TPT Debate: On Teacher’s Personal Generosity

Earlier this summer, Adam Hill wrote about his views on resources like Teachers Pay Teachers. It was a fascinating discussion, and one I’ve continued to mull over ever since.

One comment that especially stood out to me was from Tonya Kipe:

“I would rather eat the cost just so others could benefit from the resources because most of us already have serious financial obligations to deal with and shouldn’t add work issues to it.”

This is interesting to me, because when you really think about it, the “serious financial obligations” works in both directions — both for the teachers who are trying to obtain resources for their classrooms on minimal budgets, and for the teachers who are trying to make money on TPT because of serious personal financial obligations.

So is it really such a bad thing for teachers to benefit financially from their resources they share?

It’s a complex question that gets really personal for me, so let me share some background…

My first few years of teaching were while my husband was in school. We had an infant. I was commuting through a massive construction zone for over an hour a day, and our evenings together as a family were scant.

When I heard about all the extras that other teachers were purchasing out-of-pocket for their classrooms because their budgets were just too tiny, I felt a bit ashamed. Our little family had only just made it above the poverty line with my new job — our eligibility for WIC (Women, Infants, & Children which provided basics like milk) still hadn’t even expired. There was no way I was going to be able to spend any of my own money on my classroom.

(eventually, I came to realize that my inability to personally supplement my classroom budget was something I neither could nor should worry about. Instead, I endeavored to engage my students in the creative problem-solving process using our existing resources — which certainly had its own merit).

Now, going back to the debate. Had I ventured into TPT to earn some extra money to supplement our supplies, or even our family’s finances, would anyone have accused me of greed?

But of course, I had neither spare money nor time, so that wouldn’t have been a possibility anyway. So, when I instead utilized free resources other teachers had publicly shared, would anyone have accused me of laziness?

I doubt it.

So here’s my take-away from it all. There is a season for everything. Right now, I’m away from the classroom, so I have much more time to fulfill a contributor role, which I love. And when I do return later, I will be in a much better financial position than I was during those first few frenzied years.

Give when you can. Don’t worry when you can’t. And avoid making assumptions and pressuring others. As long as this country habitually underpays and under-budgets teachers and classrooms, understand that no matter how earnestly we all want to help as many students as possible with our ideas, teachers’ personal financial generosity can only go so far.

P.S. As always, whether selling, shopping, sharing, or borrowing, remember to be wary of the resources that “have all the glitz and appearance of learning, but that really promote something…else.” (see An Open Letter: To Pinterest, from a Teacher).

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

2 Replies to “TPT Debate: On Teacher’s Personal Generosity”

  1. Hi Mary,
    I popped from here over to your article about Pinterest and have left a comment there too.
    TPT is also interesting. There is a lot of good stuff on TPT, but sometimes it can be difficult to find.
    When I was in the classroom, I spent a lot of money on resources, but generally hands on materials to support learning, or consumables for art and craft. I made most of what I would consider teaching resources or lesson materials. I love writing and I love thinking creatively – two reasons that added to my enjoyment of teaching. Because most lesson suggestions I found in books and online were less than inspiring for me and the children, I created lessons that were more fun and supported children’s learning better than a lot of what was available. I was concerned more about learning opportunities through discussion and thinking than completing worksheets that had little connection to anything else.
    When I left the classroom, I was excited to find a way of sharing my existing resources and creating more. I opened a TPT store. Unfortunately, I was unable to upload my interactive resources, so decided to establish a website where I could make interactive lessons as well as print-based materials available.
    Pricing one’s work is difficult, but I think it is fair to be rewarded financially for work that lessens another’s workload. The annual subscription is quite small (less than five cups of coffee a year), particularly considering there are over 250 resources available, at least ten percent of which are interactive. If the items were priced individually, it wouldn’t take long to exceed the annual subscription fee. The resources are suitable for use with children in their first three years of school (approx 5 – 7 years). I would love some feedback if you or your readers would care to take a look. I am happy to give a discount to anyone who pops over and lets me know they have come via your blog. I apologise if it sounds like a sales pitch. It’s just that I’m passionate about real learning and teaching and not so much about the glitz. Your article resonates with me very strongly.

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