Tracking the teacherpreneur: 5 steps to accountability

“I still don’t get it,” my new social studies teammate bluntly stated.  “What do you actually do?”

I get these questions a lot lately.  My school colleagues know I’m somewhere in the picture, like the red-and-white striped Waldo I used to hunt for in picture books.  But now that I’m a teacherpreneur, teaching in the mornings and working on education research and policy in the afternoons, that’s about all they know.

My district is taking a leap of faith by working to replicate a similar model of teacherpreneurial roles in each of its schools (Did I mention there are more than 240 schools in the district?).  The question on the minds of Hillsborough leaders isn’t just, “What are you doing all afternoon?”  It’s, “How will this impact student achievement?”

Hmm… I don’t actually know yet. I’m still adjusting to a new grade level, a new curriculum, and a new classroom. I’m harnessing an array of electronic calendars, Evernotes, and reminder systems that make my desktop look like one at the Kennedy Space Center. I’m checking off one Outlook task but adding three more.

While excited by the project possibilities of teacherpreneurism, I feel like a first-year teacher all over again – exhausted, inefficient, and overwhelmed.

One of the first things I learned as this school year started is that teaching part-time is still teaching full-time.  There is a certain level of commitment required for teaching any students, even if the number is fewer.  I still have to attend all the same meetings and then some.  I plan lessons with the same verve, if not more, because my students cannot afford to flounder while I figure out how to manage my time.

So, how can I focus on the big priorities while managing the little ones?  As I spent some time researching teacherpreneurs, I pinpointed this recent blog comment by policy maven Rick Hess:

“…entrepreneurs need to be aggressive and strategic about collecting data and documenting their impact.”

Now there’s a place to start.

Despite the quagmire of tasks lining my learning curve, I understand one key to success in this position: teacherpreneurism may be unsustainable for anyone without a measurable impact on student achievement.

Here are five ways I vow to measure my effectiveness and accountability:

Write, write, write! I need to document this journey for the stakeholders invested in my role and for my own sanity.  I’ll blog about my adventures as a teacherpreneur, offering specific tips for emerging and reluctant teacher leaders as I learn them.  I’ll also keep a detailed journal for my personal growth.

Student and parent surveys. Authentic student and parent voice is critical to any teacher’s reflective practice.  I spent some time looking at my district evaluation rubric and aligning it with questions that seem most affected by my hybrid role. For example, I aligned this item with Domain 1 (Planning and Preparation) of our district’s evaluation framework (which was inspired by Charlotte Danielson’s work:

Rate your level of agreement with the following statements:

  •             My individual learning needs are still met when my teacher is absent.
  •             My teacher applies new research to our learning.
  •             Our lessons and objectives are designed to maximize our time.

Regular check-ins.  In addition to weekly meetings with the Center for Teaching Quality, which sponsors my role, I have set aside regular time to meet with district leadership, my principal, and rotations of students.  These are open chats to discuss my work, others’ perception of it, and how I might apply it to benefit each of these stakeholders.

Highly organized virtual learning communities.  I’ve grown tremendously by collaborating with the folks in my own personal learning network.  I do this through webinars, video PLCs, social media, videoconferencing, and asynchronous discussion threads.  Why can’t my students do the same?  Like my TLN colleague Ariel Sacks wrote in a recent post, I have eliminated some time and space barriers by developing a 24-7 classroom network on Edmodo.

A digital portfolio of lessons based on my teacherpreneurial experiences.  My cohort of teacherpreneurs studied Mindset, by Stanford professor Carol Dweck.  I turned that study into a mini-unit aligned with the International Baccalaureate Areas of Interaction.  My eighth graders wrote memoirs about their own mindsets and how they developed an Approach to Learning.  We set concrete learning goals that included failure as a necessity.  We’re also sharing our visions through Pinterest boards.  By the end of the year, I hope to have a trove of these lessons based on my journey as a teacherpreneur.

What do you think?  How else might I show accountability for my students this year besides their test scores?