A Night in the Life of a Teacherpreneur

It’s early Saturday morning, the bedside clock reads 2:21 and I’m still awake. On one side, my husband of almost a quarter century sleeps deeply. On the other our Australian shepherd sprawls, her doggy snores punctuated by twitching paws and soft whines as she chases squirrels in her dreams.  Between the two I am restless, overly warm despite the chill in the air, uncomfortable. I twist and turn, trying to create a little space for my legs, my elbows, to no avail. I’m trapped.

I could get up; make my way to the living room and my computer. But to avoid disturbing my bedmates would require moves better made by a contortionist. And what would be the point? Despite the fact that my brain won’t turn off, I’m tired. Besides, I don’t want to get up. My discomfort is perfectly balanced with the security and comfort I take in being sandwiched snuggly between my favorite person in the world and my favorite canine. Discomforting comfort. How’s that for an oxymoron?

That’s when it hits me. My uncomfortable-but-don’t-want-to-leave posture is the perfect metaphor for what I’ve been wrestling with as a new Teacherpreneur. There’s a reason I’m wide-awake at 2:21a.m. And it has little to do with the caffeine in the Excedrin I took around midnight.

My colleague Paul Barnwell recently wrote about a day in the life of a Teacherpreneur. Our days are somewhat similar. I teach 2 classes in the afternoon and spend my mornings supporting teacher leadership endeavors – my own and those of other teachers. I wrestle with writer’s block. I strive to be a better teacher, despite my divided time.

But my nights, well, those are a little different.

Nights are when things get quiet, quiet enough for my inner voice to get really loud. The voice that says, “I love the autonomy of a hybrid role, and I’m terrified of the autonomy of a hybrid role. What was I thinking?”

When I applied for the role of a Teacherpreneur, I was full of confidence and excitement. I KNEW I could handle anything. I imagined the freedom, the possibility, the sheer bliss of having time to focus on teacher leadership without feeling guilty that I was neglecting my students or my family.

Those first little tastes of real freedom were sweet. No one was standing over my shoulder, telling me what to do, how to spend my time or how to “prove” that I was working hard. My work plan was designed by me, for me. What I could accomplish on any given day was limited only by my imagination. Autonomy was heady stuff.

It was also terrifying.

I didn’t realize how much comfort there was in being told what to do and when to do it. That check-list we keep as teachers – all the things to accomplish each day, week and semester – may be somewhat stifling and constricting, yet it is familiar and safe. I know what is expected, when it is expected, and how it will be evaluated.

I have none of that familiarity and safety in my hybrid role. I’m in uncharted waters. Yes, I have a compass. And I have a dynamic support system. But for the first time, I’m at the helm. And with that freedom comes the weight of responsibility. What if I mess it up? What if I don’t leave the role better for the person who comes after me? What if I think I’m forging a path to something new and find myself sailing off the edge of the world?

Being a Teacherpreneur makes me really uncomfortable. Yet there is nothing else I’d rather be doing this year. Herein lies the paradox. I find myself in a constant push-pull of thoughts and emotions, much the way I feel trapped between my husband and dog: uncomfortable and secure at the same time.

Having time to work on things that really matter to me – things in addition to the work I do in my classroom with my students – is super cool. For once I don’t have to dream about all that I could accomplish if only there were more hours in my day. And yet …

Years of being told what to do and how to do it have left me conditioned. I may dream about autonomy, but the reality of it is scary. How is it possible to want something so badly and yet be so afraid of it simultaneously?

This is the terrible beauty of being a Teacherpreneur. In truth, most things in life that are worth pursuing represent the terrible beauty William Butler Yates spoke of in his poem Easter 1916. Things that are wonderful and glorious can be terrifying as well. I can only imagine the simultaneous thrill and terror that would accompany standing at the summit of Mt. Everest or hovering in a submersible over the bow of Titanic, over two miles beneath the surface. What matters most in those moments is not the thrill or the terror but the mindset with which I confront them. Will I grow in new ways from the discomfort? Will I embrace the familiar and remain eutrophic? Or will I find that there is some room for both, that my journey is not one of extremes and ultimatums but rather of reflection, balance and discovery?

I look over and see the clock reads a little after 3:00. My bedmates shift, opening up room for my legs and elbows – freedom! I stretch and yawn, my inner voice suddenly quiet. There will be more uncomfortable moments to be sure; that’s the nature of sharing a bed or working in a hybrid role. But for now I embrace sleep, knowing that the days – and nights – of a Teacherpreneur are often paradoxical and oxymoronic, familiar territory for an English teacher.

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