I don’t know how they do it–those teachers who manage to run a Teachers Pay Teachers store, teach full time and maintain a blog. I thought I could maintain a blog that is mainly reflective, and I teach part-time. Yet my part-time teaching often feels like full-time teaching. I have three preps a day–sixth grade ELA, seventh grade ELA, and eighth grade English I. I have a total of 33 students. I should have plenty of time to create fabulous lessons and materials and have interesting things to write about on my blog, and yet I have that I have gone weeks without even thinking about this space.
How do they do it?
I know that since I returned to the middle-school and secondary classroom after teaching college-level composition classes as an adjunct instructor, I have spent a ton of money on TPT materials, and while they have been helpful in giving me ideas, I rarely use them as the original creator intended. I piece together units from “this and that” and “these and those.” I suppose in a sense I am being creative, but sometimes, I feel more like a fraud and a plagiarist! What is the solution?
I know that I have been more selective in what I purchase now. I tend to purchase generic things from TPT rather than content-specific items. I buy templates that can be adapted to any literary work or writing assignment. I also shop for the freebies. They are often as useful and the bundles and units.
But is that being a creative teacher, or one who just follows a set curriculum without any variation? I think it is the former. After all, we are the experts in our classrooms. We have gotten to know our students, and we know their needs as well as their likes and dislikes. My seventh graders, for instance, enjoy making interactive notebook pages, and even though it’s a lot of “cut and paste” and “arts and crafts,” as the sixth graders call it, they are learning! When a student who has colored the exposition part of the plot triangle green first semester remembers that exposition is the green part of the triangle and recalls that that part is where the introductions occur, the time and effort to make the pyramid, cut it out, color it in, and write the notes is all worth it. That is being creative.
I have a ton of teaching resources that I’ve re-collected over the last five years (so many of my original resources and professional books were destroyed in a house fire several years ago). I use them as references now. I look for suggestions and solutions to the problems I see in my classroom. I rarely use the units I purchase “as is.” In the end, I create a new unit adapted from ideas from others.
I realize that creating new materials is hard work and time-consuming. However, I miss the days when teachers freely shared materials on the Internet, not expecting payment. We are already isolated as it is. I believe that a free give-and-take of unit ideas and plans is a good thing. I am a member of several middle-school ELA and secondary ELA teacher groups. I enjoy reading the exchange of ideas. Several of those groups, though, are self-serving advertisements of TPT resources the creator of the group has made. There’s nothing wrong with promoting one’s work. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to earn an income from those resources.
I know that this last paragraph is a “rant.” And it’s a digression from creativity and teaching and what constitutes creative use of materials. I don’t know what the answer is. I am putting together my unit for Riordan’s The Lightning Thief and mythology, Romeo and Juliet, and Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. The R&J unit is easy to create. So is the Riordan novel, but Chasing Lincoln’s Killer is killing me (I don’t usually teach nonfiction!). I need some creative suggestions now.
But it’s back to work.