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Charter School Leaders: Inspire Your Inner Entrepreneur

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

Were you born to be an entrepreneur? I was. Starting back as far as the 90s, I dabbled in having my own business, working as an editor and resume writer when my son was a toddler. I also had a teaching certificate but found I just wasn’t comfortable working within district structures. Instead, I took my teaching skills out into the world of corporate training. For 5 years, I wrote training courses and led workshops for adults. But I still felt stifled and uninspired.

Training Workshops
For 5 years, I wrote training courses and led workshops for adults. But I still felt stifled and uninspired.

Then, I discovered charter schools. I fell in love. It was the perfect marriage of entrepreneur + education. After 20 years in charter schools, I’m still in love. I love the supportive environment, the “can do” attitude, and the absolute focus on students that many charter schools create. I love the excitement and challenge of opening new charter schools and seeing those fresh shiny faces and brand-new-school-uniforms on the first day of school. And I am inspired by the teachers who pour all their creativity, emotions, and even personal resources into their classrooms.

Charter school leaders are entrepreneurs

Whether you call yourself one or not, you are an entrepreneur. “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

That’s you. Charter schools are today’s great educational enterprise. You see an opportunity that others miss. You take great risks to open a new school. You have a drive to inspire others. You tirelessly invest in your dream. You are willing to evolve and learn. You build communities with others who share your vision.

Why it’s a problem

Two words: burn out. Sometimes it’s just too much. It happened to me. Has it happened to you?

What happens when you no longer find joy in your work? Are you exhausted, stressed, or just moving on? Protect your joy. Reignite your passion. Fall in love with your job again. Here’s how.

Three questions to move you toward your goals

Rise above. Lift your eyes from your desk (or your phone) and imagine the person you wanted to be when you started as a school leader. Hold that image, and then ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Whom do you admire most?

  2. What are you doing to learn from your heroes?

  3. How are you living what you learn?

How to reignite your passion

There are lots of ways to find your joy. This short list is just to get you started. What will you do to protect your joy or rediscover your passion?

Read books (or listen to audiobooks)

Successful people read books. Read whatever interests you. Keep up with education and thought leaders to generate new ideas. Find out how others have handled your challenges. Look for new perspectives and expand your mind.

Expand out from educational books and explore new topics. Rediscover the joy of learning. You never know what unexpected connections you’ll make.

I’ve created a list of books for school leaders on Amazon, which you can find here. I’ve collected recommendations from other school leaders and added a few personal favorites. It’s a great place to start.

Subscribe to blogs

Blogs are short, focused articles on a particular topic. Can you find 5 minutes in your day to read a blog? I've collected a list of my favorite charter school blogs here: Top 10 Blogs to Keep You in the Know

Listen to podcasts

After being resistant to podcasts for years, I’ve finally accepted them…and I am enjoying it! Find podcasts that inspire you, that bring interesting new people and ideas into your life, or that show you a new perspective.

Check out my blog to see a list of my favorite podcasts: I hate podcasts! But even I found these interesting...


Successful people keep journals. Some like to write a summary at the end of the day, while others like to start the day with positive notes and goal setting. Whatever works for you. You don’t always realize what’s going on in your head until you write it down. A problem recognized is half solved.

Use social media intelligently

Follow thought leaders on social media. Seek out those who post positive, helpful messages. Find those leaders who are where you would like to be in a few years. Your social media feed can be a source of inspiration, or a stress-inducer. Choose your connections to further your goals.

Remember your heroes

Who was your favorite teacher? What school principal do you remember best? Have you ever thanked them? It may not be possible to actually contact them, but you can honor their memory and impact on your life. And think about the people you may be impacting now. Who’s hero are you?

Carry that spirit of the entrepreneur with you and let it light the way.

School leaders burn out for a variety of reasons. But for many, a simple change of mindset can ease the pain. Take control. Feed your mind with ideas that inspire you. If the time comes when you need to move on, you’ll be able to turn that move into a positive upward step with your new positive mindset. Carry that spirit of the entrepreneur with you and let it light the way.

Enjoy the journey and try to get better every day. And don’t lose the passion and the love for what you do.
Nadia Comaneci

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Peggy Downs works with school leaders who want to leverage grants to dramatically increase funding, impact, and credibility for their schools. More info and a ton of free resources are waiting for you at:

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