Thursday, August 6, 2009

Are You a Teacherpreneur?

In my own attempts to make ends meet, I've been doing just about anything and everything I can think of to save money or make money. Spending the last year in Boston made this not so much a lifestyle choice as a necessity. First, I had to make my money go farther:
  • Moved back to south Texas to cut rent and most other expenses
  • Cut down or eliminated monthly expenses (cell phone, cable, Netflix, etc)
  • Sold/traded/donated almost all of my books, DVDs, and CDs (and stopped buying new or used ones altogether) online
  • Sold an electric guitar and amp and just about anything else that had any value whatsoever through Craigslist
  • Switched from buying daily iced coffee at a coffee shop to making a delicious homemade version
  • Learned to enjoy eating, drinking and entertaining myself at home
  • Read blogs about saving money and getting more out of less on a daily basis and applying what I've learned
  • Stopped traveling for the most part; I saw my family about the same amount of times that I did when I lived roughly 2000 miles away, and despite all logic, I didn't travel to visit my friends in New York the entire time I lived in Boston!
I can honestly say I was happy with all of these changes (except for the last one, for which I was recently able to make amends) and plan on sticking to them. Doing all of this really made me think about what other teachers and educators might be sacrificing to make their paycheck go farther.

What's really been intriguing me, however, is the other side of this issue: making money beyond our regular teacher pay. I think I've become what some have termed a teacherpreneur and I feel like I'm not alone. Throughout my career, I've taken advantage of nearly every extra pay position I was offered. How many of these have you done?
  • Taught after school and/or Saturday tutorials
  • Took a leadership position (department chair, team/cluster leader, committee chair)
  • Became a coach/club sponsor
  • Participated in voluntary, extra professional development workshops
  • Taught summer school classes
  • Participated in curriculum writing
I've also seen people turn their colleagues into customers for a side business--everything from passing out business cards to one enterprising teacher who sold tamales door-to-door (classroom doors, that is).

Yet when I think about this idea of teacherpreneurship, I'm wondering about how many of us start our own business on the side in order to make more money.

I think there are two distinct camps. The first group applies their teaching/education knowledge directly: private tutoring, consulting, teaching college courses, creating and selling all types of teacher resources. The second group has a hobby or skill unrelated to the classroom that they turn into extra money.

Personally, when I created this blog I was not expecting to make any money. Two years later, I make a few dollars a month from advertising and referrals. I wrote Ten Cheap Lessons last year and have just about broke even on that. Now I find myself doing things like taking $0.05 jobs on Amazon's Mechanical Turk service and trying to parlay my blogging abilities into freelance writing gigs on other topics.

If we assume most teachers take extra jobs in and around school and/or become an entrepreneur in their spare time, the big question that looms over all of this for me is: Why do we have to do this? Why are we not paid enough that we don't have to?

I'm really interested in your feedback on the many questions surrounding this issue, especially with a new school year on the horizon. Am I right? Dead wrong? Let me know in the comments.