Teacherpreneur Paul Barnwell offers advice for educators considering pursuing a hybrid teaching role.
I’ve heard the following from current K-12 and college administrators–all former teachers–this past school year: I wish that opportunity existed when I was teaching. Sometimes I miss working directly with students. I was ready for a new challenge. All of the aforementioned comments came upon the heels describing my own work as a teacherpreneur in Louisville’s Jefferson County Public School system. I’ve spent the past year teaching English and Digital Media half-time at Fern Creek High School and working on developing–and engaging in–new professional learning systems and structures during the other part of my day.
Unfortunately, teacherpreneur and hybrid teaching roles (I’ll use them interchangeably) are still fairly uncommon. And I do wonder how many current administrators, instructional coaches, and other non-instructional leaders would have tackled the challenge of being a hybrid teacher or teacherpreneur if given the chance…my guess is quite a few.
While working in a hybrid capacity isn’t for everyone, here’s some advice for educators who hope to lead while remaining grounded in the classroom:
Don’t Wait For A Job-Opening: Create One
In the vast majority of school districts, human resource departments don’t post jobs that say “half-time teacher, half-time (fill-in-the blank).” This is admittedly an impediment to more widespread adoption of hybrid roles. After all, when administrators staff a school, it’s easier to follow the traditional paradigm, filling in full-time teaching slots to create a master schedule.
If you’re determined to continue working with students while pursuing additional challenges, be proactive. Speak to your administrators and district leaders about your desire to lead while remaining grounded in the classroom.
Maybe you’ve got expertise in instructional technology and hope to coach others in your school and district. Or maybe you’re determined to design and expand services for English Language Learners. Maybe you’ve got a knack for writing curriculum. It’s hard for me to imagine a sane administrator turning down a hybrid proposal–especially if it keeps an effective teacher with one foot in the classroom.
You Must Be Flexible
Teacherpreneur and hybrid educators are often entrusted to remain effective classroom teachers and juggle countless other duties. Yet there’s not always a clear path about how to go about doing this.
Ask any entrepreneur who’s starting a business about their daily routine and I bet it’s varied. The same goes for working as a teacherpreneur, depending on your goals and assignments. I’ve gone home at noon some days, working on writing proposals from my comfort of my front porch. Other days I’m at school until 4:00 tutoring students on the craft of writing thesis statements or analyzing arguments. Many nights I’ve participated in webinars with a statewide cohort of educators in Kentucky.
If you like the predictability of a teaching schedule, you’ll be challenged in a hybrid role. But if you can embrace varying demands on your time and workflow, you’ll find yourself energized by the variety of activity.
Teaching Halftime is More than a Part-Time Job
As a teacherpreneur, you’re given time for other work and projects while continuing to teach. Consider, however, your own teaching schedule. If you dropped half your classes, you still might have multiple preps. You might still participate in weekly PLC meetings after school (I do, and I’m glad for it). The major difference is time demands is in grading and assessment; there’s undoubtedly less work on this end with fewer students and classes to teach in a hybrid capacity.
Be aware that it’s very tricky for hybrid educators to feel effective at both teaching students and also engage in layers of other meaningful work. I strove to make classroom teaching my priority; there were times when my lesson planning, student feedback, and other “normal” teaching work felt diluted by the other half of my job. It was at those points in the year I had to “reset” my priorities and ensure that the kids came first.
Given the bleak data surrounding teacher satisfaction and retention, it’s clear that creating more career pathways for teachers should be a priority for school districts across all fifty states. If adults are empowered as learners and professionals, kids will reap the benefits. But if you’re waiting for your human resources department to post “half-time teacher, half-time (fill-in-the blank),” go for it and fill-in-the-blank yourself.