Three Tips for Aspiring Hybrid Educators

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.

 

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  • JustinMinkel

    You said it all!

    Paul, this is the most robust yet succinct “handbook” I’ve seen for teachers considering a hybrid role.

    This has been an amazing year for my school due in part to what I’ve been able to do as half-time 1st grade teacher, half-time teacher leader. To name the main three, we received a $100,000 grant to implement home libraries for every child in my school and many kids in two other schools in the district, we were profiled by the US Department of Ed as one of five schools with remarkable growth, and my principal was named Arkansas Elementary Principal of the Year.

    I think we need to point out these kinds of school-wide benefits to principals and superintendents; the impact on attrition (fulfilled teachers are more likely to stay) is very real, and so are the tangible benefits that a teacher with more time and mental space can bring.

    A caveat: in my case, I’m simply doing a half-job for a half-salary in terms of my official role with the district. I echo all you said but especially the point that teaching half-time feels more like 75% on most days, and a formal teacherpreneur role can feel like an additional 75%. That said, most of the full-time teachers at my school seem to be working 150% time with a single classroom teacher.

    At the elementary level, finding a kindred-spirited partner teacher is key; I have a wonderful one, and our respective talents (i.e. she’s a great science teacher; I’m not) complement one another.

    Thanks for the practical piece; I’ll be sharing this.

  • JustinMinkel

    One more thing…

    I also love your focus on your classroom teaching as the priority. I just stepped down from two different boards because I felt that this year it got out of balance, without the time I needed to not just teach well, but keep growing and developing as a teacher. Effective teaching is the heart of our credibility and perspective as teacher leaders, and you have to go back to that well again and again.

    • PaulBarnwell

      Kudos!

      Justin,

      Congrats on finding the right balance this year as a hybrid teacher. Key idea: time and mental space. I’ve finally scored some serious grant funding for new professional learning models, but it was only because I had enough hours to draft, propose, go back to the drawing board, network, etc. There are so many teachers out there who can and WILL enhance their learning communities if they have the appropriate leeway and autonomy to seek solutions. Hope we can cross paths sometime soon!

      -PB

  • Andrew Mowbray

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