Becoming Edupreneurs in 21st Century Schools

Edupreneurs are risk-takers, lifelong learners, and recruiters

Becoming Edupreneurs in 21st Century Schools

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin

Becoming an edupreneur requires the dusting off of three dispositions of our younger selves. These are three postures that made many of us fearless warriors in the education arena, taking on every challenge we faced with energy, enthusiasm, and most of all, eagerness.

We owe this gift of an edupreneur’s approach to our remarkably able student body, who are trying hard not to—but most definitely are—leaving us behind. They move along at lightning speed in every aspect of their notable generation. They know how to connect, like no other generation, with the tech tools and a deepened sense of humanity at their disposal. They prefer collegial endeavors, inventing the concept of collaborative teaming up with inventive ideas that spread like wildfire: the flash mob, the massive march on Washington, instant trends with amazing apps developed by ten-year-olds. Yet they balance schedules packed with organized events with their own space—downtime, peer time, and self-only time—and still manage to maintain respectable academic records.

So, in spite of lame rumors to the contrary about millennials, the young people of this generation are rocking their world with innovations launched daily, record-breaking athletic feats in every possible arena, ambassadorships throughout the world, and taking on the roles of troubleshooting activists already advocating for a better, safer, more human society.

In a complementary role, we, as education leaders can fully embrace and adopt the role of edupreneurs. Curious what that might look like? A lingering vision of the edupreneur that emerges embraces three mega-dispositions of risk-taker, lifelong learner, and persevering recruiter, inspired from earlier years as educator extraordinaire. Clustered within the three habits of mind that capture the essence of the modern teacher are descriptors by Reid Wilson (2014). From his visionary list of behavioral dispositions for the modern teacher, he cautions, “21st century teachers are not experts in technology, they are experts in habits of mind.”

Based on Wilson’s perceptions, the following discussion is enhanced with additional insights to illuminate the depth of these predictive observations. For the eager teachers, aspiring leaders, and recruiting educators, the ideal hire may require a very different bar of exceptionalism, just as “Google Hires” has discovered (Friedman, 2014) in screening candidates for their company. Their mention of intellectual humility and stepping in or stepping up when needed give a flavor of the kind of soft skills that rise to the call for star hires.

Risk-Takers

The ones able to step outside their comfort zone, the early adopters of change in digital-rich classrooms, conference spaces, presentation halls, and outside of the brick-and-mortar school will be in demand. Embracing change, not as simple as it sounds, is a key trait we must cultivate in a modern school culture. Look for the ones who welcome that newly assigned classroom, even though it’s small, or dig in earnestly to the adaptable curriculum, invite the incoming principal into their room, welcome the constant stream of new instructional software, and make time for that new kid who shows up five weeks into the term. Look for those who model an active curiosity, questioning everything and offering their own devised answers. Remember, “Kids are born as question marks and leave school periods,” according to Neil Postman (1969). How do we retool our values of conformity and compliance and honor the risk-takers willing and able to upset the apple cart? Are we ready for this kind of sweeping change?

Lifelong Learners

Knowing those genuine learners, celebrating their code of honor as lifelong learners, this habit of mind is authentic and somewhat rarer than one might think. Revisiting Toffler’s prophetic statement, “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” (1970) seems particularly relevant.

Thinking about Wilson’s (2014) list of traits of the modern learner, they often actually run toward their area of weakness, not away from it. They show up as the techno-wannabe, the novice volunteer for the spring competition day—and, best of all, they are not afraid to ask for help. They believe they can learn anything, when they adopt the right attitude and put in the needed effort. Lifelong learners see themselves as co-learners in the classroom, and they move easily into their students’ world, even if it’s foreign territory.

In fact, these dedicated learners, as modern teachers, see life as their classroom and learn along with the kids, as well as learning from the students who are experts in an area, when the teacher admittedly is not. This lifelong learner does not shy away from the new, the unknown, and the yet to be fully developed. They jump in and take it from where it is and where they are, and somehow find ways to tackle the mysteries and move confidently forward. These are the dauntless learners who enjoy the journey as much or more that the destination, presenting a picture of the learner, not just seeking the right answer and calling it done, but sincerely enjoying the serendipities of the learning experience.

Persevering Recruiters

Perhaps the least recognizable trait of the modern teacher is the one of the persevering recruiter, comfortable not knowing what’s going to happen, choosing to be vulnerable, and modeling the principle that failure is okay. These persevering recruiters dream big and ask “Why not?”

They are unwavering advocates and do not wait till they’re experts to introduce something; they just do it, modeling an envied resiliency and persistence that is admirable. Wilson’s prediction (2014) about modern-day teachers alludes to an innate level of salesmanship that exudes confidence with their strength and belief in what they are doing. Persevering recruiters take risks as pioneers and early adopters, yet they feel secure asking for help from colleagues and are continually persuading others to come on board. They understand the hard work required to develop expertise and the stubbornness needed to keep going when the challenge is hard.

In Closing

When people are not afraid of failing, they are free to take risks, assume the stance of lifelong learners, and persevere in recruiting others into the realm of becoming a modern forward-thinking educator. As we feel the sense of urgency to think about teaching in a radically transforming way, in this radically transforming world, it will serve us well to embrace the skills and most of all the spirit of these proactive, productive, and philosophically daring habits of mind. This is how one discovers the power the modern teacher has to empower students to new and perhaps unforeseen heights.

 

References:

Byant, A. June 19, 2013. New York Times. “Adapted for this exercise… Corner Office: Laszlo Bock.” In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal.

Friedman, T. February 22, 2014. “How to Get a Job at Google. Hint: Getting hired is not about your G.P.A. It’s about what you can do and what you know.”

Postman, N. and C. Weingardner. 1969. Teaching as a Subversive Activity. New York: Penguin Education.

Toffler, A. 1977. Future Shock.

Side Note: (2009) To Quote, Unquote and Re-Quote. “You’d be forgiven to think it’s ‘his’ book when in fact it is the compilation of many future-thinkers, edited by Rowan Gibson in 1997.”

Wilson, R. (2014) “Wayfaring Path: Profiles of a Modern Teacher.” https://twitter.com/wayfaringpath/status/521996611719688192?lang=en.

Why I Loved Co-Teaching

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– By Robin Fogarty

Why did I love co-teaching? It’s simple and it’s complicated. It’s simple, because when I look back, I know in my heart, it was the best teaching I ever did. It was complicated because we learned constantly, coached each other continually and reflected every single day. We also celebrated successes with the students who were always at the center of our decision-making.

Our circumstances were unusual as we had a multiage classroom of 8-12 year olds, in a double room with a flexible, folding wall and two teachers of different backgrounds and teaching experiences, in different grade levels. We taught all subject areas, encouraged families and siblings to enroll, and invited parents to volunteer in whatever ways they could. So, yes, it is simple to say I loved co-teaching. But, I’m definitely not saying it was easy to pull off. It was not easy for either of us, or for the students, who at times, looked like deer in the headlights.

Even though we had planned and planned and planned…we revisited, reorganized and rearranged, reviewed and retreated any number of times, yet, what we realized was, no, it was not easy, but it was surely worth every ounce of knowledge and knowhow we were learning. At the end of the day, we knew our students had experienced valuable lessons of learning and of life in an environment rich with content, relevant with the varied groupings we used, and rigorous with the mindfulness required.

What Exactly Did I Love About Co-teaching?

More specifically, here are some of the reasons I love co-teaching as a viable and proven model to support our students in their inherently personal learning journeys. These were the attributes of that dynamic model of teachers teaming to provide the best of the best for our students.

I loved the collegial partnership, the reflective culture, instructional flexibility, the necessity for creativity, the natural collaborative environment, the range of academic content and the life lessons of tolerance, leadership and kindness for all.

Collegial Partnership:

Two heads ARE better than one. Four hands are better than two. It’s called synergy. One leads, one facilitates; both lead, both facilitate parallel groups; one facilitates small groups, one coaches one on one; both conduct individual reading conferences or math check-ins; one works in the room, one in computer lab or library. The partnership affords creative uses of both professional with equal footing for both.

Culture of Reflection:

The reflective moments at the beginning and end of the day are invaluable as professional growth experiences. So much is voiced and considered explicitly that seldom happens when working as the sole teacher in the room. Just the ongoing comments, questions and concerns throughout the day are teachable moments for both.

Instructional Flexibility/ Spiraling Curriculum

  • Individuals

Reading and math seem to work best with individualized, data-driven materials, specifically designed resources, varied methods, and student/teacher conferences, to monitor progress and stay intently connected to the student and his well-being.

  • Small Group

Of course this model is punctuated by small group interactions for typical skill development in vocabulary, higher order thinking skills for comprehension strategies and deeper understanding. These groups are flexible and constantly changing as the talents  and needs are determined.

  • Whole Group

Flexibility means using the whole class model, particularly in social studies, health and science that have spiraling curricula and also often may warrant class field trips, presentations and performances. Writing exercises, art projects, science experiments provide opportunity to move through all three constructs- individual, team and whole class with both teachers intently involved in the planned lessons.

Creative Innovation

Creative innovation is a given when the structures change in fundamental ways. With co-teaching both students and teachers are acutely aware that this is different than one teacher, one class. They are a little anxious, but the students are also eager to see how the day changes. The human brain loves novelty, it’s how teachers get focused attention from the kids. This co-teaching strategy offers the perfect setting and resources for inventive collaborations as the various advantages emerge with each new development. Learn to enjoy the freedoms it offers for good solid teaching and learning and don’t fret too much about the restrictions you might feel.

Habits of Mind:

Perhaps the most powerful outcome of the co-teaching process, and it is ultimately a rewarding process, are the life lessons that evolve as the teacher/student interactions become more complicated, versatile and changing. From these novel circumstances, student attitudes, dispositions and habits of mind seem to percolate. They learn tolerance for others as teachers model collaboration and student groupings constantly change; they learn leadership skills, as teachers model shifting roles and students start stepping up or stepping in as needed to help out, and most of all, the entire experience somehow speaks to kindness and caring for all involved. Why? I’m not sure, but that’s what I always saw happen in my team-teaching experiences.

In Closing

What I know is this. You too will learn to love co-teaching as you have time together to talk candidly about your greatest fears, and your highest expectations. Your team develops as you begin to look at models of co-teaching and configurations that work for your class and as you get down to the nitty-gritty of what you each will actually be doing. And the trust evolves, as you both learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as earnest partners designing the teaching and learning for YOUR class. Enjoy the learning adventure!