How do we keep accomplished teachers in the classroom? Could the answer be a growing acceptance of hybrid roles like a “teacherpreneur?” Teacher leader Ariel Sacks outlines some current opportunities to those who are considered “master teachers.”

I’ve been thinking about the issue of teacher retention—from a different angle than the one I usually do. I want to keep on teaching. I’m usually focused on what I need to stay in the classroom just one more year. I’m thinking ahead of now, down the line for myself. What conditions do I need to feel like I could stay in classroom teaching pretty continuously through my career? I’m also looking at the accomplished teachers at my school and wondering what it would take to keep them working directly with students?

I’m someone who will probably always be involved in other professional activities, such as writing. I also like to think about ideas and policies at the school level or larger scale. I often find myself working on projects around these ideas. But it gets exhausting. Classroom teaching done well takes almost 100% of a teacher’s time and effort. How will I balance these things as the years push on? Will I ultimately have to choose one?

I suppose this brings me back to the idea of a hybrid role for teachers (which was my birthday wish in 2009). I see a fair number of hybrid roles in schools these days where accomplished teachers teach part-time and mentor or supervise other teachers part-time. Many of these school-based roles are created by principals to address problems in their schools and retain teachers. Some are created through federal TIF grants (Teacher Incentive Fund). In these cases, hybrid roles are granted only to teachers who have high student test score rates using value-added measures with the idea that they will teach other teachers to get the same results.

In NYC, there is a pilot program in “turnaround schools” where teachers with good value-added records of student test scores can become a demonstration lab classroom and earn 15% above their salary.  “Master teachers” with the same qualifations can teach part-time and coach part-time (schedule at the discretion of the principal) and earn 30% above their salary. All of this is contingent upon their maintaining their own students’ progress as measured by the standardizesd test scores (and value-added measures have some serious limitations and shortcomings in their ability to validly and reliably identify effective teaching). I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to any teachers at these schools and find out how it’s going. I’m curious. Would those conditions keep an accomplished teacher in teaching?

What about hybrid roles that have a teacher teaching half-time and engaged in other professional activities the other half of the time? Who would pay the “other” half of the salary? What would interest a school leader in hiring or retaining a good teacher half-time?

CTQ now has at least two teacher leaders serving in hybrid roles that include half-time teaching at their schools and half-time policy leadership with CTQ and their unions. Using a concept we developed in TEACHING 2030, these educators consider themselves teacherpreneurs. Noah Zeichner explains this in this Ed Week post, A new kind of hybrid role: Teacherpreneur. (I also developed some framework around this idea in a slightly different but related direction for my rapid fire presentation at the Big Ideas Fest 2010.)

Might we see a movement toward more diversity in the types of hybrid roles available to teachers? Perhaps if we want to see more high quality teaching across the board, we have to make it both enriching and sustainable. Maybe there is a perfect hybrid role (or series of hybrid roles) out there for the majority, not the minority, of teachers.


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