The fantasy and reality of teacherpreneurism (and Arne Duncan)

Nerve-wracking though it is, there is nothing like speaking an idea to an audience face-to-face. This photo is of me speaking about teacherpreneurship at the Big Ideas Fest in Half Moon Bay California. Because I was talking about a concept from our book, Teaching 2030 (which will be in stores in just a couple of weeks!!!), I decided to speak as myself in the year 2030, with 27 years of experience. I thought it might keep people from the mental habit we tend to have of rushing to determine why the idea could never work…all the “but’s” and “no ways”…

It was by far the most challenging talk I’ve ever given because it was about work I haven’t actually done yet–work that is still in the idea phase, Nevertheless, I had to speak confidently, as if the development of teacherpreneurism were old news. Like telling a great big lie, actually. No, more like fiction; fiction that illuminates possibility.

I was not sure how this all would work with my audience, but it turns out people liked the format. Many people said they found it extremely convincing and, like me, did not want to return back to the present reality! A few people congratulated me and then said, “Good luck in your new roles…” I had to remind them that my talk was really a fantasy, but one that we need to figure out how to make into a reality.

This past week, I had a brush with reality, when I got to retell my idea in the form of a present-day possibility (rather than elaborated fiction) to Arne Duncan himself on a webinar with some members of the Teacher Leaders Network and some members of the US DOE.

I will say that I found Duncan to be a good listener and thoughtful responder throughout this chat. After I described the concept of teacherpreneurship, he told me, “You are definitely not alone” in wanting opportunities for teachers to take on a variety of leadership roles and be able to pursue their ideas for change and career advancement without leaving the classroom. He mentioned that the USDOE is currently funding proposals that experiment with ideas that have much in common with the one I described.

Some may say talk is cheap, and it is–it’s free, in fact. But we have to admit the conversation around teacher career ladders is changing. While some of the change is dangerous, at the same time, I think there is real possibility for teachers to become respected professionals now, where there seemed to be none before. I feel very, VERY, cautiously, optimistic.

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