What follows is a narrative version of the speaker notes from my Spring semester Flex Day session (Friday 6 January 2012) on Teacherpreneurship. The original notes were in outline form but I’ve converted them here into sentence & paragraph form (hence, they may sound a bit disjointed).
The problem is that educators often work in isolation: they work alone, educational leadership comes from outside the “community of practice”, and innovation is non-collaborative & (hence) less successful.
First, teachers work alone. There is a dichotomy between instructors & school leaders. An instructor’s career path is separated into teaching only or administration only. Collaboration is not part of academic culture (it happens by chance or is a one-time collaboration, or it is usually non-instructional [i.e., committee work, etc.]).
Second, educational leadership comes from outside the “community of practice”. Experts write book (not teachers). Education professors mentor new teachers (not teachers). Politicians write policy (not teachers). Administrators run schools (not teachers).
Third, innovation is non-collaborative & less successful. Innovation is hard to implement. Institutional culture doesn’t favor innovation. Innovation is largely theoretical. And, the incentive for innovation is assumed (by those on the outside) to be financial.
One solution to this problem is “teacherpreneurs”. Teacherpreneurs are (a) teachers grounded in successful practice, (b) acting as teacher/leader hybrids (teachers who are part-time administrators, teachers who are mentors, teachers who organize professional development, teachers who develop curriculum, teachers who create & influence policy, teachers who interpret educational law, teachers who engage with the community, teachers who are researchers, teachers who coach other teachers, etc.) (c) who are creating a future of innovation (based on experience).
A significant benefit of teacherpreneurism is that it results in collaboration (& a corresponding reduction of isolation): hybrid roles foster collaboration, innovation is more likely to be successful, and teacherpreneurs are able to develop professionally.
First, hybrid roles foster collaboration. Teacherpreneurs create networks of like-minded educators. Teacherpreneurs find & foster audiences for their expertise. Collaboration is built into the institutional culture of the college. Other members of the educational community become partners in education (students–esp. students!–administrators, support staff, other faculty members, and members of the community).
Second, innovation is more likely to be successful. Innovation is grounded in teacher’s real-life experience. Innovation is grounded in a “community of practice” (innovation flows from on-the-ground events & innovation is more likely to be buy-in). Innovation is part of the institutional culture (collaboration fosters innovation, hybrid roles create time for innovation [similar to Google’s Innovation Time Off]). Innovation is motivated by concern for students (rather than money).
Third, teacherpreneurs develop professionally. Teacherpreneurs share their expertise with others while others share back with them. Teacherpreneurs participate in an exchange of student, faculty, staff, administrative, community & political voices; they are exposed to different perspectives. Teacherpreneurs develop skills in policy making, leadership, outreach, mentoring & coaching.
Creating a culture of teacherpreneurship will requires active commitment. The status quo is powerful: it has resisted change for a century & it has resisted change despite local innovations & it has resisted change despite a rapidly changing world. We need to build a critical mass of committed teacherpreneurs in order to bring about change.