Friday, March 21, 2014

TLConf 2014: Teacherpreneurs

This post is in a series about my experience at the inaugural Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, DC March 13-15, 2014. These posts are not endorsed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards nor the fine folks at the Teaching and Learning Conference. They consist entirely of my opinion. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.
March 14, 2014 - Teacherpreneurs Session
 If I could have only gone to one session total during this conference, this one would have been it.  I have never felt so inspired as a teacher before. There were four people presenting the session: Barnett Barry, Ann Byrd, Lori Nazareno and Jeff Charbonneau (2013 National Teacher of the Year). [Can I just geek out and say that Lori and Jeff follow me on Twitter now...insert me squealing like a 10 year old because to me it IS a big deal.] This session was based upon the book Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don't Leave which was written by Barnett Barry, Ann Byrd and Alan Wieder.

Here are some notes/insights I gained from this session:
  • Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) ( has a Collaboratory of teachers who want to lead without leaving their classrooms.
  • CTQ has grown from a "Think Tank" to an "Action Tank"
  • The concept of Teaching2030 -- what teaching will be like in the year 2030 if we make change now
  • Teacher-Led School -- Lori Nazareno is my new hero because she started one. She says, "1 in 3 teachers in America could do what I do under the right circumstances." Amen sista!
  • Teacherpreneurs are leaders who still regularly teaching children but still find time, talent and reward to lead.
  • 3 Barriers to Teaching
    • Organizational Schedules (Teachers in China teach about 9 hours per week -- which is full time -- so that they have the rest of their time for planning, collaboration and leadership)
    • Cultural Belief that all Teachers are the same
    • Political Reality that many teacher leaders aren't seen positively
  •  Jeff Charbonneau -- 2013 National Teacher of the Year
    • Adjunct professor at three institutions so all of his students can earn college credits for taking his classes in high school
    • We have to bridge barriers to lead other teachers
    • Lead by doing the work together (in other words, lead from the floor)
  • Lori Nazareno
    • Started an organization to help and support NBCTs
    • Found the opportunity to meet with like-minded people
  • Question from Audience: How can we do this at the elementary level?
    • Teacher-led school is an elementary school
    • Teacher-led school has no "formal" administrator. Teachers spread the leadership around and absorb the duties that would normally be handled by an administrator/principal. 
    • Lori says she would hire a business manager to do some of the duties that proved to be a bit too  much for the teachers (I assume this means things like payroll and whatnot).
    • PD is decided upon solely by the staff
    • It is not a charter school but an entity within a public school district
  • Think like Business People -- how can we teach "them" that what we do matters as teacherpreneurs. Adopt a "return on investment" type of model. 
  • There is a stigma holding teachers back -- we are the "humble servants"
  • Question from Audience: How do we get the administration to trust us to do this? Jeff responds: Treat them like your students. Teach them. (LOVE!)
  • How can you sustain leadership when you are full-time in the classroom?
    • We need hybrid roles wherein teachers are face to face with children regularly (ideally daily) but have release time to work on leadership roles
    • Push for a coaching role that ties specifically to a classroom and puts you in a classroom frequently
    • Building Capacity -- everyone in your building should know how to do those "extra roles" 
      • In other words, one person shouldn't be wearing all of the hats. At my school, there is a need for Social Committee chair, Safety Sponsor, Tech Coordinator, etc. Their point is that EVERYONE should know how to do these roles just in case the person who started in them leaves or is no longer available/capable of doing it.
  • Audience Question: Who comes in when a teacher leader is out of the classroom? 
    • Co-teachers may be hired to relieve each other so both teachers can pursue leadership roles
    • Release time grants may be available to allow teachers to continue to lead but also teach

Let me tell you that these people were definitely speaking my language!! I have such a desire to make changes in the educational arena (specifically K-5 education, possibly K-8) but it's so hard to do that when you teach full-time. If you also have a family of your own, you truly do become burnt out trying to do it all. One thing that Barnett Barry kept saying was that teacher leaders really need time, talent and reward to be able to spread their gifts around to others through leadership and coaching. I have to agree. When they showed us the schedule of the teacher from China (I think I was China but I could be totally wrong), I think my jaw may have hit the floor. 9 hours per week of teaching?? I do more than that in 2 days. I can only imagine how refreshed I would feel with half a workload, the same salary I currently make and the time to spread my knowledge around to others. 

Once I got home, I joined the Teacher Collaboratory at CTQ and bought the e-book version of Teacherpreneurs. I'm excited to jump in and see where this takes me because truly it is everything I would want -- to still be able to teach children every day but also have release time to work with other teachers and/or fulfill policy/leadership roles in education elsewhere.

The Caffeinated Teacher


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