Teacher-Author Hope King says, “My husband and I are HUGE Duke fans.” Can you tell from the photo above? And they’re also both teachers!
Welcome to the second installment of our new “5 Questions” series. If you’d like to be motivated, inspired, and reinvigorated, keep reading.
1. What do you see as the essential ingredients in a great product on TpT?
Well, first of all, let’s begin with the truth. There is no perfect product or perfect mix of ingredients to create a great product. However, TpT does offer a wealth of incredible resources created by teachers, which is what I consider to be the best ingredient of all! Who knows what students need better than teachers? As a teacher, I look for resources that break the traditional mold and facilitate new ways of thinking outside the box. With most states experiencing the transition to Common Core, it is essential that products create opportunities for students to reach a new and deeper level of thinking.
We also have to remember that 90% of the effectiveness of a product is all about the delivery of instruction, which can’t be bought. However, if I can purchase a resource that will enhance my instruction and save me time to better prepare other content areas, it’s a win-win! So when I am shopping for a product on TpT, I look for things that will enthuse my students. I also look for things that can be easily incorporated into my existing framework that will supplement my current curriculum.
2. How did you first learn about TpT and what made you decide to join?
I began teaching six years ago and from the moment I walked through my classroom doors for the first time, I just knew that “curriculum” (a.k.a. textbooks) wasn’t my style. Now, that is NOT to insinuate that I didn’t use my curriculum. I definitely did. I also knew that I had to keep the attention of 22 first graders coming from a world filled with technology, video games, 3-D adventures and, let’s be perfectly honest, a textbook was not going to do the trick.
Immediately, I began creating resources that would supplement my current curriculum but excite my students about learning. Several years later, I stumbled across Teachers Pay Teachers when reading Cara Carroll’s blog, The First Grade Parade. I joined that summer and the rest is history. I honestly never dreamed that the millions of hours that I spent on the computer could actually impact students all over the world. In just two short years, the growth that I have seen as an educator has been tremendous. I have never been so challenged, motivated, and enthusiastic about my job. It is no secret that the financial aspect of TpT has been a huge blessing… BUT… TpT has also inspired me to create things with a passion that I never knew existed.
3. How do you respond to the point of view that “cute” has become more important than meaningful in the classroom?
Fact: I LOVE cute! Now that I’ve established that little fact, let me explain my definition of “cute” and how I’ve found this to be effective in my classroom. I think cute is powerful only if it is matched by equally valuable content and high expectations. If the cute is “fluff” or considered a “time filler,” that matches the value your students will gain from the learning experience. If the cute is engaging and creates an environment filled with excitement, stimulation, and higher order thinking… need I say more?
Let’s think of cute this way: Kids LOVE Toys “R” Us. Right? Why? Umm… because the toys are cute! They grab their attention immediately! Do they ever forget that toy? Just ask the parents of any child. Their answer will be “No!” They keep asking and reminding and waiting to receive it. Much like that toy, when learning is equally eye-catching, students can’t get enough of it. They are going to learn, and better yet, WANT to learn. They are going to remember and tell everyone they know about it! So, If Toys “R” Us is what my kids think is cute, I want for my entire room to encompass that! I want for them to be just as excited about coming to school as they are about going to Toys “R” Us! It’s all about the experience. Dull and boring just won’t cut it! So, if cute works, use it to your advantage!
We have GOT to get kids to buy into the fact that school is indeed one of (if not the THE) coolest place to be. Last year, I used cute A LOT. We had soda explosions, rock creations, dissections, and crafts. Did it look cute? Of course! Did my students immediately know the content when asked to recall facts or explain a concept? Absolutely. Just like they remember that toy, they remember these unique learning experiences!
Last year, every one of my students scored “met” in every content area on our state standardized tests with over 80% scoring in the exemplary category. Yes, I work at a Title I school. Yes, my kids achieved what many thought they could not. It is possible! It can happen! This proves that the cute not only adorned our walls, it was also written all over the brains of my students because it was memorable. Our delivery of instruction must be unforgettable.
In my classroom, my kids know that each day is going to be exciting and “cute” (if you will). Each day is going to be hard. There will be frustrations and there will be celebrations. At the end of the day, I teach my students to value and appreciate school. And they do! In my classroom, school is a privilege, just like receiving that toy from Toys ‘R Us. Once they get it, they are all about it. Well, at least for a period of time! That is why we must remember that we have to change it up. You know, keep things fresh. What is cute now is not going to be cute forever. Keep up to date with what your kids enjoy and what excites them. Every classroom’s cute will be and should be totally different! But when used appropriately, cute works! Cute is powerful!
4. How do you come up with ideas for new resources?
Is it okay to say that I never sleep? 😉 On a serious note, my brain is always swirling with songs and ideas that I want to incorporate into my instruction. I think this is true of teachers in general, which is why I say teaching is a 24/7 job. When I think of an idea, which may be while on a long run, during a lesson, or in the middle of dinner, I write it down and tuck it away for safe keeping. Then when it is time to teach that concept, I create the resources needed for my students to master that skill. I like to believe that kids are kids. If my kids are struggling with a certain concept, there has to be another child somewhere, at some point, who is struggling with the same thing. I hope that teachers can use my resource as another method for helping students master a skill. At times, I feel like I have exhausted every single resource helping a student, but it only takes one light bulb moment… one new way of “seeing” it. I hope that my ideas and products might be just that. A “light bulb” for a struggling student and/or a frustrated teacher!
5. Where would you like to see TpT in five years?
TpT is all about collaboration. The way I see TpT? I get to work with and learn from the best every single day! Can we say dream job? I am excited to see what TpT is going to do for the entire teaching community in the next five years. Not just through the website, but through collaboration with continued meet-ups and conferences. Much like we try to do for our students, I hope that TpT can continue to bring learning to life for many educators. I hope that it can continue to break the misconception that school is a boring place (because some teachers believe this too) through Teacher-Authors creating exciting resources that motivate and inspire not only students, but teachers alike! Teachers are the experts and when they are creating resources that maximize student performance, you can’t go wrong.