It’s okay to sell your wares. 

I think it’s ok for teachers to sell resources for their own financial gain.

Whilst I myself have never sold anything I’ve created, for some, selling resources may be a necessity. Take this crass example I put forward on Twitter earlier today, for instance:

For a single teacher with three kids to look after, selling a PowerPoint on the use of Metaphor in 19th century literature for £3.49,  may be the difference between his kids eating branded crisps in the playground or risking the wrath of those ruthless playground bullies who look upon store-branded crisps with a scorn that beggars belief.*

This teacher should feel no shame in selling his resources. 

There may also be a teacher who wants to sell her worksheet on Oxbow lakes for 99p so she can put it towards a brand new pair of NMDs. 
This teacher should feel no shame in selling her resources.

Why? 

Because, the job we do-teaching- is noble   within and of itself. That is, if you are giving your all, and doing the very best for the students in your care, from half 8 till half 3, that is honourable and you should feel proud of what you do and what you give. Because you do give during those hours, all the time, constantly.

Going home and selling a worksheet or a SOW or a PowerPoint does not make you greedy. 

Back to the hypothetical Dad of three I mentioned above. James Theobald asked (and I paraphrase), ‘What if this Dad needs resources? Isn’t it unfair that he should have to pay for them? Considering.’

At first I was stumped. I had only considered the point of view of the seller; the teacher who sells resources, rather than buys them. And so yes, I concede, it does seem unfair, considering, that this Dad must pay for knowledge. 

And yet.

In spite of the metaphors we constantly use to equate knowledge with monetary wealth, knowledge isn’t money. 

See, the money needed to feed, clothe and enrich our families cannot be acquired the way money can. A conversation with a colleague will give you a new way of approaching a topic, but it won’t earn you a fiver. A book from a library can leave your mind full of new ideas but it won’t leave you with jangling pockets. A school-funded training course will help you understand how to plan your lessons a little better, but it won’t leave you flush. 

So my advice to the financially struggling teacher who wants to spend money buying resources my advice would be this: talk to a colleague, read a book, listen to an expert. Spend your money elsewhere. And maybe sell something. 

*However crass this example may sound, it’s real. 

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There’s More to Life than Teachers.

A blanket of arrogance lies over the teaching profession. 

This blanket of arrogance wrongly assumes that teachers are the only ones who can provide the opportunities and experiences that students need to develop as, at the very least, competent human beings. Only with our encouragement can students learn to be resilient. Only with our guidance will students learn the value of hard work. And only with our gentle prompting will students engage with a diverse range of  differing cultural, religious, and gender perspectives.

For some, this shroud of solipsism, brings a warm feeling of affirmation: ‘I am a teacher and I know what’s best’. However, this blanket of arrogance is stifling us. And we should consider kicking it off.

I recently published a photo of 8 novels I’d be using for an extract analysis unit with my GCSE students in September. The list contained no novels by female authors and I was rightly-and gratefully-brought up on this. But then someone asked about whether I’ve included enough LGBT material. And then someone else questioned my inclusion of The Kite Runner as actually not being as representative of Islamic literature as many teachers (yes, me) assume it to be.  I agonised over all this, and my choices (or non-choices) prompted a twitter debate that lasted all weekend.

All this got me thinking. Whilst I believe it is my duty to provide students with a broad range of literary perspectives from a diverse range of authors, should this be a priority for me as a classroom teacher? I mean, am I the only way students are going to learn about homosexuality? Am I the students’ only way into the murky world of female oppression? Is it my job to explore Islam with my students? The answer to all these questions is, of course, ‘well, er…sort of.’ I must do the best I can. I recognise this. As One highly respected ‘tweacher’ told me: ‘Many kids learn quite bad stuff about ‘diversity’ outside your classroom. Your silence is not neutral.’ I agree with this. But then, someone else on Twitter said, tongue firmly in cheek:  ‘Barking up the wrong tree mate. Teach resilience in school. They can learn about similes and subordinate clauses at home.’ And I get what this person was getting at. My job, as a teacher, is to give kids the best opportunities they can. And, whether we like it or not, exam success goes some way to providing these opportunities. So, do I need to be spending hours banging on about resilience? Do I need to be wasting time agonising over whether the texts I’ve chosen for study are representative of every aspect of what is a very diverse society? Do I need to ensure that inferior texts are given precedent over superior ones purely because they tick a sexuality shaped box? Because, if I spend all my time teaching these things, who’s teaching them metaphors, modal verbs, and mise-en-scene?

Clearly, the answer isn’t clear cut here. It’s about professional judgement and it’s about balance. But, whilst we’re on the subject, I think we’d do well to remember that students have a life outside of our classrooms. And here’s why:

Student Experience

 Hearing you bang on about Oranges are not the Only Fruit isn’t going to be, for most, students’ only meaningful engagement with homosexuality. Nor is a cringe-inducing poetry lesson analysing Jay-Z going to give students any insight into ‘what it’s like to be black.’ The playground has come a long way; you’ll be surprised at how, on the whole, students are far more tolerant of than they were when you were at school. We’ve come a long way since ‘that kiss’ Brookside. Refer to a televised homosexual kiss as ‘that kiss’ now and students would reply with ‘what one?’ You’d do well to remember that some of your students, are already struggling with, exploring, and yes, enjoying  their sexuality. Some of your students already know about Islam because they are friends with real life Muslims. Honest. And some of your students are exhibiting grit and resilience and all that other bollocks every day, day in, day out, in their difficult-or easy- home lives, at sports clubs, even in their online rants about why this band is better than that band. So rather than try and clumsily impose your own, probably outdated, view of what is diverse, or what ‘tolerance’ is, or how students can demonstrate resilience, see what they have to say about it and work from there. The things you agonise over, they may not even give a second thought. But do ask: It’ll show students that you care about them. And they may even teach you a thing or two.

Target Setting and Marking

In a 168 hour week, you might see students for four hours. This means that 100% of your week is just 2.4% of theirs. Because of this life outside of your classroom, it’s unreasonable to expect your students to remember off the top of their heads, the countless number of targets you are setting them week in, week out, let alone act on them, unless you instruct them specifically to check back and do so during any given piece of work. I know schools where students are given three different target grades for every subject. And school leaders genuinely expect students to remember these when there are Pokemon to be caught and punishments to escape. What’s more, the pressure put on teachers to ensure that students care about these targets is, if not outrageous, unrealistic.

As for marking, just stop. A couple of ticks and one SMART target (as concise as you can make it), for one piece of work, per half term will do. Honest.

Parents

This is a tricky one. It’s about low expectations and it’s about high expectations.

Many parents are doing all the things we’re doing. They’re trying to get the buggers to read. They’re clumsily explaining the refugee crisis and they’re dusting off, soothing and encouraging after endless scraped knees. They are. And so, when I hear teachers agonise for hours, martyr-style, over how they can best achieve their virtuous goal of improving the moral and psychological well-being of their students I think this: just what low-expectations do you have of the parents of our students?

But I also think this. Shouldn’t we have higher expectations of the parents who don’t teach their kids to read; who don’t teach their kids that learning to ride a bike takes time and effort; who don’t say it’s okay for a man to kiss a man. Why should the sole responsibility of a child’s well-being rest on our already-weary shoulders? School Leaders need to work harder on bridging the relationship between parents and teachers so that both can work together to achieve the end aim of healthy, well-rounded students that love lots and do nice things.