Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why I Struggle with Those who Struggle with Teachers Pay Teachers


Recently a fellow educator wrote a blog post about why he has a problem with Teachers Pay Teachers.  Since the article remains, but not everyone's perspective was allowed (some comments were deleted) I wanted to post my response to the topic somewhere that I can control (but if you're a regular follower looking for my weekly teaching tip, scroll all the way to the bottom for a little post script).

Mr. Drake, I appreciate your wish for teachers, that we should not have to spend our own money on things for our classrooms.  Of course it would be great to be reimbursed for everything I buy to supplement curriculum, as well as those things we buy to meet my students' basic needs when I notice specific areas are not being met. 

Of course, if this were to happen, it would affect taxpayers.  You yourself remind us that the taxpayers are the ones who pay us to work during specific hours of the day.  Of course, they don't pay us to work on weekends or summertime, and for most, not after 4pm on weekdays.  Yet every teacher I know gives more of their time beyond their contractual hours for free to plan lessons, mark papers, and so on.  And taxpayers certainly do not give teachers carte blanche to spend money where they see fit.  So although that's a nice dream for us educators to have, it doesn't seem feasible.  And until that day that schools are given unlimited tax dollars, situations arise, often on a weekly basis, where we see something is lacking, and we have to step up and fill that need. 

Fortunately, when it comes to meeting the ever changing needs of the children in our care, the beauty of the internet and the free marketplace is that we are never alone.  We can find bargains at the grocery store to stock up on snacks for our students.  We can peruse Pinterest for 17 do it yourself fidget objects for under $10 to help kids with sensory needs who break the 3 we're issued at the start of the year by the second day of school.  And yes, on TPT we can purchase engaging Fraction of a Set task cards when the lesson from our textbook is so dull that half our class is asking to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, or see the nurse instead.

The fact is, not only do we need to be flexible when it comes to caring for children, our curriculum is changing so fast (not just every year anymore; in my own school our writing curriculum changed 3 times during this school year) that we NEED to supplement resources beyond what the schools have bought for us.  We're going to get it from somewhere.  Some of it is free, (both on Teachers Pay Teachers and other venues) and some is not.  In a free, capitalist society, we all get to/have to make choices when it comes to what we're willing to spend.  Teachers are consumers too.  Why wouldn't we be?

So if teachers have to be consumers like the rest of society, why can't we pay for materials created by experts?  And by experts, I mean other teachers.  This too is the way of the world.  In the last decade, reality TV has made "regular people" into stars.  People don't just want to see professional actors in a role; they want to see regular people and real reactions.  People aren't just getting their news from professional broadcasters.  They read blogs and Twitter to get news faster, from people who are there, who are local, who have perspective.  People magazine named "You" as "Person of the Year" because of the number of self-publishers who are garnering the attention of the masses who want hear "the common man's" view.  So why wouldn't teachers turn to other teachers who are coming up with creative solutions to challenges in their classrooms? 

In this day in age, online publishing is easy for everyone (as you, Mr. Drake, a fellow blogger, can attest).  Teacher Pay Teachers is not unique in that regard.  It's a shame that this is the site that comes under fire by those who don't understand the real role of a teacher.  We are paid by the tax payers to teach children.  We are not hired to publish games, advertise and promote products, or implement graphic design for cover art, and those skills are valuable, not to be given freely.  Our resources that are created on our own time, with our own materials do not belong to the public, any more than the dinner I make for my family belongs to the public.  What I buy and make on my own time is my business. 

Just because "most teachers signed up for the job knowing...[they] aren't paid what they're worth...[and] can't really raise a family on the salary they're given" does not make teacher-entrepreneurs criminals who are stealing from the tax payers.  Instead of condemning a site like Teachers Pay Teachers with insinuations that teachers are doing something wrong by earning money by publishing on there, try looking at what the site is actually doing from a different perspective.  What the site actually is, is a place which promotes collaboration among teachers, current materials during a period of rapid educational shifts, and yes, extra income for teachers whose hobby is related to their field.  Maybe, just maybe, teachers who love educating enough to devote their free time to it should be applauded. 






P.S., To my regular readers who look forward to weekly ideas for classroom use, a bunch of us on Teachers Pay Teachers have donated a product or two to a GIANT compilation for charity.  All of the money earned from this product will be going to The One Fund, the organization endorsed by Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Tom Menino, to help the victims and families of the Marathon Bombing last week.  

As a Massachusetts resident I was happy to help with this effort.  I've donated my Substitute Teacher packet and my Fraction of a Set, Level 1 activity cards.  The grades 3-6 Bundle contains 37 Products (valued at over $180) for $20.  You can make your donation here at Michaela Almeida's site, The Center Based Classroom, and receive this bundle as a thank you.




Money bag and piggy bank graphics from OpenClipart.org.

26 comments :

  1. Thank you for your well thought out post. I can't imagine what my classroom would be like if I didn't spend some of my own money on items.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

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    1. Thanks, Bethany. People don't realize how personal teaching is. It's not just about what's in the books we're issued. It's about helping children develop. You have to put a piece of yourself into that process.

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  2. Totally agree! Well said.
    ~following via Google Friend Connect
    Creating Lifelong Learners

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  3. I absolutely LOVE your response! Thank you so much for sharing. I was sent your rebuttal, and I am your newest follower...happily :) As a Tpt seller who makes all of my materials on my own time, using my own materials and equipment, I applaud you. I'm sure there are a few "bad apples", but we are taught not to treat our students with an all encompassing bad attitude simply because of a few students..so, why should we be treated in that manner? Thank you again for your post.

    Kelly
    First Grade Fairytales

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. It's such a shame that some people have such a negative view of teachers, just as it's a shame when people stereotype any group.

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  4. I may be naive, but I had no clue people were against TPT. It's shocking! Thank you for sharing!
    Maribel
    Learning In Wonderland

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    1. It IS shocking. It's an open marketplace that's all about education. If you don't have much to spend, there are so many free resources. If you have some money to spend, there are so many wonderful, classroom-tested-teacher-approved resources that will raise the quality of instruction and foster learning. Who is losing in that equation?

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  5. Thank you for this rebuttal. I was very offended by Mr. Drake's insinuation that teachers were unethical people who would use their contract time and school computers to make products for Teachers Pay Teachers. But I was infuriated by his suggestion that whatever curriculum materials we make and publish online for sale through TpT are the property of the school district. He seems to think that it is our duty to create instructional materials outside of our contract time and hand over our work to the school district. We are not slaves Mr Drake. We are not indentured servants. No school district owns our creations.

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    1. It really is unfair to think that my hobby, or second job should be subject to scrutiny by anyone. Are the paintings I create and sell property of my district? Are the cakes I bake property of my district? Are the scarves I crochet property of my district? If I still taught swimming at the YMCA would my earnings go to my district?

      The fact that I'm paid a stipend for teaching after-school programs just goes to show, if it's done after my contracted hours, it's beyond the scope of my employment.

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  6. Love your thoughtful and clear response to someone who seems to have not been in the classroom in a long time!
    Susan Mescall

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    1. Thank you. It's true that my colleagues who are not sellers on TPT love it as well as those of us who are sellers.

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  7. I LOVE how well you worded your opinion! Thanks for writing this. I posted it to my Facebook. The more who read it, the better! :)

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    1. Thanks, Heather. Perhaps not coincidentally, I've just started planning a unit on persuasive writing, and my fourth graders' final project will be a "letter to the editor." ;)

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  8. Here's my take on all this. The man in question wanted to write a post that would get a lot of attention so he penned something annoying. I was tempted to answer him back but his comments were so silly I couldn't be bothered. I didn't want him to get more hits on his silly rant. The more people post, the more attention he gets, like a spoiled child. Why bother? Some people are just bozos. That being said, I love your response, pretty pumpkin! You did good :-)

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    1. Lessia, I agree with you, there is probably a VERY good chance that's all this was. And I was SO ready to just ignore him myself.

      The only reason I went ahead and posted this article was because he was deleting people's comments on his blog, and changing his post. To me, that is just not right. It wasn't doing much good for us TPT sellers to discuss his post on a private forum while his post was available for the world to see. So I took a screenshot of his article before he could change it any more than he did, so if need be I could post it here. And now people can comment on this post if he deletes theirs from his own.

      So part of me hates to have a link to his site to generate more traffic for him (but it's needed for context). And I do know, you're not supposed to "feed the trolls," just ignore them and they'll go away. And I'm not looking to incite a flame war. But on the other hand, I felt like there are two sides to every coin. He has his opinion. We have an opposing one. Both sides deserve to be heard.

      Thanks for bringing this up; I needed to get that off my chest. :)

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  9. This is a wonderful read and to the point! Thanks for posting!

    Andrea

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  10. Amber, this is so eloquently spoken. Thank you for your response and for posting in a location where it couldn't be retracted. Bravo, my friend!
    Mathematically yours,
    MissMathDork!

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    1. Thanks, Jamie :) I appreciate that!

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  11. Great response to the nonsense that was posted. I agree with @I am Bullyproof Music- We all need to ignore him. AND, I thought was already following your blog, so I am glad I clicked over to read this. WAHOO!
    Enjoy-
    Mr. Hughes
    An Educator's Life

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    1. Thanks, John. As I said above, I see Lessia's side too :) And thanks for following!

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  12. Extremely well written my friend!! Thank you for being the voice of reason:)
    Jen

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    1. Thanks, Jen! I appreciate that :)

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  13. That was a great response! When I hear people are against TPT I am shocked. I think when someone attacks TPT it's because they aren't well informed about it. Since becoming involved with TPT I have been able to collaborate with wonderful teachers, I take a closer eye to make sure all of my lessons and activities are well done, and everything I have downloaded (free or paid) FAR exceeds many resources available from large companies. I have become a better teacher because of all of this!

    Thank you for including the Teachers for Boston fundraiser! Your product donation and promoting means so much! This fundraiser has also been a testament to how amazing the sellers on TPT are! :)

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    1. It's true; I don't see a downside to TPT. I'm not sure why they feel money towards educational resources (whether from teachers or taxpayers) should only go to Scholastic, Carson Dellosa and Pearson and not to those of us who are still in the classroom, seeing needs as they arise and inventing creative ways to fill those needs. What are they afraid of?

      And I'm happy to help to support this charity. That's just another wonderful thing about being part of the TPT community. I bet most non-sellers don't realize how much fundraising we do, just like I bet most non-teachers don't realize how much teachers donate to charity and fundraisers as we model for our students to instill a sense of charity in them as well.

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