Dear Intrepid Teacher Leaders,
Congratulations! You have the opportunity to craft a hybrid role in which your innovative leadership transforms the teaching profession while you still teach students during part of the day. You’ll be a credible voice among teachers with relevant perspective to offer those outside of the classroom.
Wait…you’re considering two jobs for the price of one?
Why do it?
I know what you’re thinking. You want to make an impact beyond your classroom while feeding your creative passions (which probably drove you into teaching in the first place). Thirty years of teaching in a silo might not sustain you. You’re highly educated and experienced. You want to be paid to lead like an administrator, but you still want to teach.
And so you will get serious about obtaining your dream hybrid role, because as Richard Gere said in Primal Fear, “Why become an umpire when you can play ball?”
No matter your reason, get ready for the most exhilarating, rewarding role you ever imagined in education.
Let me first assure you that you will be better than this hack teacherpreneur Ryan Kinser. Unlike the start to his year, when he planned objectives on his toddler’s Doodle Pro because they erased easily, you’ll start with the end in mind. You might look at the Teacher Leader Model Standards and consider where you want to make an impact. You will write essential questions for yourself and your funders:
What problems can I solve as a teacherpreneur?
How can I empower other stakeholders?
Who can help me make this happen – my principal? District leaders? Angels in the public or private sector?
You’ll be wise to include the most important people who might help make it happen: your family. You’ll create a “need-to-know” group rivaling Tony Soprano’s. Stepping up to be a teacherpreneur can be a lifestyle decision if you have significant others, children, friends, and colleagues.
If you overextend yourself, you’ll find the quicksand. Teaching part-time is still teaching full-time. There are school functions, conference nights, committee meetings, papers to grade, duties to serve, you name it. That’s just half of your job. What about the leadership work? Like this Wired article recently said of Twitter, the conversations never end. And you will probably try to be in all of them before you realize this is impossible. But you’ll have fun doing it.
You are sensible, so you will agree with your loved ones on a rock-solid priority list and schedule that allows you to at least press pause on the work while you remember to be a good friend and family member.
I cite The Hack Teacherpreneur Ryan Kinser again, the poor soul who once slumped onto the couch after a long day and announced to his loving wife, “Just give me the high points. I don’t have room for anything else.” He became mighty comfortable on that couch, don’t you think?
In the same week, our teacherpreneur trendsetter thought it prescient to actually pencil in a football-throwing appointment with his five-year-old son before bumping him to Thursday in favor of two important Google Hangouts.
Yes, you will be better than The Hack.
When your Outlook to-do list becomes and endless color-coded scroll of hieroglyphics, you’ll step away from the desk, allow yourself a melt down, and come back a refreshed, mature human being committed to 3 types of goals – daily, short-term (1-2 wks.), and long-term (more than a month). You’ll categorize them by differentiating what is urgent and/or important. You agree to lose a daily battle or two with the list but not the war.
You will be so busy trailblazing teacher leadership that you will attempt to sync all of your digital devices and consolidate e-mail accounts when you can. Warning! Do not attempt to emulate The Hack. When your Galaxy Note II beeps, buzzes, and hums into the wee hours, and you are tempted to launch it like a Tom Brady touchdown pass and plead with T-Mobile later, don’t. Locate the DO NOT DISTURB function.
During these times, you’ll preserve years of your life by remembering to shut off your brain and do something fun – yoga, air hockey, handicapping The Bachelor, perhaps even sleep.
You may discover Lifehacker (the website and the book) and start answering e-mails at pre-set times rather than anytime your pocket vibrates or desktop chirps. In October you will declare multitasking a myth. By April you’ll be content with it.
You will grow comfortable with failure as well. You’ll learn it takes only ten seconds to craft an e-mail saying, “Thanks for your e-mail. I’ll get back to you on this by…”
You’ll appreciate think time, because at least once on this journey you will say something regrettable in a forum too public for your liking. You will vow to speak slowly, listen quickly. You will channel your inner Confucius.
You will feel like a novice all over again. Because you are, in fact. Instead of learning to plan units, you’ll plan leadership projects,. You’ll research resources, build a network, and figure out what schedule works best for you.
At times, you’ll ask yourself why this seemed like a good career move. Other times, you’ll be so engaged with impactful work that challenges even the most insatiable learner that you’ll hum and skip through your day.
You will lose heart at times, sink a bit below sea level, yet bounce back with great success.
When you reach a spring morning where you literally stop to smell cool dew and jasmine on your way out the door, the victories will bubble up in your consciousness. You realize you had a phenomenal year in the classroom by focusing on fewer lessons. You’ve designed, created, implemented, coached, supported, and written. You’ve grown immeasurably as a leader, one who starts to lead more from the middle and the back. You’ve advocated for this profession you love and the students we’ll send into the world. You’ll start to see others grow as leaders because of your work. Pause and appreciate them. Then get out of the way.
You will arrive at school one fine day utterly giddy because you know life trapped in a cubicle botching TPS reports isn’t for you. And that the four walls of your classroom aren’t the ends of your reach.
Above all, you will remember there are students who will idolize you as a leader of leaders. You will make them proud. You’ll make yourself proud.
“What the heck is a teacherpreneur?” I once read.
It’s what you make it.
Your sincere fan,