Opinion
School & District Management CTQ Collaboratory

So You Want to Be a Teacherpreneur?

By Jessica Cuthbertson — February 19, 2014 5 min read

Leading without leaving is the greatest perk of life as a “teacherpreneur.”

For the past two years, I’ve worked in a hybrid role through a joint partnership between my school district and the Center for Teaching Quality.

This means I spend my mornings with 7th graders. Right now my English language arts class is immersed in a biographical photo essay genre study.

I spend my afternoons (and sometimes evenings and weekends) with adults. I connect with other teachers, school and district leaders, policymakers, parents, and community members to support thoughtful implementation of the Common Core state standards and the Colorado Academic Standards, among other teacher leader initiatives.

Like teaching, teacherpreneurism is not an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. gig. Instead, it’s a professional identity—a part of myself I can’t turn off. And it’s highly addictive.

On some days, I discover amazing intersections of advocacy, new partnerships, and diverse perspectives that push me to be a better teacher and leader. Other days find me experiencing caffeine overload, administrative tasks, deadlines, teacher guilt, and endless wondering: How did testifying on the Hill help my 7th graders? Should planning for a webinar or contacting parents take priority? Do reading, tweeting, and emailing really count as leadership work?

The role of a teacherpreneur varies widely depending on the geographic context, skills and passion areas of the practitioner. (Examples of other teacherpreneur roles include helping teachers redesign schools or building connections with expert teachers in other countries.). So I can’t tell you what a “typical week” looks like—every week is different!

But here’s a peek at my past week:

  • Monday: Arrive at school early and finish lesson planning for the week, teach class, then attend gifted-and-talented identification meetings for three of my students who should have been identified years ago but somehow slipped through the cracks. After a late lunch, hop on a monthly virtual check-in meeting with my coast-to-coast teacherpreneur colleagues. Squeeze in legislative-liaison training facilitated by our association president before dinner. End the day reviewing Colo. SB 14-136, a bill intended to stall implementation of the state standards including the common core, and polishing my testimony on the bill.
  • Tuesday: Meet with my principal for my mid-year review (part of the annual teacher-evaluation process) and add evidence to my Evernote portfolio. Teach class. Catch up on email and take care of tasks that require computer access as I prepare to be mostly “offline” for the next two days. Take part in a VCO (Virtual Community Organizer) webinar with colleagues from across the nation. Close out the day by practicing and timing testimony before falling asleep. (Will I ever be able to cut enough to hit the three-minute speaking limit?!)
  • Wednesday: Report to the state capitol building by 7:30 a.m. for a panel on standards implementation. Get to know my seatmates: the lieutenant governor, a member of the business community, and an awesome math educator from the rural San Luis Valley. After the panel, visit with a reporter, and then dash back to school to teach. After conferring with 10 writers deep in the drafting process, drive back to the Hill for the state board of education meeting. Testify first during public comment, and listen to colleagues (and many voices from the opposition). Marvel at the disconnect between parents, teachers, and schools and scheme about how to help community members better understand classroom realities. Enjoy a Thai feast at a dinner meeting with two colleagues to plan for a panel focused on “Elevating the Status of the Teaching Profession.”
  • Thursday: Teach a mini-lesson on crafting interesting captions and set up for the second half of class, when students will practice creating captions for their photo-essay images under the supervision of my sub. Rush downtown for a taped segment on the standards issue and the current “stall” bill under consideration by the senate education committee. Later, testify (and support colleagues who are testifying). Think about ways to bring the amazing thinking students are doing as a result of new standards to a bigger audience. After witnessing four hours of testimony on both sides, drive home, kick off high heels, and collapse into bed with a glass of red wine; thankfully it’s almost Friday.
  • Friday: Wake up and check email and Twitter. Learn that after six hours of testimony, the “stall” bill was killed in a 4-3 vote. (Yay!) Proceed with “normal” teaching and leading day, including a meeting with my 7th grade literacy professional-learning community. Collect exit tickets for the week and prepare for a weekend of rest, relaxation, grading, planning, and blogging.
  • Every day is different. Every week has its own rhythm (and not all weeks are this crazy).

    But you might be a budding teacherpreneur if:

    • While showering, flossing, or running Sunday errands, you find yourself lesson planning and daydreaming about ways to improve public education.
  • You write things like lesson objectives, emails, Tweets, blog posts, and letters to policymakers in your head before drifting off to sleep at night.
  • You’re interested in (and troubled, and disgusted, and amused by) public policy and education reform possibilities.
  • You like dressing up for days with state legislatures (or for an audience other than your students) and dressing down for nights spent connecting virtually with colleagues on webinars and in asynchronous conversations.
  • You benefit from a lot of input and collaboration from the field across time zones, content areas, grade levels, and geographic contexts.
  • You “geek out” on blogs, professional texts, and all things edu-speak.
  • You want to lead without leaving the classroom and consider student contact time the highlight of any given workday.
  • Basically, you might be a teacherpreneur if you spend a lot of time looking at your principal during staff meetings and thinking: Wow, I would never want his/her job! But I sure do wish I could teach and ...

    And if you caught yourself secretly planning your teaching and leading to-do lists while reading this post, consider applying for CTQ’s 2014-15 teacherpreneur cohort today.

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