ability to personalize their lessons according to the needs of their students. They refrain from adopting a generic approach and adjust the content and delivery style based on student capabilities, interests, and learning styles. This iterative methodology mirrors the work of a product manager, who continually refines the product based on user feedback and market trends.

Feedback: A Key Driver for Improvement

Feedback is vital in both teaching and product management. It serves as a compass that points towards areas of improvement and success. Teachers receive feedback from students, parents, and other educators, helping them to refine their teaching methods and improve lesson plans. Likewise, product managers thrive on user feedback. It helps them to identify gaps and opportunities for innovation, ensuring the product remains aligned with user needs and market trends.

Continuous Learning: An Integral Aspect

Both teachers and product managers share a commitment to lifelong learning. Teachers strive to stay updated on the latest research in pedagogy and language acquisition, and they remain open to incorporating new educational tools and technologies to enhance their lessons. Similarly, product managers continuously learn about the latest trends, best practices, and tools in their field, ensuring their product remains relevant and competitive.

Collaboration: The Path to Success

Product managers collaborate across their team and users to ensure the success of their products, and teachers too, work in synergy with multiple stakeholders for the success of their lessons. They cooperate with other teachers, administrators, and parents to create an effective learning environment.

The Ultimate Goal: Impact

The ultimate goal for both teachers and product managers is to make an impact. Teachers aim to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their learning journey. Product managers, on the other hand, strive to build a product that adds value to its users and positively impacts their experience.

Seeing Teachers as Product Managers

Considering these parallels, it isn’t far-fetched to see teachers as product managers of the education sector. An effective product in the tech industry yields satisfied customers. Similarly, a well-managed classroom cultivates confident, enthusiastic learners.My prime focus at Speakable is to acknowledge the extraordinary work teachers do and create tools to assist them. When teachers excel in managing their 'classroom product', it invariably benefits the students, propelling them towards language proficiency.So, it might seem unconventional to draw this comparison between teachers and product managers, but when you look at the mechanisms of both roles, they're strikingly similar. The tactics that educators implement in classrooms worldwide embody the same principles used by product managers in top tech companies. Perhaps it's time we recognized this ongoing, extraordinary feat of product management performed by teachers every day and provide them with the tools and support they need to excel even further.

The Shared Objective: Value and Impact

Whether it's a product manager refining a new feature or a teacher perfecting a lesson plan, both are engaged in the creation of something meaningful and valuable. Their work is aimed at making a positive, lasting impact on the end-user. And, in the case of teachers, that impact has the potential to shape not just a student's academic journey but their entire life.

In Appreciation of Teachers

Recognizing the commonalities between teachers and product managers offers us a fresh perspective on the work teachers do. It allows us to better appreciate their efforts, skills, and the immense value they bring to their students and to society as a whole.Teaching, like product management, is a complex and multifaceted role. The day-to-day realities are challenging and demanding, but the rewards are immeasurable. Seeing the progress students make, witnessing their comprehension broaden and their skills grow, is akin to seeing a product succeed on the market.

The Unseen Product Managers of Education

Although teachers are the unseen product managers of the education world, this should not be a burden, but an empowering recognition of the high level of skill and expertise teachers bring to their work. And as the world evolves, the tools and resources they have at their disposal should evolve too.Just like a successful tech product improves the user's life, a well-managed classroom has the power to shape a student's future. As we continue to advance in the realm of edtech, let's strive to support these unsung heroes of product management - our teachers - by acknowledging their work and equipping them with the resources they need to continue to excel. They, and their students, deserve nothing less.

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