Thanks for giving such solid perspective on the present confusion with the term “teacherpreneur.” After our retreat this weekend to the Center for Teaching Quality’s headquarters, I had plenty of discussion with the rest of our co-authors on this topic, one I didn’t want to touch up until a few months ago.
The term “teacherpreneur” was wrought out of the conversations about professionalism of the teaching profession. Frankly, the binary conversation about the current state of our unions need not be. For instance, I’m not sure why our current union can’t simultaneously create more opportunities of agency for individual teachers and still fight for the basic rights of the collective. I’m a strong proponent of an elevated teaching profession, but it has to be done in a supportive environment for creativity.
This is not one of them.
Thus, the term “teacherpreneur” gets mixed up with terms like “education entrepeneur” (see: Rhee) instead of what it’s intended to do: allow teachers to create their own opportunities while still serving in the classroom. If we continue to perceive the teachers as the hired help (Renee Moore’s a genius), then we’ll continue to get treated as such. It’s amazing that, even as the ideas in the book gain traction with futurists and unionists alike, we’re still having a discussion about whether teachers should be compensated better. We discuss Finland now as the epitome of success for their superior assessments and 100% union membership, but don’t recognize that they also compensate their teachers well above living expenses. Why, then, do we still chastise those teachers who discuss compensation in the context of advancing the profession?
Because too many people still consider teaching as nothing more than an advanced degree in babysitting. And people usually have very fond memories of getting babysat.
Now, I’m not in favor of merit pay because that term is too loaded in the current environment of test scores, and even the most convoluted formulas project a 35% margin of error over a 4-year period and an 11% margin of error over 10 years. Instead, we need to consider better evaluations and evaluators, too. We can develop better ways of assessing teachers while minimizing the biases our current supervisors may or may not have about what constitutes good teaching. We can speak up about matters other than education and still be considered educators.
We have to create the narrative now, not just a counternarrative.
Or maybe it’s a matter of the name itself. If even our most intelligent colleagues are getting confused about the intent of the message (usually without a remote understanding of the context from where it comes), then we can only expect where the general public might confuse this term. Then there’s the present possibility of these ideas getting in the wrong hands instead of the people who need to occupy this third rail. Those of us entrenched in the work know how vital our work will be for advancing the profession we both love. Teacherpreneurship isn’t for everyone, but these can be the agents of change needed to push the envelope for those who think simply adding more responsibilities on a teacher’s plate is a sustainable model for schools.
Teacher leadership is the present. Teacherpreneurism, or whatever we call it, is a part of the hopeful vision for the future.