So I tweeted this one day last week…
The next morning I woke up to quite a bit of activity to this tweet. Reactions ranged from overwhelming agreement to absolute dissent. Some people saw my tweet as me shaming and judging teachers in a negative light, and others informed me that I clearly was not connected to what teachers are experiencing right now. Luckily, I’ve got thick skin and a great sense of humor, and in spite of those who thought I was shaming and judging teachers, I’m still glad to have started a conversation we clearly need to have in the teaching community. Before I go on to give further explanation on my thoughts and opinions behind this tweet, let’s define curriculum for the purposes of our discussion. Here’s a definition I really like:
“Curriculum is a standards-based sequence of planned experiences where students practice and achieve proficiency in content and applied learning skills. Curriculum is the central guide for all educators as to what is essential for teaching and learning, so that every student has access to rigorous academic experiences. The structure, organization, and considerations in a curriculum are created in order to enhance student learning and facilitate instruction. Curriculum must include the necessary goals, methods, materials and assessments to effectively support instruction and learning.Rhode Island Department of Education
You may have noticed some of the things I did NOT tweet: 1. TPT is bad. 2. Teachers should not use TPT. 3. Teachers need to create their own curriculum. 4. Teachers who use TPT should feel ashamed. 5. Teachers who use TPT are ineffective practitioners who do not vet the things they utilize to design learning experiences for their students. I felt the need to make sure I shared what wasn’t said to perhaps clear up some of what has been assumed. Now, here’s my view of TPT and the impact on our professional work, and yes-it’s my opinion, so it’s o.k. if you don’t agree with it. I just felt the need to expand on my thinking 8,000+ likes later.
TPT is dangerously convenient. Before you decide to blast my Twitter feed because you think I am being judgmental or shaming teachers (so not me) just hear me out for a minute. Like anything else that makes designing learning experiences for our students feel easy, supplemental resources from textbook publishers included, we have to be careful about what we use to teach students what they should know and be able to do and how we use what we’ve selected. As academic practitioners, we must be critical consumers of ALL curricular resources, and not be driven to rely on sources that are designed with convenience, rather than quality, in mind. While many educators may vet what they select, the source itself has no vetting mechanism, and that is something I find troublesome. While I imagine that to be true, that’s not the point I am making here. Collecting unvetted resources and then putting them out to be shared and utilized regardless of quality isn’t very responsible of the source. There is no repository of content for sell, regardless of quality or effectiveness, in any other professional sector. Lawyers don’t have a LPL website to purchase written briefs do they? Architects aren’t buying blueprints from one another on an APA site? And no-we are not lawyers or architects, but we are professionals and I don’t think expecting some system of vetting to improve quality and effectiveness is an unreasonable expectation. Now I get it- TPT is a brilliant brain child of someone who is an entrepreneurial genius. Clearly. Essentially, someone has monetized the most critical aspect of our work: selecting what and determining how we will teach students the content and skills they need to know for any specified course of study. While I know first hand what it is like to work in an under resourced school or school system, and how difficult it can be to find quality curricular materials, I still don’t believe the quality of curriculum should be compromised, and more importantly, I don’t hold schools and districts responsible for this. The problem is so much larger. I believe unequivocally that state and federal legislators and policy makers need to sufficiently fund schools and adequately compensate teachers. No educator deserves to have to piecemeal a curriculum and no student in our public education system in this country deserves a piecemeal learning experience. If the nation cares for its children the way it should and proclaims it does, we must invest in public education in the right ways that result in adequately compensated educators and properly served children. As a public educator, I exercise this belief every time I select a candidate for a local, state, or national office. That’s why I vote with public education, students and educators, in mind every time I step in a voting booth.
Secondly, TPT as it is structured currently, can be a deterrent to building collective efficacy. Professional collaboration around the design of teaching, learning, and assessment experiences is an effective practice for improving teacher practice and student learning. Entering the arena of selling your instructional materials that were specifically designed for your students to meet their specific needs might make an educator some much needed extra money, but it also might cause educators not to share the load with their colleagues. It forces a sort of “my stuff” mindset. Many folks commented in the response to my tweet how they have had their work or known someone who had had their work essentially “stolen” and posted to TPT without their permission. They were also lots of mentions of plagiarism as well. Now I am clear that TPT isn’t the only reason why collaboration around the work can be a challenge for many department and/or grade level teams. There are all kinds of factors that impact that: time to collaborate, ability to build strong professional relationships with colleagues, trust, etc. I know that is a multi-faceted challenge. I just don’t know that TPT helps that kind of challenge, and I believe that the power of our work is in our collective ability to do it together. I whole heartedly agree that teachers need time to work together, support to do so effectively, and high quality resources to impact student learning in positive ways. I recognize that these things aren’t always present for educators, with or without TPT in the mix, but they certainly should be whenever possible. Collective efficacy has been deemed one of the key elements in the public education space for improving teaching practices, assessment design, and student learning. I believe it to be a critical aspect of our work as educators.
I can only speak to my experiences, and I can say without a doubt that I’ve witnessed misuse of curricular resources, TPT and others alike, as I am sure many of us have. I think that misuse, however, is rooted in convenience and capitalizes on the nation’s failure to invest in public education and teachers they way it should. When we make our selections for curricular resources having prioritized convenience rather than quality and effectiveness, I find myself concerned. Our students deserve a well-designed and high-quality learning experience that meets their needs and helps them reach their full potential. As practitioners, it is our professional duty to ensure that we are critical consumers of any curricular materials or resources that we use to provide our students with learning experiences they need and deserve. I believe that is likely the intention that the majority of educators have, yet I also know that our intentions are not always aligned to what we execute in our daily practices. We must be intentional and deliberate in our work because the work we do matters that much.
Finally, I realize that most of the people who responded to my tweet, positively or in dissent, don’t know me. But for the people who do know me, I mean really know me, and have worked with me as a teacher, principal, state level education leader, & instructional leader in my current district, they know this about me: I would never shame teachers. I love this profession too much to do that, and it’s just not who I am at all. I’ve dedicated 23 years of my life to public education, and I plan to fulfill my mission to have a complete career in public education until I retire. If anyone who read that tweet or reads this blog feels judged or shamed, allow me to issue you an apology: I am sorry to have made you feel that way. It certainly was not my goal.
I believe in public education and am passionate about this work because of how public education changed my life. Perhaps that’s a story for another day, but know this: I’ll never stop pushing for excellence in all we do in our work. Our children deserve it.
Y’all be easy,