This gymnastics champion wants to help you succeed as a teacherpreneur
By Emily Schickli and Erica Magnusson from TES
This article was originally published on EdSurge.
Teachers are epic multi-taskers—they do it every day and in different ways. Dale Duncan is one such teacher, and so it’s hard to put a label on him. He’s a musician, teacher, gold medal winning aerobic gymnast, and now—a teacherpreneur.
Every teacher’s story is worth sharing, and his is no exception. As a first-year chorus teacher twenty-four years ago, Dale struggled. He found himself taking sick days in order to seek out and observe mentor teachers from whom he could learn the ropes.
Now having become a master-teacher himself (he won the National Lifechanger of the Year Award in 2013), Dale is thrilled that he can use technology to share his passion and classroom teaching tips with the world. In his words, “teachers don’t get the help they deserve.” So, how exactly does Dale solve this problem? He started sharing his unique sight-singing program called “S-cubed” through blogging and social media, and due to its popularity, he turned it into a business.
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Dale looks like the perfect picture of teacherpreneur success: his resources make bestseller lists on a number of marketplaces including TES; his blog boasts a vibrant community; he has a loyal following on social media; and he still makes time to teach in the classroom and pursue his passion for coaching aerobic gymnastics around the globe (he’s currently in Tokyo judging the Suzuki World Cup). His approach to developing resources? Follow your passion, find out what students don’t know, don’t fault them for not knowing it, and find ways to teach it in a fun, engaging, and unforgettable way. If that’s not worthy of a medal, we don’t know what is!
When he first forayed into the edtech landscape, however, Dale faced a steep learning curve. He had no idea “what the heck HTML code was.” Just two years later, he’s recording videos, being featured on podcasts, and designing resources—all in his free time. What’s more, he’s generous with the wisdom he’s gained while learning by doing.
Whether you’re thinking about new approaches to technology in the classroom, about becoming a teacherentrepeneur yourself, or hunting for ways to improve your already up-and-running teacherpreneurial venture, you’ll gain some new insights from his top tips below.
Dale’s tips for the budding teacherpreneur
- 1. Do your research. Join teacher forums that focus on your subject area to get a sense of what resources your colleagues actually need, and then use that information to create materials that target those needs. You can also ask around at your own school, but keep in mind that you’ll have only a small sample size of what teachers are missing in their classrooms.
- 2. Create your own unique vision. “Don't follow the leader,” says Dale. Instead, think about how you can make teachers’ lives easier and use your strengths to do just that. Begin by thinking of all of the ways you can use technology to make your resources better than 20th century textbooks ever were.
- 3. Get recording. Dale films himself using his lessons in his own classroom; he then shares these videos for free, which in turn promotes his lessons. He recommends creating videos that walk teachers through your resources, explain how to implement them in the classroom, and provide tips for them to determine success. You can get started by getting administrative and parental approval to record classroom progress and then purchasing a $20 tripod from Amazon. Dale’s videos are completely unedited—both to conserve time and because he wanted to showcase real progress...and the sillier moments.
- 4. Promote, share, rinse, and repeat! Promote your resources across all of your online presences, not just in the marketplace. Don’t have any? Create a blog, grow a following on social media, and create a Blendspace with your resources. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the resources below.
- 5. Connect with other teacherpreneurs. From the minute you decide to start sharing and selling your teaching resources with other teachers, you’ve become a teacherpreneur. As with any new venture, there is a community you can lean on for support. The very nature of being a teacherpreneur is wanting to help other teachers, so reach out to your fellow teacherpreneurs and let them help you!
Sites and tools to make your life easier
In his own career has a teacherpreneur, Dale has found these tools especially useful.
- 1. Need help with blogging and social networking? Dale found Charity Preston’s website, Teaching Blog Traffic School, extremely helpful for beginners. It covers starting a blog, using social media, connecting with fellow teacherpreneurs and much more.
- 2. Here’s a quick guide with tips on how to start sharing and selling your resources online.
- 3. For you music teachers out there, Dale loves Music Prodigy and Smart Music because both allow his students to access musical scores on their smartphones. Teachers
- 4. Try Blendspace, a free, online, digital lesson building tool, as a way to package and showcase your individual resources and other online content as a cohesive lesson. A good rule of thumb: Many people don’t know that they want what you’re offering until it’s clear that it’s easy to implement without outside help.