Get ten test prep teachers or tutors in a room together, and almost all will agree that this can be a very lonely business. Case in point, you’ll rarely find ten test prep professionals in a room together at all, unless they work for the same company! Most of what we do has traditionally involves lots of time with students and maybe their parents but hardly any with peers.
Much has changed over the last several years, but the global pandemic ironically accelerated the process of test prep professionals forming a true community. While social distancing drove us from our offices, coffee shops, and home visits, we connected more and more with each other on Zoom for professional development, emotional support, PPP planning sessions, and weekly Happy Hours. In a crisis, something that was apparent for a long time became irrefutable: test prep professionals need each other. We are better together–even though we are all essentially in competition with each other–than we are apart for five important reasons:
The first and perhaps most powerful impact of entering a room (ether virtual or IRL) filled with farflung peers is the verification that you are not alone. Whatever your educational service or business model, you can rest assured others travel the same path and face the same challenges. You may find that hard to believe sometimes, but seeing is believing.
The reason conferences, summits, and other professional development sessions are so successful can be traced to one simple truth: when members of a given industry come together, they talk. Very often, as professionals, we know far more about our domains than we can share with clients. What a relief, then, to be able to talk inside baseball and share industry news (and maybe even a little gossip) with those who share your passion and know your context.
None of us are islands, even if we spend most of our time working one-to-one with an endless stream of students in libraries, dining rooms, and cubicles. There is no better cure for creeping isolation than festive socialization, the easy camaraderie of those who experience the same daily challenges and rewards you do.
Another often unspoken benefit of meeting others in your field comes down more to ambition than information. Some of your colleagues approach the same business from different angles or have reached levels of success you only dream of. Meeting, chatting, and learning how they progressed inspires aspiration and, if you can keep the spark alive long enough, action.
When like-minded spirits convene, break bread, and share meaningful ideas, is it any wonder some of them seek ways to work together? If your dream projects are mired in stagnation, meeting with peers may be just the jumpstart you need to move forward, possibly even with a partner or two.
Conferences like the one where we first conceived of the National Test Prep Association represent a powerful way to bring colleagues and rivals alike together in ways that benefit individuals and industries alike. For-profit education, particularly the front lines where tutors and test prep professionals operate, lacks the social infrastructure enjoyed in other fields, but that just makes every opportunity to come together more precious. Seek these opportunities out for both personal and professional enrichment.
A nationally recognized leader in test prep, Mike Bergin founded Chariot Learning in Rochester, NY in 2009 to deliver on the promise of what truly transformative, individualized education can and should be. Mike is also the founder of the free testing and admissions answer site TestBright, co-host of the Tests and the Rest college admissions industry podcast and conference series, and creator of the Facebook industry group for test prep professionals, Test Prep Tribe. Lastly, Mike is the co-author of the Amazon bestseller Crash and Learn: Lessons in Business.