When Lauren Swanson and Chelsie Durham began their careers as school teachers at Lakeside Elementary in 2014, they found themselves overwhelmed, exhausted and struggling to hold it all together within their classrooms. The two became best friends and helped each other overcome and power through their first few years on the job.
Swanson and Durham assisted each other in cultivating new and innovative ways to maintain their classrooms and make teaching their students fun and engaging. They were asked by Lakeside's administration to help lead a few professional development workshops for their fellow teachers. In doing so, the two realized that they enjoyed helping other educators reignite their passion for teaching and working with them to solve common classroom problems. Swanson and Durham decided to channel their new-found skills and turn it into a business.
Teach Like A Boss, established in 2018 by Swanson and Durham, is a program for teachers, by teachers to help them become more successful in their classrooms and to be more engaging for their students. Since its beginning, Teach Like A Boss has hosted several small workshops throughout the school year, and two large conventions in the summertime with teachers coming in from every learning community across Hamilton County, including middle, high and private schools. There were even some teachers who came from out of state to experience the unique course.
These workshops, led by Swanson and Durham, plus a few guest speakers, are different from the usual Board-regulated development courses that are required of all teachers. The required seminars and workshops include a lot of articles and packets to sift through, and lectures to endure. Teach Like A Boss instead focuses on group discussion and asking the teachers themselves what problems they want to concentrate on.
"It's a nontraditional type of professional development (PD)," says Durham. "It's a different experience from what you would get at typical PDs that teachers go to. We try to bring more fun into it and we try to have content that teachers need but doesn't get covered a lot in PD."
Content that Teach Like A Boss has covered in the past include how to keep your energy up at the end of the school year, room transformation, keeping kids engaged through movement, and their number one asked for topic: classroom management. Through open discussion and providing resources like books and helpful handouts, the teachers talk with each other to share wisdom and experiences.
"The cool thing about Teach Like A Boss is that we allow teachers to chime in," says Swanson. "It's like a network. Teachers are getting ideas from other teachers. We tell them that we're not the experts. The reason we are so great is because we learn from other people."
"Our goal for every session is that they will leave with something that they will actually use in their classrooms the next day," Durham says.
In July, Durham moved to Knoxville and is now teaching kindergarten at Brickey-McCloud Elementary in Knox County. With Swanson remaining at Lakeside to teach third grade, the two have had to work around the distance to maintain Teach Like A Boss.
Instead of a hindrance, they see Durham's move as advantageous to their business. Durham plans to host sessions within Knox County and Swanson will continue her work with the Hamilton County teaching community. They still expect to get together for their big session in the summer, which they hope becomes an annual program that may include Hamilton, Knox and other Tennessee counties.
"Our goal is to continue to have an annual summer session like no county has ever seen before for teachers. We want to see it grow past just Chattanooga," Swanson explains.
Now that school is back in full swing, balancing their work and Teach Like A Boss has become a challenge - but a rewarding one.
"I'm not going to say it's easy," Swanson says with a laugh. "But when you're passionate about something, you make the timeIt's a part of who we are."
"It's hard work, but we enjoy it so much that we don't mind," says Durham.
As of now, Durham and Swanson are working together on coming up with new topics of discussion for their future workshops. Though working with their current students takes precedence over Teach Like A Boss, they say that they are never far away from creating something new.