A day in the life of a teacherpreneur

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.  

Read fellow new teacherpreneur Deidra Gammill’s follow-up piece to this post A Night in the Life of a Teacherpreneur.
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  • Dawn Holtz

    New Teacherpreneur

    I enjoyed reading your post.  As I begin my journey in the MN Teacher Leadership Institute cohort, the Teacherpreneur Program was brought to my attention by Marsha Ratzel.  You are right, having the oppotunity to take risks, learn more about your own strengths and weaknesses and being able to collaborate with others is a privilege.  Getting to stay in the classroom is a bonus.  Thank you for the insight.

    • PaulBarnwell

      I can’t imagine leaving the classroom for good.

      Dawn,

      Thanks for stopping by, and I hope your own leadership journey is going well! I suspect I’ll still be working to find my rhythm with regards to kid and adult work responsibilities for a few more months, but it’s certainly gotten better as we approach holiday break.

  • JasonParker

    Congrats on the email organization!

    No small task… good on ya, Paul!

    • PaulBarnwell

      E-mail–Empowering or a Nuisance? Both?

      Jason,

      Honestly, it never crossed my mind to have to focus on e-mail organization…even though teachers receive A LOT. Certainly one of the love-hate aspects of being modern-day worker. On the whole, is the existence of e-mail a net gain or loss when it comes to productivity?

       

  • Lymaris Santana

    Reading

    As a hybrid teacher/instructional coach with Seminole County, I   am also free to prioritize how to utilize my  time in the afternoon.  Just like you said, it seems like a “piece of cake” job to some who do not realize the responsibility that comes with this freedom…    You couldn’t have said it better: “I’m in a position of privilege and      responsibility with this freedom” and I’ve learned to worry only about making the best use of the time supporting teachers, school and district initiatives rather than worry about what a few people   think I am doing with the “extra time.” I am lucky to work with a    district and a school that values and understands the power of      teacher leadership.Thank you for your post!

    • PaulBarnwell

      Schedule/Priorities?

      Hey Lymaris!

      What do your non-teaching duties look like? Do you design your own projects? Are you assigned certain tasks? I think all of us who embrace the idea of hybrid educators are continually looking for more models, anecdotes, and success stories to help make hybrid roles more of the rule instead of an exception.  

  • Lymaris Santana

    Thank you for your post!

    As a hybrid teacher/instructional coach with Seminole County, I   am also free to prioritize how to utilize my  time in the afternoon.  Just like you said, it seems like a “piece of cake” job to some who do not realize the responsibility that comes with this freedom…    You couldn’t have said it better: “I’m in a position of privilege and      responsibility with this freedom” and I’ve learned to worry only about making the best use of the time supporting teachers, school and district initiatives rather than worry about what a few people   think I am doing with the “extra time.” I am lucky to work with a    district and a school that values and understands the power of      teacher leadership!

  • Kimberly Long

    Going Further

    Congratulations Paul on your new position as a Teacherprenur.  By reading your blog, I developed a stronger understanding of what a Teacherprenur’s day looks like.  It’s been a little while since our VOICE training and I am happy you are taking your talents in this new direction.  Keep up the great work!

  • Alyssa Jean

    Our profession

    Thank you for sharing your words surrounding your profession. I think it is essential that educators get the time you get to collaborate, reflect, plan, and experience. I especially loved the quib “experience writer’s block.” To often we do not get to practice, the very thing we are asking our students to do – wrestle with ideas. I think opportunities like yours are exciting because A) they are happening B) they keep amazing teachers in teh classroom instead of removing them to become “administration.”

    As a full time literacy coach who works closely with both teachers and admin, I cannot stress enough how important that all adults in education spend time with those they are there for- the students.

    I came to yoru blcok after reading “My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation.” Are there any more pursuits other than podcasting that you have created to give students space to practice conversation?

    Thank you,

    Alyssa Bruecken

     

  • Alyssa Jean

    Our profession

    Thank you for sharing your words surrounding your profession. I think it is essential that educators get the time you get to collaborate, reflect, plan, and experience. I especially loved the quib “experience writer’s block.” To often we do not get to practice, the very thing we are asking our students to do – wrestle with ideas. I think opportunities like yours are exciting because A) they are happening B) they keep amazing teachers in teh classroom instead of removing them to become “administration.”

    As a full time literacy coach who works closely with both teachers and admin, I cannot stress enough how important that all adults in education spend time with those they are there for- the students.

    I came to yoru blcok after reading “My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation.” Are there any more pursuits other than podcasting that you have created to give students space to practice conversation?

    Thank you,

    Alyssa Bruecken