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How to think like a teacherpreneur

By Team ISTE
October 29, 2015
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The term “teacherpreneur” is fairly new and is still seeking a full definition. One thing that the experts agree on, however, is that the teacherpreneur has traits similar to the entrepreneur. They are innovative, they are willing to go off script to bring new ideas into the classroom and they all possess a certain drive or attitude that pushes them.

Not every teacher is cut out to be a teacherpreneur, and that’s OK. As Suzie Boss, education writer and co-author of Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, explains, if you are in a school where the teacherpreneur attitude is welcome, it benefits everyone. The traits that influence that entrepreneurial spirit and the ideas they’ve brought to life can rub off on other educators.

It’s all about problem-solving, Boss says, and that extra spark of inspiration to take problem-solving to the next level. “Teacherpreneurs recognize there is an unmet need, and they have the wherewithal to come up with the solution and test it, and then they share it so others can benefit,” she adds.

In fact, many of the traits teacherpreneurs possess are outlined in the ISTE Standards for Teachers, such as promoting, supporting and modeling creative and innovative thinking, and engaging students in solving authentic, real-world problems, to name a few.

Here are the top ways education thought leaders share their ideas:

Ed chats. Educators around the globe are tapping Twitter to discuss topics, share lesson ideas and collaborate on projects. There’s no end to the number of ed chats happening on Twitter each week.

Edcamps. Similarly, what started out as a small group of educators who wanted to get together to improve their craft has turned into a full-blown organization meant to disrupt the traditional professional development model and make it more collaborative and relevant.

Quadblogging. Teachers can take their innovative ideas to the students, too. Quadblogging started as a way to connect student bloggers to an audience. The creator, David Mitchell, found that students are better writers and communicators when they get responses, so he created a blogging platform to match up classrooms in groups of four who take turns posting and responding to other blogs.

Taking new ideas and putting them into action within a school is not an easy task, even when the ideas seem so simple or obvious. “Schools are comfort zones,” notes Angela Maiers, a writer, speaker and founder of the Choose2Matter movement. “Entrepreneurs are about pushing comfort zones.”

Teacherpreneurs can help other educators move beyond those comfort zones is by encouraging them to remember their own passions, perhaps the passions that led to a career in education in the first place. When a person or group of people are fiercely passionate about an idea and are willing to take risks, that attitude can rub off on those around them. It can inspire teachers to push their own boundaries. Just as important, Maiers says, it can provide a positive model for students and turn them into better, more enthusiastic learners.

Of course, not every idea is going to be successful, which is why teacherpreneurs have to be willing to take risks and school administrators need to be willing to take the chance that there may be failed innovations.

However, the best teacherpreneurs will focus on improvement. You want to keep what works, and then you make it better, says Vicki Davis, teacher and IT director in Camilla, Georgia, and author of the Cool Cat Teacher blog.

“You want to empower people to take some risks,” says Davis, “but recognize that teachers will have different risk levels.” If something is working, she adds, teachers shouldn’t hesitate to use those ideas in their own classrooms first, and then be willing to share them with others in their own school and beyond.

“The great tragedy in education is that when teachers retire, too often their skills, innovations and ideas go with them,” Davis describes. Encouraging teacherpreneurship and using it as a tool for professional development means that the best ideas will live on.