It’s been a while since I’ve updated all my imaginary friends on ClassMax, so I thought I’d share a bit about how the company is doing and how I’m spending my days.
We hit a bump in the road with ClassMax in November. Namely, we ran out of money! Ha! GIANT BUMP! Up until that point, we depended on investors to help us keep developing our platform. Tech is expensive to build and so larger amounts of funding are necessary up front, as opposed to more traditional small businesses who can grow as they become profitable. Technology start ups can’t really become profitable until they are grown (to a certain extent). It’s basically a giant game of chicken or egg. My go-to joke about being a start up is that we are called start ups because we get investors and start up, then run out of money, then get more investors, and start up again… and the cycle continues.
When we ran out of money in November and the investment money came to a halt, we were right in the middle of expanding, which put us in a really tough position. I don’t think I slept from November to February while we were trying to both sell what we hadn’t yet developed AND fund the development of what we were selling. Finally, we had to stop and regroup for a bit. Our next big stretch that we were building out was for school districts. We had successfully built and sold for individual teacher accounts, and then last year added a school platform that was a big success, too. It seemed natural that we would just keep expanding into districts. But investors were cautious at our rapid growth and nervous to invest larger sums of money without a proven sale yet.
On the surface, this was frustrating and discouraging. The teacher and schools platform isn’t really enough work for me to do full time if we stop developing and I was irritated that we couldn’t seem to prove our worth in the district space yet. But after lots of sleepless nights working things through in my head (and praying horribly selfish prayers of empty promises if God would just miraculously bring us a multi-million dollar investor… I’m pretty sure He laughed at me…) and then cautiously talking it through with our team, we decided that what we had was good enough right now. We were doing great with teachers and schools and that would just have to be enough for a while.
That’s a hard pill for me to swallow. “Good enough” and “enough for now” are not my favorite phrases in life. I tend to have two speeds in my life – sloth and cheetah. I have a hard time living in between, but that seemed to be where we were going to land for a while. And, you know what, that has ended up being such a blessing in the past few months. The pressure of the raise money/build out/sell out cycle has come off my back and I’ve been able to dig in and do some strengthening of the products and services, including finding a few summer interns! They start next week and I’m really excited to work with them.
In order to take the pressure off of generating a paycheck for myself through ClassMax (everything is going towards product maintenance and customer service right now), I started a part-time job in January working for an edtech company that does virtual instructional coaching for teachers and administrators. I have about 20 teachers that I work with right now. I meet with them individually every two weeks online and work on whatever goals they have set for themselves. AND I LOVE IT.
Through that company, there also came an opportunity for me to travel around the country doing professional development trainings for teachers, schools, and school districts. I go in with a team of coaches and we train on any number of curriculums, products, and education best practices. I specifically enjoy providing PD on edtech and blended instruction, which helps teachers, admin teams, schools, and even districts transition to digital instruction. I have loved that work so much that I am almost doing it full time now. I am traveling just about every week this summer and in the fall will cut down to two trips a month, but take on 40 coaching participants, instead of the 20 I have right now.
The nice thing is that the work I do as a coach and trainer require minimal prep, so I can just slide into coaching sessions and trainings and then when I finish, I can jump right into ClassMax.
It has been a strange adjustment for me – I’m still adjusting, actually! It’s hard to define my job right now because I have three of them! So when someone asks what I do, I tend to just stare at them with this horrified look on my face and babble something about working “in education.” What’s even harder is that because I haven’t really explained what I do now to anyone (even my family doesn’t really know much about my work with the other company), most people just assume I am a stay-at-home mom. It’s hard for them to see that I’m working more now than I ever have in my life. And that’s frustrating. But I’m learning to live with that perception.
People ask me all the time if I miss the classroom or if I would want to go back to the classroom and that’s such a hard question to answer. I actually panicked in April and found a position teaching high school next year with a former principal that I love. It just seemed like the easiest solution compared to piecing together a hodge podge of a career. But if I took that job, I was going to have to stop coaching, stop traveling, and cut back so far on ClassMax that it would basically have stalled out. And while, at times, that option has seemed tempting, the fact is I love working from home. I have learned how to do it well and I’ve more productive in my days now than I have ever been before. I also love working with teachers and admin in a coaching and training capacity – and I get to do that in both ClassMax and the other company.
My days are filled with things I really love doing. Do my days look traditional? Are my hours normal? Is my job easy to describe in one sentence? Nope. None of that. Nothing is simple in this new career that I’ve found myself in, but I really do love it. I work in edtech and anyone who knows me knows how much that fits me.
For a long time, I’ve lived by the phrase “bloom where you are planted.” And the thing I have learned about that mantra over the years is that you never know when you’ll be planted. You never know when you’ll be picked. You never know when the rain will pour or if the sun will shine. But you know what else? You never know what your blooms will look like, either. Sometimes I’m planted and I grow into a cactus – tough and pointed, but able to survive with really limited resources. Other times I’m planted and I grow into a rose – seemingly put together, but really fragile and needy. And still other times, I bloom into a giant damn sunflower. Hearty stalks, standing tall, giant blooms soaking up the sunshine.
Growth is growth. And I am so thankful to be in a season of growth and strength and deep roots. Good things are getting ready to bloom. I can tell.