If you are involved in education you probably have heard of Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). If you have ever tried to pin something educational on Pinterest I know you are aware of TPT. TPT was started by Paul Edelman, a New York teacher, in 2006. Today Teacher Synergy (the company behind TPT) has evolved into a major disruptor in the world of education.
Teachers Pay Teachers is a marketplace for teachers to buy and sell different educational material. Initially, TPT was a really cool place for teachers to make some extra cash on the side but it has turned into a major game changer in the world of education.
Five years ago only one or two teachers at my school ever heard of Teachers Pay Teachers. Today, TPT is just part of normal conversation in the teacher lounge or during staff professional development. There have been multiple times that teachers will laugh when they realize that they downloaded the same product from TPT.
The Impact of Teachers Pay Teachers is far greater than simply making some money for selling a few worksheets. TPT is helping fuel major change in the world of education. Below are few of the ways.
Because of TPT, teachers are now building different products. The act of building gives teachers a deeper understanding of the content they are teaching. We are striving for students to improve their problem solving skill, but teachers also need to work on this skill. As teachers try to create new products it gives them a feel for what their students are going through.
If you are going to sell things on TPT, you can not just create boring run of the mill worksheets. You need to think differently. You need to make products that are unique and get students (and teachers) excited. What can you do to make a fraction lesson fun and challenging? Can you transform a traditional lesson into a hands on lesson? What about a game?
The process of being creative forces you to make the ordinary extraordinary.
Inspire and be Inspired
Inspiration works both ways. As a seller on TPT, there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment we someone buys one of your products. Even if you only sell a couple of $1 items their is still that feeling of excitement. You can also receive inspiration by looking at other products created by fellow teachers. Seeing another teachers product might trigger an idea that you could do with one of your products.
One of the many nice things about TPT is the feedback that your fellow teachers will give you about your products. Much like Amazon, on TPT your users will rate your product and leave comments. The products you are putting on TPT are also the products you are using in your classroom. By putting these products on the market you are allowing the teaching community to test and analyze your creation. If the community loves what you are doing it's just validation of what you are doing in class. If teachers are giving you mixed reviews, it probability means that your lesson/product needs to be tweaked.
Reflection can come in a variety or ways. The most obvious is analyzing the feedback you receive from your fellow teachers regarding your product. What are your fellow teachers saying about your product? Why where the comments/ratings less than stellar? What changes can you make to fix these concerns?
You can also look at your different products to see if there is a certain type of product that people are really excited about. On TPT each seller has a dashboard that will keep track of different statistics such as page views, wish list and downloads. You might notice that teachers are interested in a certain topic (ex. fractions) or format (ex. games). One way to generate feedback to offer certain products for free (you are required to make your first product free). Free products will usually generate a lot of page views. Once you have a product with a lot of page views you can see what percent actually downloaded you product. Naturally, the more downloads the more feedback.
Sell to Buy
A nice thing about selling items on Teachers Pay Teachers is that you can generate money that you can then turn around and use to purchase items form other teachers. In a way, it's sort of an educational barter system. This is nice because you do not need to go through the hassle of school paper work to get additional teaching products. You don't feel the pain of spending your own money because you can justify that the money you are spending is just money other teachers gave you for your you products.
Variety of Products
As a buyer on TPT you have access to a massive amount of different products for your classroom. Before TPT, nearly all teaching resources came form a few different textbook companies and a couple of mail order catalogs with workbooks. The products from these businesses were basically all the same. Now, if you want an April Fools lesson on fractions it's probably on TPT.
Running a Business
The path to teaching is the same for most people (I know there are plenty of exceptions): graduate high school, graduate college, maybe a year as a substitute, and then land their first teaching job. Along the way these future teachers probably picked up a few part-time jobs such as a waitress or retail sales. Most people that go into education are not creating their own businesses.
As a teacher, you are teaching students that are future business leaders and entrepreneurs. The world of business and entrepreneurship is totally foreign to teachers. As a teacher on TPT you are becoming a boss of your own company (with out all the stress and pressure). Just like in the business world, you are making products, marketing, analyzing data, and trying to grow your business. For example, it becomes easier for a teacher to talk about Return on Investment (ROI) after they have experienced spending a few dollars on marketing to increase sales of their products.
Once a teacher has experience starting their own business (no matter how small) it changes they way they view things. Not only can a teacher draw on their own experiences to share with students, but it helps them to make sense of things happening in the business world.
Todd Hawk is a middle school math teacher and the Founder of the Land of Math LLC (www.landofmath.com). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter: @landofmath2.