We're celebrating Start Up Week this week in Chattanooga. The energy is palpable and the air is ripe with a sense of expectancy and possibility. Entrepreneurs live in a fast-moving world of what-if possibilities, solution pitches, product/service development, scaling, funding, funding some more, analysis, marketing, a bit more funding, leveraging human capital..... They live in a world that tries to provide scalable, sustainable solutions to opportunities as quickly as they can be found. While I have a long-standing personal philosophy of arguing against the call for education to be ran like "any other business," I am increasingly convinced that the ed world has much to glean from the entrepreneurial community.
Almost all teachers have an innate entrepreneurial bend. Part of the allure of teaching is that, in spite of the many regulations and bureaucratic policies, teachers get to close their door and be the master of their domain every class period, every day. They get to create solutions. Teachers get to see students struggle and find ways to solve the problems they see. While standardization and testing have gone a long way to stifle the creative joys of teaching, there is still an undeniably gratifying moment that occurs when a teacher helps a student reach a true "ah-ha" moment. Much like the entrepreneurial engineer tinkering away until she finally says "Eureka," teachers may use a curriculum to guide the learning process, but in the trenches, truly effective teachers are constantly tinkering with their craft, making sure that every student can eventually "get it."
What I love most about successful entrepreneurs is their ability to constantly balance blue-sky possibilities with dose-of-reality actions. Education reformers notoriously revel in dream speak--devoting an enormous amount of resources to identifying and promoting what is wrong with the past and what could be in the future. While entrepreneurs undoubtedly engage in big dream sessions that are vital to fledgling organizational direction setting, the successful ones are intentional to make sure that those dreams are coupled with actionable plans. At some point, you have to stop talking about a possible solution and you have to actually go and build it, deliver it, and prove it. As Atari creator and founder of Chuck-E-Cheese, Nolan Bushnell, famously stated, "True entrepreneurs are not just dreamers. They are doers." This is where the marriage between teaching and entrepreneurship is most fascinating. Many teachers dream of a better educational experience for their students AND they live in the weeds where they have to actually deliver that experience. Entrepreneurs simultaneously provide ideal solutions while constantly reassessing and rewriting the book on what an ideal solution is. Highly effective teachers do the exact same thing. They deliver the best available learning opportunities to their students while constantly looking for ways to improve the process.
However, for years, the missing component in this fun comparison is that entrepreneurs have created an environment that leverages just-in-time, wrap-around supports that accelerate the entire process. In the modern era, this has become so true, that many corporate behemoths now look closely to the entrepreneurial community for innovations in office culture, management structure, and solution development strategies. In short, entrepreneurs have created a culture of support that is quickly becoming the norm--even among big business. This has not been the case in education. For decades, teachers have been left to close their doors and teach. While a measure of autonomy is invaluable (and as noted above, helps create the entrepreneurial feel of teaching), there is also immeasurable value in the "we're in this together" mentality that permeates the entrepreneurial community.
However, this is changing! I have been blessed to walk into a role at the Public Education Foundation in Chattanooga, where the community has come together to intentionally piggy-back off of the wave of entrepreneurial momentum to positively impact education. Through innovative programs and true partnerships from all sectors across the entire community, local leaders have set a machine in motion that is starting to provide these vital wrap-around supports for educators.
Imagine a community in which teaching becomes the professional equivalent to entrepreneurship. Imagine educators sharing experiences, colliding in open network spaces, and engaging in improvement cycles. Fortunately, in Chattanooga, we no longer have to imagine this. It's happening. We are becoming Bushnellian in that we are not just spinning our wheels dreaming of better days. The community, in all of its complexities, is coming together to do! We are making it better. It is happening now. Are you on board and ready to "Engage Every Student, Every Day?"
GE Foundation Leadership Summit
Leveraging Innovative Technologies for Learning
Texas Open Innovation Conference
Mar 27 - 29
Emerging Innovations in Education
Authentic Learning through PBL
FFT Leading & Learning
Connecting Global Education with the Tennessee Valley
reMake Education Summit
Sonoma County, CA
Keynote, Making Making Work in Education
National Governor's Association
Teaching Governor's to Code
US Dept of Education
Round Table with Secretary John King.
K-12 Pathways for CS
Ed Foo--Making in Education (breakout session)
K-12 Education Panels
Strategies for Reducing the Racial Gap in Computing
Boston Museum of Science
Teaching with Toys--Using Robotics as a Gateway for Computer Science
US Dept of Education
MSP Computer Science Proposition
§ The Great Miscalculation
§ Five Facts About Failing
§ Oh! That's STEM?
§ My Mom Isn't
an Engineer and That's