Teachers, are you spending lots of money on Teachers Pay Teachers?
I can’t say I’ve ever purchased anything from TPT, but I can see the allure. Not needing to write your own lessons or take hours to make beautiful data trackers. That sounds nice. You’re also supporting other teachers who have decided to make their own resources, which is awesome!
This is not a post about not paying for teacher materials or avoiding TPT. In fact, there are tons of teacher resources, even beyond TPT, that support and help teachers. (Shameless plug: I’m offering one right now--an online, self-paced time-saving course!) This post is about helping you decide when purchasing a teacher resource is worth it for you, as an individual. So, let’s get to it!
Here are some questions to ask yourself when purchasing teacher resources:
Which is more important to me at this point in my life: my money or my time?
Of course, many teachers are short on both, but if you had to choose one, what are you in greater need of at the moment? If the answer is money, it may not make sense to spend money on anything right now. Instead, you’ll need to figure out how to do as much as possible during the time you have. If the answer is time, try to invest in the resources that will give you the most time for your money. I like to invest in resources that will provide long-lasting benefits, beyond one lesson or even one unit. Maybe you have enough money to decide to purchase something that will save you time today and that’s good enough for you. If money is tight, I would try to invest in something that will save you time for life...something you can re-use over and over or a training that teaches you skills that you can use daily, year after year.
Will it improve my efficiency AND my effectiveness?
When considering whether to purchase something that will give you more time, ask yourself if it will also make you more effective as a teacher. Many resources may be efficient in that they save us time, but some materials may not be useful for your students. This was one of the reasons I made the personal decision to make my own curriculum each year I taught. I never found anything that would have engaged and supported my students in the ways I thought I could just by virtue of knowing their unique needs and interests. (Side note: I believe engaging, personalized curriculum is one of the most powerful ways to reduce students’ disruptive behavior.) I like investing in resources that grow my pedagogy. I often think of courses that teach particular skills, but it could also be a TPT data tracker that helps you set up systems of student ownership in your class. Aim for resources that give you BOTH efficiency and effectiveness.
Will it compel me to commit to achieving a long-awaited goal?
I like to think I’m a dedicated person. If I set my mind to something, I usually follow through, but even I know that if I invest money in something, I am far more likely to reach my goal. I had always said I wanted to run a marathon, but my marathon training didn’t really start until the moment I paid my race registration fee. Achieving a professional goal is the same way. When I invest money, I’m not going to let that money go to waste. If you’ve been holding on to a teacher goal of your own for a while, but haven’t acted on it or made much progress yet, invest in a resource that will give you that extra push. This might be a course that provides structure on how to achieve your goal or a resource that you weren’t sure how to create on your own. The resources themselves are valuable, but so is the money you’re putting in. If this resonates with you, investing in a paid teaching resource could be a way to jumpstart your progress on that long-awaited goal. Bet on yourself, teacher friend!
Will it help me thrive?
Borrowing from the research of Spreitzer and Porath (2014), I encourage you to ask a series of sub-questions that align with what positive psychologists have found enables thriving at work:
Will the purchase enable you to spend more time on the parts of teaching that fulfill you? Or conversely, might the purchase reduce your enthusiasm for your job? For example, another reason I never bought curriculum is because designing engaging curriculum for my students is one aspect of teaching that brings me immense joy. If that was taken away from me, I would have saved time, but a fundamental part of my drive and excitement to teach would be gone. Consider what part of teaching is most fulfilling to you, and invest in resources that enable you to do more of whatever that is.
Does it teach me something new? Feelings of competence not only enable vitality and growth at work, but collective teacher efficacy is the number one activity that advances student learning (Hattie, 2018). Learning new things helps you and your students! So, ask yourself if the purchase will teach you anything or support your pedagogical growth in some way, perhaps enabling you to try something new you’ve been wanting to implement (like the data tracker/student ownership example above).
Will I have more time and energy for the important relationships in my life in and outside of school? Or, will it help you avoid de-energizing relationships? Positive relationships can increase your motivation, engagement, well-being, and learning, but de-energizing relationships can do the opposite and are 4x as powerful! If you can invest in resources that save you time, you can choose to spend that time with loved ones. You can also invest in doing something new with a colleague (one who is not de-energizing), so that you can do 2 things at once: build relationships and grow as a professional! This could be engaging in some personal PD together, trying out an interdisciplinary unit, or something else that lifts you both up!
Will it help me manage my energy and thus enable me to show up better for my students? Certainly, time-saving resources will carve out more time for you to be able to sleep or engage in other relaxing activities. You may also want to invest in non-teaching resources that are more focused on wellness. Maybe that’s a gym membership or a course on teacher well-being.
These 4 main questions help you keep the important considerations in mind (the money vs. time priority, efficiency AND effectiveness, committing to a goal, and thriving) when trying to decide whether to purchase instructional resources in the stress of the moment.
If you do decide you are looking for more time, efficiency and effectiveness, goal commitment, and all the components of thriving, you can still save a seat for my Work Less Teach More course. Run through the checklist and see if it’s a fit for you. Registration is open until Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
Happy learning and growing, educators!
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.