A large percentage of the emails I get from this blog are from teachers. Some teach in a classroom but keep their kids out of school. Some don’t have kids but they read this blog because they are sure they won’t put their kids through what they see their students going through. Many teachers who read this blog feel stuck. So this post is for them.
Teachers are well aware that the system is stacked against them. The best teachers are ones who have great ideas for what kids need to feel fulfilled. Those are the teachers that could make a huge difference in kids’ lives. If only their days were not tied to the Common Core standards.
Teachers can think of a million reasons why being a teacher is so different from other professions – summers off, done at 3pm, responsibility to the kids, etc. But I’ll tell you, you don’t accomplish anything by telling yourself you are a special case because then you’re back to solving all your problems on your own.
The best thing to do is to look at other people in industries that are a mess. What are those people doing?
The reason most commonly cited for staying stagnant in a horrible profession is that “this is all I know.” or “I love the regular paycheck.” In other words, people stay in jobs that will never get better because they are afraid.
But the rules of growth are the same for teachers as it is for kids: If you’re not failing you’re not growing. So you owe it to yourself to try new ideas for your career, even if the first few you pick might not work out.
The healthcare workers who are growing are setting up shop on their own. Nurse practitioners, especially, have a huge entrepreneurial spirit to transform the way we receive health care. They earn money when they have patients, and they’re trusting themselves to bring in more clients each month.
The people in the newspaper world who are surviving are those who took a more entrepreneurial route. Nick Denton, Om Malik, Sarah Lacey. They earn money based on traffic, so it’s a hard risk to take, but who better to bet on than yourself?
When I was in fourth grade, my grandma had been teaching school for thirty years and got so fed up with the administrators that she left and opened a children’s bookstore. I remember laying out her first round of inventory. I could tell she was nervous that it wouldn’t work out.
But it did. And my grandma went on to have one of the most high-profile children’s bookstores in the US.
So it’s natural for me to expect that teachers who feel stifled by the system will use entrepreneurship as an outlet. Entrepreneurship is a good way to change up a career choice gone bad. And for those of you who think teachers aren’t the type, that’s just not true.
Here are two more examples:
Manzanita Kids is a husband/wife team. David is a carpenter and Adrienne is a school teacher. Adrienne designs toys she knows her students would love to play with, and David builds them. Today the business has grown and Adrienne is not teaching because she is stuck—rather, she’s teaching because helping students learn is fertile ground for her design instincts to run wild at home, after school. Entrepreneurship breathed fresh life into Adrienne’s teaching career.
Another example of an entrepreneurial teacher is Lindsey Volin, founder of Home Art Studio. When I think of art I think of all the budget cuts schools have had in recent years. It seems the more we know about the benefits of art curriculum, the more schools leave it to parents to provide that curriculum to kids. Some teachers complain about the situation, and indulge a sense of doomed powerlessness against the system.
Lindsey, however, chose to use her art education degree to launch a company that exposes kids to a wide range of art, through a step-by-step home-based curriculum. (The photo up top is from one of her fans). Lindsey shows another path that’s open to educators besides being a cog in the wheel of a system that doesn’t work.
Teachers going out on their own has another great benefit: recognition. While teachers in schools are mired in politics of parents and budgets, entrepreneurial teachers are recognized quickly for excellence. and the place most conductive to innovative teaching is outside the classroom.Lindsey, for example, just received a prestigious award for art curriculum.
The teachers who are bright, innovative and driven should have the opportunity to succeed, and using their talents outside the school system is more realistic than most people think.
Here are some resources to get started:
Entrepreneur magazine’s How To section for starting a business
The science behind getting yourself to take a risk
Your biggest barrier to starting a company (it’s not what you think)
My course, How to Start Your Own Company (I have to add that one, right?)
List of investors who put money into education companies