When I first decided to go back into teaching after taking almost 10 years off I was pretty excited. I was also pretty scared. I knew things had changed in education, and I was going from teaching high school to middle school. Luckily, I was accidentally exposed to math blogs at a NCCTM meeting that I had recently attended. It led me to Dan’s blog and then a host of others through blogs and twitter.
I was completely amazed, an incredibly grateful, that Dan and other math teacher bloggers openly posted everything they made FOR FREE on their websites. Sam’s virtual filing cabinet, Kate’s folder of Row Games, and Shelli’s I Love Math.org pretty much blew my mind. After teaching in a school district where teachers in my own building did not want to share their materials, I could not believe that I could find all of these amazing, editable lessons for FREE online. I admit that I freely stole and adapted as much as I could find. I can’t even express how much this helped me when I was brand new, and starting over. Exposure to this wealth of excellent teaching material changed my teaching practice forever.
Since I was desperately searching for resources, I discovered Teachers Pay Teachers soon after. However, it frustrated me. First of all, since I was starting over, I needed many lesson ideas and $3 a lesson would add up fast. Additionally, as a lesson modifier, I had trouble with the pdf files. I could convert to text or take screen shots, but that was a lot of work for a lesson I had to pay money for. I also noticed that many lessons on TPT were similar to editable ones found on bloggers websites for free! It just took a little more searching (or simply asking for ideas on Twitter) to find these lessons. But most importantly, every lesson on TPT did not come with a heart-filled blog full of methodology, pictures of their students doing the lesson, thoughts for improvement, and great commentary from other bloggers. THIS is what I had become use to, and treasured in each and every one of the lessons that I found for free on every bloggers site. These bloggers and their commenters are what inspired great ideas that helped me adapt their lessons to fit my needs.
Yes, I have had my bad experiences as well that taint me against TPT. I have had material that I developed reformatted and sold. I have seen other teachers original material treated the same way. And I have had tense conversations with TPT bloggers who even swear they created stolen materials. I like to look for the best in everything, so I am assuming that this is the exception, not the rule. No, my main worry with TPT is not stolen lessons but it is that the “lure of the money” for underpaid teachers will entice amazing new teacher bloggers to save their best work to sale, instead of sharing for free. This may be selfish, but nothing makes me happier than seeing a new math teacher blogger arrive on the scene. It is the reason that I have been involved with the blogging initiative for two years in a row. That initiative is an incredible amount of work for me. But it is worth it if I can get more math teacher bloggers online, freely sharing their incredible materials with others. THIS is the way that our community grows and helps each other.
Some great bloggers are using TPT, many of them before they even started blogging. This is not a blog against you. I admire how hard you work. However, I would like all NEW math teacher bloggers to realize that TPT is a business. In contrast, what I would like for our community is not more business people, but more volunteers, who freely share their time and work. I would like to encourage new math teacher bloggers who benefit from our gift community (explained best by Kate here and here) to freely give back as well.
I am sure that some will disagree with me. But this is the community that I want to be a part of.
The online math teacher community has I have a problem with Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) and I intend to explain my own understanding of why.
First, a disclaimer: The MTBoS is a loose confederation of teachers all around the world. I don’t even know it’s fair to say “we” share beliefs and practices. However, I think our community has come to rally around this one idea probably more than any other single idea: we share freely. We share freely to help other teachers out, we share freely because we know we get more than we take, we share freely because we understand more users help make a better product.
Those ideas are more than a grand altruistic vision. It’s not about all the feels we get from sharing, at least not for me.
Part I: Why Share Freely?
If I offer a resource for sale on TpT, I get…
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