When you take the complexity of teaching students–even if it’s only for a half day–and add it to navigating the world of policy, politics, adult learning, and new levels or organizational challenges, you’ve got a recipe for a VERY unique job. The variety of the day-to-day “to-do” list is dynamic, sometimes daunting, and never boring in the life of a teacherpreneur.
For the first time in over 10 years of teaching, I’m on a professional journey with no map and no compass. For the first time, I’ve been granted time and autonomy to design a large chunk of my working life. And for the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m in the midst of majorly redefining and examining of my own strengths and weaknesses as an educator.
Since August, I’ve been given the opportunity to serve as a teacherpreneur for the Jefferson County Public School system in Louisville, KY. I am currently leading the planning and design of new virtual learning spaces and professional collaboration opportunities in my district, among other projects.
When I tell people that I’m a teacherpreneur, eyebrows inevitably raise and questions surface. “What the heck is that?” I can see them wonder. When I mention that I’m done teaching at 11:30 a.m. every day, I’m sure some folks think I’ve got a cushy gig.
But when you take the complexity of teaching students–even if it’s only for a half day–and add it to navigating the world of policy, politics, adult learning, and new levels or organizational challenges, you’ve got a recipe for a VERY unique job. The variety of the day-to-day “to-do” list is dynamic, sometimes daunting, and never boring.
Take this morning. I spent my planning period in “teacher” mode: making copies, grading papers, and preparing for my two classes. In my second-period Digital and Social Media Literacies class, we continued exploring the important role that attention plays in our digitally-saturated world. Students squirmed in their seats as we completed my adaptation of the famous marshmallow test–by testing their ability to resist the allure of their vibrating cell phones and tablets for the whole period.
Then, during third-period English III, we previewed themes in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried by doing a gallery walk, with students perusing and interpreting quotes from the text as they skirted the perimeter of the classroom. One student’s eyes lit up as we discussed whether a story can make the truth seem more real. Another finally came to understand the difference between the tangible and intangible things.
Teaching was undoubtedly a success today. And despite the fact that I only teach two classes, my priority as a teacherpreneur is still being a great classroom instructor. Some days, I reach this lofty goal; other days, it’s back to the drawing board, reflecting on what went askew and how the next day’s lesson can improve.
When I finished up in the classroom today, nobody told me what to do for the remaining hours of the work day as I transitioned to teacherpreneurial duties–a powerful testament to district leaders putting trust in my expertise and experience to make productive use of my time. I’m free to prioritize, strategize, and make choices that will help move me and other stakeholders closer to achieving project goals.
As a teacherpreneur, I’m in a position of privilege and responsibility with this freedom. But I know this isn’t a desirable role for everyone. There’s plenty of uncertainty, failure, risk taking, and exploration.
I’m finding that I can thrive in this unstructured chunk of time, but it’s not easy.
Here’s how I spent the rest of my day:
I figured out how to use Doodle polling to schedule an online meeting.
I revised an invitation to recruit teachers for a teacher leadership cohort project I’m about to launch, then contacted various district communications folks asking them to help spread the word.
I continued outlining the leadership curriculum I’ve been collaborating on with fellow teacherpreneur Lauren Hill.
I experienced writer’s block.
I reviewed and organized my email inbox and updated my Outlook calendar. These days, there’s suddenly a lot more information to sift through due to interacting with a wider array of educational stakeholders.
Finally, I took some steps forward in making sense of this new role by finishing up this blog. While each teacherpreneur has a different schedule and priorities, I hope this sheds light on what it means, feels, and looks like to lead without leaving the classroom as a teacherpreneur.
And It certainly won’t be the last time I take a breath, step back, assess, and reassess the wins and struggles from this journey, trying to find my way without a map or compass.