The first of two posts thinking through how buying and selling teaching resources isn’t the seventh circle of hell that some might think…
This year – for the first time – I have spent my own money on lessons (made and sold by someone else) to use in my classroom. And – now having thought about it – I don’t mind at all.
I know our salaries are squeezed by the unaccounted for costs of teaching – a study guide for a new text; a set of biros or laminating pouches. We buy critical readings for A Level texts, or DVDs, or posters. Edu-books and events like ResearchED now also appear on my list of expenditure – all of these help me think and develop as a teacher. It would be nice if my school could give me a pot of cash to spend on the above, I recognise that it can’t happen often, so I make my own judgement about what I am happy to spend on (and what I am not).
Last Autumn whilst tackling a gap in subject knowledge – I came across TeachersPayTeachers. If you’ve never heard of it, the American grassroots organisation is a glossier cousin to TES Resources. Here teachers across primary and secondary buy and sell ‘products’.
I was helping, via Skype, the child of a friend who was struggling with studying Huckleberry Finn. He’s American, living in the Middle East, and needed some guidance before an exam that would enable him to re-enter mainstream education in US. I hadn’t read Huckleberry Finn in 20 years and certainly had never taught it. My time was limited and a simple Google search brought me to the doorstep of TeachersPayTeachers.
For the princely sum of $6.00 (about £4.00) I purchased a PDF file of 80+ pages of literary analysis which saved my bacon that week. The analysis was more detailed than a study guide or anything found for free on the internet. I was impressed and went back to poke around the site some more.
The startling difference from freebie-style resources on sites, like TES, is the products on TPT are slick, well-designed and fit for purpose (the obvious caveat here being I have checked out all of them).
I have since made a number of purchases from the site – all of them were exactly as described, were value for money (when set against my time saved) and without the standard TES apostrophe, grammar, spelling mistakes.
Whilst many of the resources for sale might have started out as classroom lessons or worksheets – it isn’t good enough to just upload your Sunday night rushed PowerPoint to this site. There are rules and advisory guidelines that expound that need to be thoughtful, high quality, clear and customer friendly. It seems that hours and hours are spent creating resources that will match precisely the needs of classroom teacher customers – whether it is algebra or world history or Ezra Pound’s poetry – someone has considered the subject area from my point of view and spent time working out what I might need.
Teachers in the USA can and have made a lot of money from TPT, and who can blame them, given the uncertainty of teaching employment contracts and pay in the US.
But selling resources isn’t an idea that many in the UK are comfortable with. I wonder why – is it that the idea of selling something is in direct opposition to the altruism of a public service job? Many blanche at the idea of monetising resources – another step towards the capitalism – but I think we are already there. We will buy resources from EMC but if a colleague has created something genuinely valuable and wants share this – the expectation is that he should do it for free. Again, I ask, why?
Textbooks are on the way back in, another huge cost. I’ve just reviewed the latest batch of KS3 textbooks from one of the big exam boards and I wasn’t impressed. They contained no deep learning. Just the same old activities, gap-fills, tables and card sorts. The £600 expenditure for a batch would not be value for money. For every double page spread – there was probably one activity I would consider using. Why? Because they aren’t written by the people on the ground.
Classroom teachers are the experts. If they are willing to share it for free – then great, but given their time is saving me time – I have no problem parting with what is a small amount of money in return. These individuals are not out to make a cheap buck. They are thoughtful practitioners sharing ways to access learning – could they possibly deserve to be paid for it?
If I make the choice to spend my money, then I would rather put it directly into the pocket of another teacher, than the TES, Teachit, Edusites or Pearson. And as it turns out – it’s better value for money.