4 hospitality principles that can transform our classrooms


Teaching | Thursday, December 11, 2014

4 hospitality principles that can transform our classrooms

The hospitality industry understands their guests and creates an atmosphere to put them at ease. There's so much we can learn as educators from hotels, spas and events. (Flickr / Unique Hotels)

The hospitality industry understands their guests and creates an atmosphere to put them at ease. There’s so much we can learn as educators from hotels, spas and events. (Flickr / Unique Hotels)

Some hotels really fail to deliver when it comes to serving their guests, but some of them really get it right.

I don’t stay in hotels a ton, but I have seen really bad hotels and really good ones. Often, being considered “bad” or “good” has little to do with how much I paid for the room!

For me, I remember the ones where I walk into the lobby and feel the comfort of a clean, orderly environment.

I remember when the hotel clerk is helpful, polite and wants to make me feel at home.

I remember when the basics are taken care of, like clean sheets, a clean bathroom and modern furniture. (See, I’m not too tough to please!)

But I always remember when there are little extras that make the it an experience instead of a stay.

There’s a lot that we as educators can learn from the hospitality industry. They know that meeting the basic needs — and some of the desires — of their guests makes them happy, at ease and able to do their work.

The Latin root “hospit” means “guest” or “host.” What if we thought of our students as our guests and educators as their hosts?

Here are some things the hospitality room does well that can influence what we do in the classroom:

1. Everything communicates. A smile at the door. Streaks on a window. A “yes first” mentality. Dusty curtains. Everything communicates a message to the guest, said a former hospitality industry employee on a podcast I heard recently. Think of every interaction we have with our students. They all communicate something about us. Research shows that students’ feelings about the learning environment impact their learning. We can use every interaction to communicate to the student that he/she is important. This has been hard for me to do on a consistent, every day basis. I slip up! But I’ve found that it’s worthwhile to do our best.

2. Anticipate. Great hotels, spas and events think of what their guests will need before they even arrive. Airlines stock planes with beverages and snacks knowing that passengers will be hungry or thirsty. Great classrooms anticipate what students will need, on an entire-class level and on an individual level. A student with a cold is going to be more focused if he doesn’t have to think about his runny nose all throughout class. Little things like having tissues ready can go a long way.

3. Treating guests as friends. I’ve seen so many great teachers get this right. They don’t see their students as responsibilities that must be dealt with. They see them as friends and take care of them like they would guests in their homes. A hotel clerk in charge of a public area had the right mindset in this blog post. When thanked for his service, he said, “It is my pleasure. Without you, there is no me.” In many schools, not having students isn’t really an option. They’ll have a steady stream of students every year. But what if we acted as if we needed to keep their continued business?

4. Create an experience. My family and I were fortunate to stay at the Port Orleans Riverside hotel at Walt Disney World this summer. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, and our stay at the hotel added to that experience. Hotel staff gave our son a button to pin on his shirt for his birthday and drew balloons and his name on it to help him celebrate. The decorations in the room added to the ambiance, right down to the Mickey Mouse ears on the shampoo bottles. “Don’t just teach lessons. Create experiences,” says Dave Burgess, author of “Teach Like a PIRATE.” “They’ll remember experiences forever.”

Let’s think of ways we can serve our guests! They’ll appreciate us for it, and you might be surprised at how much of a difference it makes!

What else can we learn from great hospitality experiences? Do you have ideas? Share them in a comment below!

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  • Margo says:

    I have a big bowl of peppermints in a container that I made labeled, “Feed Your Brain,” another one with Hershey Kisses that says “Kiss Your Brain.” I also keep a lavender scented plug-in going all year. Even though I teach middle school, our classroom is decked out with a black, white, red decor. My middle school kiddos love it!

  • Janie Hachen says:

    Give them a freebie or something they can take away. It should be meaningful and help them remember what your class is all about. I want this year to be about growth mindset, so I have a card made up that says: Let’s grow together and it has a little baggie of capsules that dissolve and grow in water. Some grow into dinosaurs or other animals. It could be fun and leaves an impression.

  • Sandy says:

    I think that is important to call students by name and encourage classmates to do the same. We use Talk Moves and work hard to incorporate names–“I agree with Matt because…” or “Matt, have you considered…” Being on a first name basis with a customer/student can improve satisfaction.

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