I have been teaching for 25 years - yes, that even sounds ancient to me! Through those 25 years, I have seen many educational tides; some of them good; some of them destructive. 17 of those 25 years have been spent in kindergarten and 17 of those years in a parochial schools. Much discussion can be made about private schools vs public schools. The intent of this post is not to compare the two types of school; rather to give a bit of background. I have always loved teaching and I mean ALWAYS! I was one of those kids who asked for a chalk and a chalkboard for Christmas! I say this because truly, I feel that my destiny has always been teaching. I think of myself as wife, mother, and teacher; all 3 are so intertwined that there is no way that you can find where one strand begins and the other ends! When my husband and I were dating, I was already a teacher and he knew from the start that teaching was something that I would not give up and even though I took a brief break from teaching to have our children, I was back into the teaching world when our youngest son entered kindergarten and I have been there ever since!
When I first started teaching kindergarten, there really was no set curriculum. I remember vividly sitting through a textbook review from a representative. When I raised my hand to ask a question, she asked "What grade do you teach?"I told her "Kindergarten." Her response was "Oh...... Kindergarten. Well, kindergarten is so different from the rest of the grades. What I am telling you is not for kindergarten." "So, " I asked, "What DO you have for kindergarten?" "Well", she said, "Honestly, we do not really have anything appropriate for kindergarten at this time." Yep, those are almost the exact words of our conversation. There really wasn't much for kindergarten at the time. It was sad, but also exciting! I really was free to create my own curriculum. I was the first kindergarten teacher that our school had ever had and my principal really had no idea what I should be doing! So, I started to create my own materials. When I look back at them now, I am a bit embarrassed by their quality. But what I DO see is a teacher working to create materials that were enticing to a five year old, but filled with challenge that only kindergarten teachers know their students can achieve. Even back then, I felt that kindergarten kids could be taught a few sight words and construct sentences with simple writing activities. I can't say that what I did with them was pretty, but they learned and that was the important part.
Through the years, my teaching evolved as all good teaching does. I have always been a proponent of continuing education for teachers. Teachers who do not stay up on current trends tend to be the ones that do the same thing from year to year and do not take their inspiration from their students. I have been a mentor to student teachers and newly hired teachers. It is because of the influence of these experiences that I have tried to keep my teaching current.
Four years ago, my teaching had reached a plateau. I still loved my job, but I found that I was starting to be the teacher I did not want to be. During one August in-service, I was training a new kindergarten team and found myself saying things like "This is the way we have always done it" and "No, I don't think that will work here." WHAT??!! Why was I saying the words that I always, always felt were the sign of a teacher tired of her/his job???? It was then that I decided that I needed to change. So I started perusing the internet looking for ideas. This was before Pinterest so it was indeed a challenge to search for "Ideas for Kindergarten learning!" As I was looking, I happened upon a site called "Teachers Pay Teachers." Hmm....... I wondered what the heck this place was and clicked on the link. Oh my goodness.... A new world jumped out at me! Wow! I was able to find so many interesting things and was totally inspired by the creativity! I made my first purchase then and was a buyer from then on. My teaching totally changed and I was again excited to create my lessons for my students!
Here is the thing..... When I started using TPT resources, I did not use them to REPLACE my current curriculum. I used them to ENHANCE them. I did not ask TPT to write my lesson plans. I continued to be the creator of my own lesson plans. Never once did I feel that TPT was doing my job for me. I felt that TPT was simply a resource; much like The Mailbox and Teacher Created Materials.
When I began to sell on TPT, it was with trepidation. I knew that what I created for my students worked for me, but wasn't sure if it would work for other teachers. But I decided to try it, so I joined TPT as a seller in the summer of 2011. As soon as I was given my spot, I became an instant part of what is called "The Sellers Forum." Wow, wow, wow! I could not believe the collaboration going on in that place! I was instantly inspired by all the creativity and LOVE of teaching that I found in TPT! I found so many teachers willing to share and give great advice. My teaching evolved once again. The bar had increased and I made the decision to create materials that strove to reach that bar. Because of this decision, my students have TOTALLY benefited! I am excited to share with them new ways of reaching their potential and they are excited to get there!
Some teachers criticize TPT because teachers should be sharing ideas, not selling them. Well, we DO share ideas; LOTS of them! I have 82 products in my store and 28 of them are free. There are THOUSANDS of products for free on TPT! No one can say that sharing is not a part of TPT. But I see no difference between paying a fellow teacher for supplemental materials and purchasing a book from TCM or a subscription to The Mailbox Magazine. No one says that The Mailbox was created to take the place of lesson plan writing. They are simply resources to use to supplement lessons.
Another criticism of TPT is that our resources are mostly in the form of PDF documents and therefore cannot be changed. How many of us have purchased a resource book and been given the opportunity to change the format? I know of no books that allow buyers to change the format. When I create a resource, I try to add pages that are adaptable to both a teacher's individual needs and those of his/her students. I have read several quotes from teachers who say that they go to TPT simply for ideas and not for purchase. They become annoyed when they cannot copy and paste elements from a product to suit their own needs. As a creator of supplemental materials, I purchase photos and clip art from various vendors. In order to protect both the property of the graphic artists and my own ideas, I add security settings to my products. It is an unfortunate part of selling on the internet that ideas can easily be stolen. Look at all the lawsuits movie companies and entertainers are involved in - it is just too easy to steal ideas and therefore, safeguards need to be made to protect intellectual property.
So, how has TPT changed my teaching?
1. TPT has made me aware of current trends in education and inspired me to make these a part of my weekly lesson planning.
2. TPT has allowed me to collaborate with some of the brightest minds in education today.
3. TPT has made learning fun for my students. My students are five years old and they are excited to see bright colors and fun images.
4. TPT has made it possible for me to create a brilliant lesson and be able to attend a family gathering or have a Saturday night dinner with my husband. All that I have to do is search for a resource and I will find what I need. I write my lesson plans, add the resource, and have the time to enjoy much needed time with my family.
5. TPT has caused me to become excited about teaching again! I no longer look at last year's lesson plans and simply re-create what I did the previous year. TPT is constantly showcasing new ideas, new sellers, new philosophies.... How can you not get excited about your teaching career when you are surrounded by so much energy and enthusiasm?
6. Finally, TPT has given me a small source of income that I normally would not have while teaching in a parochial school. Yes, I knew when I became a teacher that I would not make a huge salary and that the benefits would not be monetary. And I still am fine with this; I did not choose my career for the money. But if I can share my ideas with others and make a tiny bit of profit doing it, that adds some icing on the cake.
I guess I just want to say to those teachers who are not proponents of TPT, that it is okay to not want to use us. No one would tell you to purchase The Mailbox Magazine because "it will provide everything that you will need to teach your students." There is not one resource that I know of that can completely fulfill the needs of a classroom. It works the same way with TPT. We are a group of teachers who are sharing our resources. We are not selling our lesson plans. Writing lesson plans and making sure that they are written in a way that suits the needs of your students is the job of the teacher; not the writer of a TPT supplement. We simply offer ideas. You are free to use them or you are free to go somewhere else. That is the beauty of our economy; you decide what works for you. There is not one TPT teacher who feels that his/her resources are more than they are which is simply a resource. TPT is a resource that many teachers feel blessed to have found and in a small way, I am blessed to be a part of it.