What is an Entrepreneur Doing in a School?

The estimated reading time for this post is 3 minutes

In one of my classes for my administrative credential, we were asked to write the “position we wanted” on one side of a folded piece of paper that served as a name tent.  I wrote “entrepreneur.” I got an assortment of sour and quizzical looks from classmates, and some skeptical questions: “What is that supposed to mean?”  This week, I had a chance to  reflect more on the role of the entrepreneur in school. Here’s what I wrote:

“One connection between the content from the last few weeks and my work situation has to do with the various frameworks or concepts that map out contending forces in public education: equity vs. excellence vs. choice vs. efficiency, for example; or constraints, demands and choices, for example; or even various approaches to executing administrative duties, such as politician vs. leader. vs. manager.  As we develop a new learning model which will eventually become the hybrid high school, we realize that we are not only 1) creating the hybrid courses, identifying, recruiting, and 2) developing hybrid teachers, and 3) identifying, recruiting and developing hybrid students to fit our optimal hybrid student graduate profile, we are also building processes and seeing how processes contribute to culture.

One book that we’ve referenced this week in our staff interactions (21st Century Learning has a department of 3 full-time members, myself included), is the E-Myth Revisited, which is a guidebook for entrepreneurs. We often reflect on the fact that we are creating something that has never existed before, and we use the metaphor of climbing Mt. Everest, scaling unknown heights of flexible and personalized learning, both of which remind of the tenuous journey of starting a new company.  Like the E-Myth Revisited argues, we retain the important understanding that we are not simply climbing one height, or producing one innovation, rather we are creating an environment in which creating innovative approaches to learning and personalizing learning in an environment of rapidly changing technology.  In the language of starting a new business, it’s not enough that I can bake amazing muffins that someone wants to pay $9 each for, I have to systematize the amazing muffin – and corresponding experience, so that every worker in my bakery can delivery at least at the level of quality of product and interaction as I can.  To this end, it’s helpful to remember that the myth that faces every entrepreneur is that they have everything it takes to succeed in birthing a new business; as a matter of fact, to succeed, an entrepreneur needs to be an entrepreneur, and a manager, and a technician, able to lead the business forward in all three areas. And, to complete the magic trick, the entrepreneur has to be able to walk away at any moment and have the entry level employee deliver results meeting the owner’s standard.

One of the unexpected tasks we have discovered this week is a commitment to develop a glossary for our work, so that we communicate consistently and clearly about innovations, processes, and culture especially when they are new and yet unknown to the students and teachers who we have to identify, recruit and develop.  The commitment to clear and consistent – and new – language is a commitment to systemize the innovation so that the first student this year and the last student in ten years, experiences the beauty and fullness of the promise of our new hybrid learning model.   

Here’s a brief clip of the inimitable Michael Gerber, author of the E-Myth Revisited.  While this is not the best clip in the sense that I didn’t set out to “get rid of the boss” and work for myself, there’s is a huge and contrarian truth stuck in this clip: all schools are small businesses and if schools are going to become “new” or innovate in some way, it will require all three roles/approaches/identities in the leadership to reach that new land.

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Coordinating 21st Century Learning in Santa Ana & beyond. I practice art through photography. I raise funds for clean water with Team World Vision.

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Coordinating 21st Century Learning in Santa Ana & beyond. I practice art through photography. I raise funds for clean water with Team World Vision.

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