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Jen Hudson Current Affairs, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development

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Teacher A: “I loved what I taught today; the kids were so engaged!”

Teacher B: “I’m so glad you got to see today’s lesson!”

Teacher C: “Did you see my new student-created periodic table?”

As a beginning teacher mentor whose job towards the end of the school year often lends itself to more of an instructional coach, phrases like these from my teachers always jumpstart very meaningful conversations and reflection. It’s these conversations that help them grow as teachers and thinkers, but as we march towards May, a new entity seems to be entering our coaching conversations more often: TeachersPayTeachers and Pinterest.

According to Adam Freed, the CEO of Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT), almost two-thirds of the US teaching force are active members of the platform (Cardoza). Teachers Pay Teachers now even offers school-wide subscription plans. On the other hand, in its heyday,TPT’s free counterpart, Pinterest, grew from 500,000 daily education pins in 2015 to over 1.3 million daily pins (Cummings). Without a doubt, the influence  these two sources of curriculum, resources, decor, and ideas have on teachers cannot be overstated.

With this influence comes much that goes undiscussed, or, worse yet, taken at face value.

Some posit that TPT allows teachers to monetarily profit off of their classroom expertise at a time that many teachers are taking on second and third jobs to support their families. For those who sell on the platform, TPT offers not only compensation but notoriety as well if they are successful. TPT, who receives a fraction of the purchase price of each item, has allowed many teachers to earn what varies from a couple of dollars a month, to thousands. Though browsing Pinterest is free, the blogs in which they link to are often monetized and ad-filled, still allowing the creator the opportunity to profit off of their resource.

In an age of digital citizenship, Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest both allow for a discussion around intellectual property. If a teacher creates something for use in his or her classroom, who owns that resource? The teacher who thought of it, or the school/district that employs him or her and gives him or her the ability to teach those students in that classroom? Though TPT makes users certify that the work they are profiting from is their own, there has been an influx of blatant copyright infringement. Publishers are even updating their copyright language. Heinemann’s language now reads: “We respectfully ask that you do not adapt, re-use, or copy anything on third-party (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) lesson-sharing websites” (Schwartz).

Teacher A: “I loved what I taught today; the kids were so engaged! It was only $10 on Teachers Pay Teachers and it was the whole unit. I’ve got, like 8 weeks.”

Without a doubt, TPT offers buyers ease of access. Hours that would have otherwise been spent making worksheets, unit tests, reading checks, are now freed up to give meaningful feedback, sponsor clubs, or, you know, have a life outside of teaching. The allure of more time is always going to be a motivator for teachers.

However, who knows what their students need more than the teacher in the classroom? Rarely does a one size fits all unit plan PDF truly fit all students in every situation. If teachers are to use resources from anyone, they should be highly critical of the contents of those resources by asking themselves:

  • What about this would benefit my students? How do I know it will help them? What modifications do I need to make?
  • What standards is this addressing? Is it truly addressing those standards? How do I know it?
  • What might my students struggle with? Are there terms or concepts that I haven’t taught yet? Are there prerequisite skills they haven’t mastered yet?

Teacher B: “I’m so glad you got to see today’s lesson! I found it on Pinterest. It’s so much better than what I did yesterday.”

I am 100% guilty of having 100+pins on my ‘English’ pinboard. Many are flashy, pretty, and, to be honest, gave me a bit of a complex that what I was doing already wasn’t good enough. That I didn’t have the cute acronym to go with the concept I was teaching, or that my classroom didn’t have the right theme. Did Pinterest push me to be more creative in my teaching? Without a doubt, but at the cost of comparison (that darn thief of joy).

The first place many look on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers is the total number of pins or favorable reviews. However, “Choosing a lesson plan based on what’s popular can be a problem, because teachers may focus on what’s cute and catchy, rather than on content that’s high-quality” (Cardoza). Just because ‘everyone’ else is doing it doesn’t make it the right thing, even if it is the cute thing.

Teacher C: “Did you see my new student-created periodic table? The teacher next door shared it with me”

The traditional, offline sharing mechanism within schools can be our greatest strengths. To this day, I am forever indebted to the teacher who taught across the pod from me who shared how she managed to structure her classroom curriculum in a way that made planning and instruction purposeful.

Bob Farrace, with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, worries the use of Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest could discourage teachers within the same learning community from working together and sharing knowledge (Cardoza). Besides, some argue, this working together and sharing of knowledge, information, and resources has traditionally been free within our school sites. Never once did a coworker ever ask me to pay for a copy of the best lesson they taught.

There’s a growing movement among some educators to share freely beyond their classroom walls. Websites like BetterLesson and Share My Lesson let teachers post, download, and rate materials and lesson plans. Use of HyperDocs “editable, shareable lessons hosted on Google docs” has been taken up by the Teachers Give Teachers movement (Schwartz). All of these resources hope to reach across the globe and shift the conversation away from compensation and towards best practices.

At the heart of the matter is the last two words of the paragraph above: best practices. There is no right answer, nor no easy fixes, rather only more questions. How do we develop capacity within our teachers to identify best practices within their own communities of learners? How do we provide high-quality professional development that allows for meaningful collaboration with high-quality ‘take aways’? How do we allow teachers to feel professionally valued and monetarily rewarded for their time and effort in the classroom? How can these best practices be shared in an authentic manner?

Cardoza, K. (2018). Why teachers selling lesson plans have sparked debate. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-teachers-selling-lesson-plans-have-sparked-debate

Cummings, C. (2015). There’s a big hole in how teachers build skills, and Pinterest is helping fill it. Retrieved from https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/04/pinterest-and-teachers-how-the-site-is-filling-a-gap-in-teacher-training.html

Schwartz, S. (2018). On ‘Teachers Pay Teachers,’ some sellers are profiting from stolen work. Education Week, 38(18). Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/12/19/on-teachers-pay-teachers-some-sellers-are.html

 

 

 

I always knew I was going to be a teacher; from assigning neighborhood kids homework during the summer to reading with a flashlight under the covers, school and learning have always been something I have loved. Phoenix born and raised, I attended Northern Arizona University and received my undergraduate degree in English Education. While at NAU, I received the Golden Axe Award and was lucky enough to be the President of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education. After college, I spent ten years at Explorer Middle School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, where I taught 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts. I wanted to push my instruction and my students’ learning, so I decided to pursue a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, which was completed in 2010. This desire to do more for my students continued through 2013 when I was named Arizona English Teachers’ Association’s Teacher of Excellence and received my National Board Certification in English Language Arts/Early Adolescence. This desire to learn and improve my practice also includes becoming a Master Teacher in 2017. In the 2019 school year, I will be a Mentor Teacher for first and second-year teachers in grades 7-12 in PVUSD and am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with my new teachers. On a personal level, I still love to read (though the flashlight has been replaced with a Kindle). Most of my time is spent with my husband, Chris, my toddler, Oliver, and our pitbull-dachshund mix, Kipton. I love all things Sun Devil football and am known to binge watch 90s and early 2000 sitcoms much too often.

  • Rachel Perugini

    I have always had to tweak TPT resources when I buy them, but I fully expect to have to do that. I know what I’m buying is going to save me time creating it myself, but that the formatting and directions might not work for my students or that I might need to change some word choice to match my instruction.

    I also have colleagues who sell on TPT and we always send each other resources (for free) after we make them. Most of the time, we can give feedback before the resource gets posted, but maybe I just have the best colleagues in the world.

    • Amethyst Hinton Sainz

      Same.

  • Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Hahaha! You stole my topic! I was just going to blog about TPT and came to find out whether anyone else had already done that… food for thought for sure. Maybe I will write a follow-up… You said much of what I would have pointed out as well, though.

  • Mike Vargas

    Hi Jen, you know I think about this more and more. Now that I am the old man in the department, I find myself with years of lesson plans that I have developed and perfected. I often wonder about ( selling) my lessons.. but their is so few of us whats the point.. I got asked a few years ago to write a book on freshman physics and I was like yea whos going to buy it? Theirs only 158 of us left in the state and most of us already know each other… I have a master harddrive now that gets updated every summer and during the course of the year we share it with anyone who wants our stuff.. I just cant imagine buying lesson plans from fellow teachers…

    • Jen Hudson

      I too, once, considered selling some of my cooler and neater ELA resources. I even got to the point that I uploaded items. I couldn’t bring myself to click the final button.It’s definitely a mindshift, especially for those of us who started teaching in the pre-TPT era. For many, TPT is all they’ve known.