Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead, Don’t Leave
I wish I had a box full of Teacherpreneurs books that I could carry with me at all times. Since I started reading the book, I have found myself referring to it in conversations almost constantly, and it is easy to understand why: its goal is to empower teachers. I want every teacher I know to read this book.
It’s not hard to find a discussion about education reform. If there are two or more teachers in a room, conversation will inevitably turn to policies that would improve student learning and educator job satisfaction, and everything that the people in power don’t understand or are doing wrong. We have all been a part of that conversation. Unfortunately, there are few outlets for teachers to have their voices heard.
Teacherpreneurs provides examples of teachers who left these conversations and found a way to take action, with varied results. A teacherpreneur is a classroom expert who leads without leaving the classroom. It might seem like something many teachers already do, or that we tell ourselves we do, but this is a new vision.
Models of teacher leadership
The first chapter explains past, present, and future models of teacher leadership. The first three models we are all familiar with: in the first wave, teachers have served as grade-level chairs or department heads and in basic managerial roles that administrators did not want, or could not find time to perform. The second wave model allows educators to teach other educators, either in a workshop setting or with mentoring relationships. The third wave is the current movement toward professional learning communities, in which teachers collaborate with and learn from one another.
A 4th model under development
Teacherpreneurs examines a fourth wave, one in which teachers create and implement broad solutions for the challenges they face daily in their classrooms. This shift requires creativity and flexibility on the part of the teacher, principal, and district leadership. Imagine a job in which a teacher leads class in the morning and conducts research in the afternoon. Picture a high school teacher who teaches a reduced class load and spends the rest of her day working with nonprofit organizations to advocate for better wraparound services for her students.
There is no single model presented as ideal, because these roles should be designed to match local need with teachers’ interest and skill set. Some of the teachers in this book were able to design their own roles, while others got assistance from the nonprofit Center for Teaching Quality, where the co-authors are leaders. Their outcomes were equally varied, with some teachers reporting feeling disconnected from their students, while others found a comfortable balance between policy work and the classroom.
Part case study, part workbook
Teacherpreneurs is part case study, part workbook. Each chapter includes the story of a teacherpreneur. Their stories provide a glimpse into both the opportunities and potential drawbacks of these innovative roles. Throughout the book there are QR codes linked to online videos that illustrate central ideas in the text, including some that feature the teacherpreneurs discussing their experiences. Each chapter closes with an opportunity for reflection, asking the reader to consider what his or her path toward teacher leadership could look like.
For a classroom teacher, this case study-workbook structure is invaluable. Looking out from a traditional school and classroom vantage point, it is difficult to imagine what a teacherpreneur role looks like on a day-to-day basis, and it’s even more challenging to begin to plan how to create a teacherpreneurial job for yourself. This book not only provides authentic stories to help with the imagining but a sample memorandum of understanding between a school district and a nonprofit organization, weekly schedule, and work plan. The activities at the end of each chapter are a framework for thinking about what a new role could look like in your school, wherever that may be.
I wish I had been able to read this book before I left teaching. It gives me hope for teachers who, like me, are frustrated by the limits placed on teachers within the traditional, 7 o’clock to 4 o’clock, August to June model. Teacherpreneurs shows us how to dream big—something we are used to doing for our students, but rarely do for ourselves. We can reimagine what teaching can be, and Teacherpreneurs is a great way to start.
Meghan Tooke is an education advocate in the Mississippi Delta. She is the director of the Tallahatchie Early Learning Alliance, a coalition dedicated to improving the quality of academic and social-emotional outcomes for young children in Tallahatchie County, MS. A Teach for America alumna, she spent five years in the classroom before moving into her current role. She is pursuing her Master’s degree in early childhood education at Mississippi State University and lives in Clarksdale, MS.