Teaching with TPT?

I recently (as in minutes ago) read the article “I Don’t Like TPT” at http://mattbgomez.com/i-dont-like-tpt/. The author’s points about TPT are:

#1. I think teachers are selling things that work in their classroom. Amazing things no doubt, but the skills, format, imagery and wording is built around what works for their kids or their population. I feel I do my best teaching when I meet the needs of the kids in my classroom. TPT sells almost everything in a PDF format making it impossible for me to change things (even slightly) to meet the needs of my class.

#2 I think TPT is creating what I call the “laminating culture” among teachers.  We all work hard for the little money we get. When we spend $5 on a unit that unit is going to be laminated and used for several years. Why is it being used? Is it because it meets the needs of the kids in the class that year? Or because the kids in the class show an interest in the topic? Sadly, I think they often get used over and over because they cost money and they are easy.

#3 I think cute is overrated. Maybe it is because I am a male teacher but I talked about this with many people at I Teach K this week and it seems a lot of people agree with me. My question is who are we making these activities for? I know teachers need to feel happy and excited about what they are using but often I think early childhood rooms are designed to impress parents and other teacher friends (I have written about my class theme here.) I’m sorry but kids don’t need polka dots, owls, and bubbly fonts to have fun and learn. I would go as far to say they don’t even notice. I have never had a kid tell me great job on the design of my handout or activity.

#4 I think real images are more valuable than clip art. When I make something for my class I use creativecommons.org to find real images of butterflies, elephants, sunflowers and fire trucks. My class is not growing up in a world of DJ inkers.

By telling you all of this, you might think I’m ruining the article for you. Trust me, I’m not. In fact, the real meat of the article, in my opinion, is in the comments. See, his real purpose in sharing these thoughts is to get the readers to think, to talk, and to collaborate. His points are valid, and I’d like to take a moment to address them.

  1. Teachers are selling things that work in their classrooms. It does work for that particular population. It does not mean that it will not work for your population, but the locked PDF formatting does make it difficult to tweak things to work for your class. I have discovered that challenge, and I try to purchase items that I can edit to my heart’s desire.
  2. TPT might be creating a “laminating culture,” but there are teachers like me who consider “sticking it in a sheet protector so I can add and edit it as needed because Lord knows how long this is going to work (heck, if this is even going to work).” However, it is true. There are some things that teachers use over and over again BECAUSE they paid so much for it. This idea brings me back to #1. I buy things that I can tweak. If I’m shelling out MY money (my hard earned money) to get things for my students, I better damn well be able to edit it and make it work for years to come. Even if it means tearing it completely apart year-to-year to fix it. I don’t care. TPT is a starting point for me. I hardly ever use the things as suggested. My students aren’t your students, fool!
  3. I work with Middle School students. They might not like cute, but they do like things to feel fun. They pay closer attention when there are pictures, videos, etc. rather than boring old Georgia-font-size-12 scrawled across a worksheet (I HATE COMIC SANS!). Throwing in some more fun elements keeps me entertained, and my students seem to like it more, too. Though, I can see where you’re coming from working with kindergarten. Now, I’m not saying kids need polka dots, bubbly fonts, etc…but sometimes, it does help to catch their attention a little when they get to be middle school students.
  4. Real images are more valuable than clip art. Except when you’ve got a less than or equal to coloring sheet to help your students remember what values of numbers actually are, because middle schoolers can’t handle coloring in a real image in that case. Heck, I can’t handle putting values into those tiny little spots! But I digress. The point is, yes, kids need to see the real image. Some of the things available on TPT do have real images. Unfortunately, they are mostly for the upper grades.

In conclusion, I think Matt made some real great points, but TPT is only as useful as you make it, and it only helps you as much as you are willing to put effort into it. If you’re just printing stuff off and passing it out, it’s not going to do your students any good, but if you’re taking things from TPT, and making them your own? I have a feeling that you’re going to become a better teacher.


P.S. I’m totally on team cute, but I’m also totally on “my students need to decorate my classroom with THEIR work” so sometimes, team cute gets a little lost 😦

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