Posted by Ariel Sacks on Tuesday, 08/04/2015
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting, in person, Starr Sackstein, a fellow NYC teacher leader, blogger, and author, thanks to CTQ’s Barnett Berry who had the bright idea to introduce us. On top of the fact that she is super cool and we immediately clicked (see her post about synchronicity between online and in person connections, as exemplified by our meeting), I was really excited to meet someone with whom I share so much professional common ground— in the classroom and in the professional world beyond—who teaches in NYC. And is female.
Why is this so significant? I know and love many kick-butt female (and male) NYC educators, and most of my closest friends at this point are NYC teachers. However, I’m usually the odd one in the group who also writes a blog, published a book, has a website with my name, is active professionally on Twitter, and generally participates in leadership work beyond my school. My friends appreciate and respect this about me, but they don’t share the same interest. As passionate teachers, they pour their energy into their various roles at their schools (as well as their lives outside of work). On the other side, I have friends who’ve left the classroom for administrative and coaching roles or to pursue doctorate degrees in education, and are now former teachers. But Starr and I both represent the somewhat rare combo of practicing teacher and professional edu-writer-leaders, also known as teacherpreneurs.
We aren’t the only ones, of course. I have no doubt there are many more in NYC I just have not had the opportunity to meet. The two fabulous NYC teacherprenuers I have connected with— Jose Vilson and Steven Lazar, both featured along with me in Teacherpreneurs: Innovative teachers who lead without leaving—happen to be male.
Why is gender important when it comes to teacherpreneurs? In a majority female profession, it’s surprising how much more comfortable men are than women at claiming their expertise beyond their classrooms and schools. It’s surprising, for example, how much trouble I had around the decision to create my arielsacks.com website. (My husband was like, When are you going to do this?! And I would say, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel like my style… until I finally got over it) Starr had her own story on this topic, which she writes about in her book, Blogging For Teachers. In talking to Starr, we were able to relate on our internal struggle with self-promotion, which is, it turns out, very important when it comes to selling books. (And why write a book if you don’t want others to read it?) We could talk about our connecting our English classrooms in interesting ways, and we could talk about our experiences with editors and publishers and writing for a real audience. Finally, we share our different but nonetheless related realities of doing what we do and being mothers. (This is another post I’m writing with the baby wrapped on my chest).
As I’m writing a few final thoughts come to mind. First, I thought of another NYC female teacherpreneur! That is Genevievé Dubose, a teacher in the Bronx, who left the classroom for a few years to work in education policy, and has now returned to the classroom. I interviewed her on this blog last year, and she’s detailing her work in her blog, Back to the Point.
Second, I actually considered prefacing this post with a bloggers’ note telling readers that my thinking may be less polished than usual here. In other words, I may not be totally confident in my point here—I don’t mean about the coolness of meeting Starr, a fellow female teacherpreneur, but about the greater significance of it. But that vague insecure feeling is just a manifestation of our society’s sexism. I learned to identify and tell myself that a long time ago and it has served me well in many areas of my life. But the stakes do seem higher when communicating in such a public way: a privilege and responsibility at the same time.
Third, who else is out there in NYC? Fellow female teacherpreneurs, if you’re reading this, please say hello! (All others welcome too :)