Monday, July 29, 2013
TpT - What It Means To Me
Over the last few days I've been kind of down. I read a blog post really calling TpT out and criticizing TpT sellers. It made me really sad to see teachers tearing down other teachers. You don't see other professions do this. It makes me even sadder when it's primary teachers doing it. I'm not sure why there's a difference to me.... perhaps it's because we are the ones responsible for teaching young children how to treat each other, how to cheer others on, and how to work out problems without hurting others.... It just seems so sad that people who are charged with teaching children how to behave could hurt others. As teachers, I would hope we would all have nothing but a desire to help one another and build each other up - not down.
First, I'd like to say there were good points brought up in the post that I read. However, I do believe it was misdirected at TpT and TpT sellers. I adore TpT! I adore blogging! I adore collaborating and sharing!
#1 Teachers sell things on TpT that work in their classrooms. Isn't this a given? Isn't this what you would want to find on TpT? No matter how good of a teacher you are, you cannot possibly think of all the ways to teach a concept. Neither can I. Purchasing an item from TpT is no different than asking another teacher for help explaining a concept. Sure, you pay for a "cute look", but the idea behind the look can either support the way you already teach the concept or give you a new way to teach the concept. I will tell you that as a seller, I am constantly asking my followers for help explaining an idea or how to make a format more clear. My goodness, I ask a question on facebook and in no time flat, I have a ready supply of ideas/advise/things to try........ Teachers are fantastic! I use that expertise because I value what my followers (teacher-colleagues) have to say on the subject. I, by no means, am perfect in my explanations, format, etc. (ask my editors :) I love using the culmination of ideas, methods, and simply new ways of looking at the same thing! That is what goes into my items that I sell. Collaboration is occurring. It looks different than it did even a few years ago, but it is still going on. I think most TpT buyers follow blogs of teachers they have come to "know" and trust. I don't just randomly buy on TpT. I buy from teachers who have amazing blogs full of great teaching, who interact with me, and make quality materials.
#2 TpT is creating a "laminating culture". Seriously, what teacher doesn't like the idea of having stuff laminated? Who wants to constantly "re-create the wheel" or print stuff out over and over? I cannot tell you how many times I've had to make the same thing over and over. Why would I do that? Now there are times when, like an anchor chart, things NEED to be made with and in front of the kids. I totally get that and do not believe in posting random posters all over the place. That is fluff! But, if we are talking about a math center game - I absolutely can use that from year to year IF IF IF I see that it is engaging and effective with my students. That is a teacher decision that must be made. I have thrown away laminated games that either no longer reach the depth and complexity of the standards or simply didn't engage my students to do the learning. Instead, I buy what I feel can engage and help me teach my students. I purchase from other teachers so that I can use my time and energy on my actual plans and differentiating my plans to reach my varied students. It is a MYTH that teachers buy lesson plans on TpT. I have NEVER sold a lesson plan.... I sell resources that can be used to implement your plans.
#3 Cute is overrated. Hmmm......not sure how to address this comment. I am on the fence about it I suppose. I do completely agree that "cute" is BIG BIG BIG in primary classrooms. I like cute as much as anyone else....I mean...who doesn't love a tissue paper puff ball or a cute welcome pennant? However, I've also never been "over-the-top" cutesy either. You will never find my classroom on the cover of "Better Homes and Classrooms".... I am secretly jealous of those with picture-perfect classrooms. BUT....my classroom is a HIGHLY-EFFECTIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. You can certainly tell that it's occupied by children and I do try to make it a place children want to be. But I am not all "matchy-matchy". Classrooms are like teachers - we all have different personalities. I can't criticize someone for being all "matchy-matchy" just because it's not me. While a cute classroom doesn't mean that it's a better learning environment for the children, it also doesn't mean that it's less so. Our classrooms are an extension of ourselves and our teaching styles. We spend an enormous amount of time there and yes - it IS important that we enjoy our classrooms.
Now, as far as producing "cute" handouts and learning material? I DO believe that is important! Can a child learn a concept without any frills. Sure - most can. However, these are children we are talking about. The best learning comes through play and "cute" absolutely helps that! "Cute" captures children's attention long enough for learning to occur -- and for that -- "cute" is important. "Cute is just one method of making learning fun!
#4 Real images are more valuable than clipart. I think this goes along with #3. Cute is fun and allows teachers to capture students' attention long enough to teach even difficult concepts. I agree real images are valuable and definitely should be included, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with DJ Inkers. :)
Here is the deal: Those of us who sell on TpT (well the large majority) are just teachers who really love our jobs! We love creating "cute", fun things to use to teach the concepts that we are required to teach anyways. We tend to have a nasty little addiction to clip art and fonts. :) We love to share! I promise you will find QUITE A LOT of free stuff on this blog because I love sharing! It's in my blood as a teacher. However, I spend a ridiculous amount of TIME and MONEY on this hobby. Seriously, you would probably faint if I told you what I spend for clip art and font licenses (yep that's right - we have to pay for all that!) We buy the clip art or fonts AND then we have to buy licenses to use it. Five years ago the only clip art that was available was free and seriously U-G-L-Y!....yes it was easy to create and give it away. But, now we have beautiful clip art. That is a great improvement, but it costs money to buy AND use it. Plus, add on top of that -- I can't tell you how many nights I've stayed up until 3a.m. making a unit. An average theme unit takes me about 20 hours to complete....that's 1 unit....and that's 20 hours away from my family!
Now please don't think I'm whining or complaining! I love it! It's my stress reliever, it my joy! But it does take MONEY and TIME to do this. So, yes I do sell things on TpT. I recoup my money that I spent on the clip art and fonts and hopefully I am able to do a little something special with my 6 kids at the end of the day because of TpT. Being a teacher affords me many great experiences, but it doesn't afford me alot of extra (in the way of money - seriously can you imagine being a teacher with 6 kiddos? lol). So, if you purchase from me, you are helping me take my kids to Chuck e Cheese or helping me buy them a few extra school clothes. I know as a teacher, if I'm going to purchase something for my classroom (and we ALL do), I'd much rather my few bucks go into the pocket of another teacher-colleague rather than a big publishing company that has NEVER known the struggles of a teacher. If another teacher makes my job just a little easier or my students' learning a little more fun, I'll gladly give him/her my few bucks to make his/her day a little brighter. It's about TEACHERS APPRECIATING TEACHERS!
I agree that sometimes we, as teachers, need to ask hard questions and I invite good, thoughtful discussions. However, I just think it needs to be done in a respectful way in which teachers don't feel pitted against each other. There really are more important questions out there than GLITTER or NO GLITTER.
What are YOUR thoughts?