TeachThought is an idea and brand dedicated to innovation in K-12 education.
This is pursued by growing teaching through thought leadership, professional development, resource curation, curriculum development, podcast publishing, and collaboration with organizations around the world.
TeachThought’s mission is to innovate education through the growth of innovative teachers.
Our Background & Timeline
TeachThought was founded in 2012 as a blog dedicated to thought leadership and the development of learning models and frameworks to create transparency for new possibilities in teaching and learning for a modern circumstance.
In 2016, TeachThought began offering professional development for schools and districts.
In 2017, TeachThought held its first Grow education conference in Louisville, Ky.
In 2018, TeachThought began the initial development of teaching materials and curricula to support teachers in innovation in their own classrooms.
In 2019, TeachThought began developing TeachThought University, an on-demand learning platform for teachers which will launch in 2021.
In 2020, reeling from COVID like the rest of the world, we focused on streamlining our workflow and becoming more efficient internally in terms of our content, growth, and development.
2021 was spent continuing to update our content, create new resources, and soft-launch TeachThought University which among other resources features online courses for teachers.
In 2022, we are currently testing different eLearning models to identify the best way to help teachers. You can find more information here.
Moving forward, among other efforts hope to begin planning on a series of TeachThought schools based on a TeachThought learning model in 2023 and beyond.
TeachThought was founded and is directed by Terry Heick, an author and former classroom teacher interested in rethinking how we think about K-12 teaching and learning.
One of the underlying principles of TeachThought is that leading should result in personal and social change and that its modes and design can be planned backward from that kind of consideration. Our content, professional development, and all related work are driven by that approach.
We are dedicated to supporting educators in innovation in teaching and learning for a 21st-century audience. This starts with ideas and resources for K-20 teachers through our site, and extends to our design of school models, learning models, curriculum, technology, apps, and other learning tools through collaborations with other organizations.
What We Do
Develop content (blog posts, eBooks, eCourses, video, podcasts, etc.)
Create courses for teachers
Provide industry-leading professional development
Develop 21st-century teaching materials that promote critical thinking and help schools and organizations strategize curriculum and instructional design
Publish physical and digital content (from books to podcasts to video and more)
Create visibility for innovative education products and services
Consult for various education projects
(This was originally a written interview for a publication focused on entrepreneurship so though it explains our ‘story,’ it does so through a semi-autobiographical and entrepreneurial lens.)
I am Terry Heick, and most of my work (at the moment) is in progressive education. I founded TeachThought, a platform dedicated to innovation in education through the growth of innovative teachers. Our ‘products’ are essentially ideas–often in the form of models, strategies, and conceptual frameworks. One of our primary goals (beyond innovation) is to clarify and promote critical thinking and its application in a rapidly changing world.
Though we are a mission-based organization whose currency is social change, our pure revenue growth rate over the last 48 months has averaged to be around 40% annually. This is obviously critical because, for better or for worse, a business model is how good ideas become sustainable projects over time.
Growing up, my focus was on normal (for my neighborhood) stuff–friends, cars, music, video games, and competition of any sort. I grew up poor, and almost everyone I grew up with did as well. You kind of get used to it–and my financial literacy was and is low as a result, I think.
How you frame the world and your values have a direct relationship and once you see the world one way, it can be hard to see it another. I had a friend who would see an abandoned building and think of it as a real estate opportunity but when I look, I see it and wonder who built it and why and what they were hoping to accomplish and how far they got and if it made the neighborhood a better or worse place, and so on.
I actually don’t like money or business or markets of advertising or really anything related to ‘business.’ I tend not to be very good at it and I’m not really interested in it–two factors that I’m sure are related. However, the thought of spending the best years of my life being directed by someone else whose goals diverge from mine doesn’t seem very attractive.
The saying, ‘build your dreams or someone else will pay you to build theirs’ really resonates with me. There are many kinds of ‘dreams’ and the best (from my perspective) aren’t financial but as George Bailey says in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ “(money) comes in pretty handy around here, bub.” So entrepreneurship has kind of been forced on me, if you will.
And it hasn’t been all bad.
Eventually, I went to college on an engineering scholarship and got a degree in English mainly by default: I had no idea what I wanted to do but could see very clearly what I didn’t want to do. My dad worked for himself under the umbrella of a larger company and nearly worked himself to death only to barely make it financially. That plus my five years at UPS in college was very clarifying for me.
I did some side writing projects finding out what it even meant to be a ‘writer’ and thought I might try teaching, so I got a Master’s in education and taught middle and high school English. And what I learned was startling: public education is an absolute mess. It seemed to me to be–considering the nature of the work and its goal of intellectually nurturing children–unforgivably bad.
So I started writing about it on a website I made and sharing some of my teaching materials online.’ This was back in 2012 or so. Not long after, for the first time in my life, I started having crushing anxiety problems (which I attribute to the nature of my teaching position at the time) so one day, I found myself out on the sidewalk in front of a grocery store, calling my dad essentially asking for his blessing to ‘quit.’
Though I was an adult with a young child at the time, he and my mother have always been a source of strength for me. My mom couldn’t believe I quit working at UPS years earlier and probably didn’t think I should stop teaching either, but he supported me and gave me the courage I needed–or at least the final little push–to try to monetize my thinking in and around education. So I did.
The first several years were hard because I was taking care of a child full-time while my wife worked and also trying to help TeachThought find traction. I also didn’t know what I was doing really (sometimes I still feel that way). People would ask me what TeachThought ‘sells’ and it was always such a strange question to me. I view one’s ‘work’ as a kind of will to affect the world and the people around them in some sustained, compelling way based on a kind of human intimacy and care and affection and when I answered that way, people would pause and say, ‘Yeah, but how do you get your money?”
The answer has generally been ad revenue. Our website gets decent traffic and ad revenue has, usually, allowed me to pay my bills and raise my family. But COVID and the rise of video and over-dependence on organic search and shifting values in education and just a general relative global instability have all motivated me to diversify our revenue sources–and to do so while remaining mission-based.
So a few years ago, we started offering professional development to schools and districts all over the world, which is performing strongly in lieu of COVID challenges. We also started offering some affordable teaching materials, as well as a podcast and newsletter that could be monetized. Since we are small and our overhead has stayed relatively low, this has allowed me to be both conservative in growth and agile in pivots and reactions.
A few years ago, I started developing TeachThought University, an online learning platform for teachers. It’s taken me so long for a couple of reasons. Mental health challenges started becoming significant for me about 10 years ago–first generalized anxiety disorder, then some depression The depression part is weird–it’s more of a general numbness and overwhelming tiredness than any kind of ‘sadness.’ It makes it difficult to prioritize, focus, and get anything at all done at times in lieu of my remaining incredibly motivated and ambitious.
The second factor that has kept what I anticipate to be the most important development in TeachThought’s history as an organization from being ‘finished’ (i.e., TeachThought University) is my standards for quality. I just have not been able to create it to meet my vision and even with lowered expectations and a ‘just ship it’ mentality more recently, I still have struggled to see it through because–well, it’s just not something I thought fit with our mission in the state that it was in.
(Oh, I forgot to mention that I homeschool four children–by myself, with on curriculum–and that takes more than a little of my attention each day, too.)
In the last four months, I discovered meditation and daily practice there have allowed me to make strong progress again. In fact, many days my ideas come out too fast to even write down. I am also obsessive/compulsive and that has both helped and hurt the growth of the organization as well. As an entrepreneur, it can be very difficult to separate yourself from your work–especially when you’re a one-person show.
Though uncertain because of the global ‘state of things’ from COVID to the hyper-polarized politics in the US, as well as technology changes like the Google Core Vitals update, the elimination of third-party cookies, GDPR, shifts to audio and video, big data, etc., TeachThought seems to have a strong enough brand and sufficiently diverse revenue to be able to expand into new markets as they surface.
Our costs have risen some, but much of that is me experimenting to keep up with changing consumer expectations. In a pinch, I could reduce operating costs to a few hundred dollars a month and survive.
The immediate future of TeachThought is entirely focused on growing TeachThought University. The success of TeachThought.com has at times hindered the growth of our ideas and mission because I have to worry about page speed, Ux, ads, SEO, caching, time on page, bounce rate, and dozens of other factors that all force me to prioritize the speed of the website weight against ad revenue instead of clarifying the best ways to package our ideas that make them accessible so that teachers can grow. TeachThought University is designed to address these problems.
In the short run, that has to launch while I continue to create text, audio, and video content.
In the medium run, TeachThought University has to assert itself–both relative to TeachThought.com as well as in its market space as well–to drive scalable growth moving toward 2025.
Long-term, I’d love to see TeachThought become a kind of school model (like Montessori schools, as one example) that is usable anywhere in the world to improve local communities and human growth.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned–that has both helped me at times and cost me when I didn’t do it–is the ‘just ship it’ mindset. Don’t overthink things because you never know what you don’t know and the best to learn is to make mistakes rather than anticipate them. There are exceptions, of course, but broadly speaking, plan less and do more.
Also, listen to your harshest critics and learn from them. And don’t do so emotionally. They’re often ‘wrong’ or, at best, cynical and rude, but sift through what they say and find what they’re right about to protect yourself from those kinds of ‘truths’ in the future and strengthen your business.
The biggest outside influence on TeachThought has probably been Wendell Berry and his writing. The Art of the Commonplace, for example, changed my life when I read it and helped me clarify who I was and by extension, what I wanted TeachThought to ‘do’ and ‘be.’
Also, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe Understanding by Design and a book called ‘Teaching What Matters Most’ by Perini and Strong have been useful guidance for my thinking as well. I’ve also enjoyed conversations with Drew Perkins, Director of Professional Development at TeachThought PD, a sister LLC, whose ideas and experience have pushed me in my own thinking as well.
While we don’t have traditional ‘employees,’ I do have a lot of paid contract work available in content creation, writing, social media, and more. Anyone interested can email me at email@example.com.
TeachThought can be reached via our contact page.
More About Our Director
Terry Heick is a former English teacher turned education dreamer who is interested in how learning is changing in a digital and connected world. This includes, among other changes, the rise of self-directed learning, and the need to evaluate existing content and curriculum in light of modern knowledge demands.
In short, he is interested in what students learn, how they learn it, and what they tend to do with what they learn.
He is also interested in student-centered learning, the power of questions, the role of play in learning, clarifying digital literacy, the flexibility of project-based learning, marrying mobile learning and place-based education (especially through mentoring), the potential of video games and simulations in learning, what it really means to ‘understand’ something, and how all of this produces wisdom and self-knowledge in students.
It is our position that all learning should result in substantive personal and social change (as opposed to academic training).
Our ideas are heavily influenced by a wide variety of thinkers, from Wendell Berry to Elon Musk, Sam Harris to Kurt Vonnegut. This concept includes the relationship between culture, communities, and the institutions and curriculum purported to serve them, as well as emerging technologies and media.
Is TeachThought Reliable?
This is a question you should ask about any platform or publisher, really. It’s wonderful that you’re asking that about our work as well.
The short version is that we hope that, insofar as we reach, we are credible and useful and reliable in that reaching. Our writers are almost all recent or existing classroom teachers. Our founder and director was a classroom teacher with experience on dozens of committees and has himself traveled the world to see education as it is to help understand education as it might be.
Much of our work is either directly or indirectly informed by research (though that education research has challenges of its own–see The Best Source Of Education Is Your Classroom, Questions Hattie Could’ve Asked But Didn’t and What Works In Education And How Do We Know? for example).
But more broadly speaking is the idea of function. What we’re hoping to do is to provide a broad spectrum of thinking that supports innovation in education. In addition to research, this effort requires thinking, imagination, models and frameworks, and hope. This is where TeachThought tries to do its best work.
TeachThought is interested first and foremost in the growth of children–in this case, achieved innovation in education through the growth of happy, creative, wonderfully innovative teachers. There are many platforms out there that are far more concise and traditionally ‘effective’ in their work. They have very clear metrics for ‘success’ and wonderfully-worded mission statements that they no doubt believe in and strive to achieve. They create useful textbooks and apps and systems and videos that help you teach. They are wonderful and we use them ourselves.
In our work, we hope to focus as much on the classroom that could be as the classroom that is. It’s a balance we try to demonstrate in everything we do, and sometimes we miss. But a takeaway here is that we want to push education forward toward its ultimate promise of realizing a fuller, broader, and more substantive concept of human potential. We want to imagine, support, and grow. Put another way, we hope that TeachThought is reliable and credible insofar as we are able to imagine, support, and grow.
This is a complex issue that isn’t easily communicated–and those are the kinds of issues we focus on at TeachThought.
Legal And Related
Though we are first teachers, we also act as publishers. Therefore, we make every effort to both understand and comply with all laws, policies, and regulations. We don’t publish misleading content–in fact, we refuse to publish anything we don’t believe pushes education forward somehow.
If you believe that we’ve made a mistake somehow with the use of attribution, linking, images, etc.–e.g., incorrect use of Creative Commons licensing materials–please contact us and we will address the matter immediately.
As creatives ourselves, we take the matter of copyright infringement, copy/pasting, content scraping, and other related activities seriously. The digital landscape is an important part of what we do and is a matter of digital citizenship we value. For any such issues, please email us or our Founder and Director, Terry Heick.