When we polarize the worlds of education and business, we miss what we can learn from each other. For example, there are many ways to apply an entrepreneurial approach to become a more effective educator:
1. Don’t wait for “someone else” to solve a problem. We know the issues that need solving because we live and breathe them, which means educators are in the best position to articulate and perhaps even develop solutions. I continue to be surrounded by other educators who are true experts and have workable ideas. I value their expertise and experience as much if not more than researchers, and certainly more than most policy makers.
2. Develop an online professional learning community (PLC). Entrepreneurs recognize the importance of networking and finding out what others are learning and doing. You are not the first educator to encounter the problems you’re facing. We learn from the successes and failures of others. I rely heavily on my PLC to help me discover new resources and to keep current on ideas and policy changes, which makes me a better educator.
3. Develop relationships with mentors with different kinds of expertise.Entrepreneurs find mentors at different stages of their careers and in different fields. Too often educators only find mentors in their specific discipline. Though this makes sense on many levels, talking with others who have different perspectives can lead to more creative thinking. My high-school teachers who struggled with classroom management learned so much from observing elementary-school teachers because of their phenomenal ability to orchestrate their classrooms.
4. Test your “product” effectively and efficiently. I’ve begun thinking differently during discussions of pilots in schools, advocating for a more agile approach. It’s important to understand how the individual components of piloted programs are working. What aspect(s) of the program are what make the difference? For examples, is the new resource affecting the student outcomes or is it the collaboration built into the pilot? Discovering which components are more important allows us to focus our time and resources most effectively. When we attempt to implement too many new programs (“features” in the business world) at once, we lose clarity in knowing what’s led to a success or failure.
Instead of rolling out a program for the whole district with a single, final evaluation at the end of the pilot, advocate testing an idea in a handful of classrooms with frequent points of data collection. Make sure to know exactly what is being tested so that the results provide the most usable feedback.
5. Think about scalability. One of the first questions asked of an entrepreneur with a good idea is how does this scale. As a nation, we’re struggling to figure out how to scale effective education so that all students receive the education they deserve. What works in one classroom/school however may not work in all classes/schools. Before implementing a strategy that works in one classroom (or one school), make sure that it works in several others before implementing it district-wide. This extra step can save significant time, money and goodwill.
6. Perhaps most importantly, maintain a curiosity about the world and remain life-long learners. Entrepreneurs tend to be intrigued by a wide range of subjects, continually reading, investigating and asking: what if? As teachers we should be passionately engaged with the world around us because it makes us better educators, especially when our cross-disciplinary knowledge aids our students in making connections. We also can’t expect our students to be intellectually curious if we don’t model this curiosity for them.
Katrina Stevens (@KatrinaStevens1) has over 20 years experience as a district leader, professional developer, principal, adjunct professor, consultant, academic dean, department chair — and throughout all of these roles — a teacher. She has worked in public and independent schools, from elementary through higher education. Stevens publishes via herblog where she writes extensively about professional learning, educational technology and lean thinking. http://smartblogs.com/education/2013/01/28/six-entrepreneurial-skills-can-make-us-better-educators-katrina-stevens/
When you’re pondering about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, don’t overlook the business savvy of kids. They aren’t always consciously striving to climb the ladder of success. However, the journey from toddler to teen leaves a trail of tested developmental data.
Here we feature the 8 areas of ‘kids’ mindsets:
#1 – Negotiations
Children of all ages are masters of the art of negotiating. Watch a child engaging in the bargaining process. Kids learn early on that everything has subjective value and might be considered trade worthy in certain circumstances.
Take stock of your own negotiating inventory.
#2 – Compromise
Reaching agreements results in more rewards than stubbornly wallowing in stalemated disagreements. There is nothing defeating about walking away with a gain. When you want two jumping frogs for your slingshot, keep in mind that frogs aren’t so easy to catch. One frog or no frog? It’s that simple.
#3 – Resilience
Kids seldom take ‘no’ for an answer. When they hit a wall, they walk around it, climb over it or set up a catapult. They don’t quit until they have exhausted every possible way to achieve their goals. They are driven with passion, determination, ingenuity and optimism. You need all of those tobe an entrepreneur.
#4 – Resources
It’s important to know who has the best, the most, the cheapest, the best delivery time, etc. Kids look through junkyards, yard sales, ‘free’ ads and under rocks. That’s all aside from keeping a list they’ve acquired through the grapevine of those who can offer the best fish bait, fireworks, homework help and bike repairs.
#5 – Funding
When more money is needed, it’s important to be able to turn to more than one funding source. Kids already know this. When one parent turns out empty pockets, they shamelessly hit on the other parent. Benevolent uncles and friends with generous allowances might be willing to offer some temporary financial relief.
You don’t know if you don’t ask.
#6 – Real World Social Networking
You can never have enough contacts. Most kids join activity groups to be with other kids. As the social circle widens through introductions, there is an increase in invitations. The cousin of the friend of the kid on the wrestling team knows the lady who is in charge of auditions for the play you’d love to be in. Hmmm…just maybe.
As we grow older we make less time for social groups like sports, performances and hang outs. There could be a lot of great new info we are missing out on from one another if only we made more time for social networking in the real world, not just online.
#7 – Promote Yourself
It’s okay to talk about your talents, goals and successes with pride. The power of word of mouth advertising can start with you. There is a difference between bragging and exuding supreme confidence. Just be sure that you can deliver on your claims. As you show others what you can do, word will get around.
Those who are in need of your talents will find you.
#8 – Dream Big!
While it’s necessary to be realistic, it’s also important to project a positive outcome. It’s okay to want a pony someday even if you currently only have room for a dog house.
Success will allow you to address such minor details.
As you can see from the above tips, it’s sometimes worthwhile to look back as well as to look forward. Remember when you were a kid and unstoppable! Now the risks are greater, the challenge is bigger and the potential rewards make it all worth it. Like all kids, you practiced and honed your business skills. Back then, it was part of being a kid. Now it’s all a part of how to be an entrepreneur in the adult world.