Over the years I have spent thousands of hours planning lessons and creating resources: it’s one of the things I enjoy most about teaching – taking a text, pulling it apart, thinking about what’s important or interesting and then building a lesson to encourage students to explore it themselves. Even more enjoyable is then sharing these resources with colleagues and getting feedback on what worked well and what needs to be improved.
A good friend of mine has been badgering me for years to share my resources on TES – she’s evangelical about it, insisting that teachers should be more collaborative and that resource-sharing should be easy and free; I’m inclined to agree.
With 7.9 million users and more than 1.5 million resources uploaded, the TES is the most frequently used education resource in the UK. In February 2015 they started to allow teachers to charge for their resources. After being tempted by the prospect of making a bit of extra cash, I decided that I would upload all of my decent resources for free. Here’s why.
It’s Why I Teach
It’s going to sound hackneyed but… I got in to teaching to help people. If the resources and lessons I’ve made are useful and they’re going to be used to help more kids than the couple of hundred I see each week then I’m all for it. As soon as you throw up paywalls of any kind you limit your reach and therefore your impact.
I’ve Already Been Paid
It’s not like I’m a struggling journo whose ailing newspaper has resorted to a paywall in order to stay afloat. I’m a teacher; preparing lessons is part of my job and I’m paid for it. There’s an ethical point here that I find hard to ignore. Maybe it’d be different if I was a professional education resource maker guy (presumably the official job title), but if I wasn’t sharing these resources they would still be there, gathering dust on my hard drive. Teachers aren’t paid a huge amount and I think they should be paid more. However, this shouldn’t be expected to come from alternative revenue streams, especially when these alternative streams are from other teachers who can ill afford it (while the TES takes a chunk to add to its £97.2 million annual revenue). For many teachers in the US there is an expectation that they supplement their wage. We shouldn’t go down the road of teacher moonlighting.
Cashing in on Desperation
Most teachers, I’m sure, have been in the situation where it’s the end of the holidays and you need to plan a whole new scheme of work, or it’s lunchtime and you still have to conjure up a lesson for period 5. The elation when a colleague or the TES turns up with a gem of a resource that saves you hours. More recently you also feel the frustration of that perfect-looking lesson, hidden behind a £5 label. So who’s going to be spending money on these paid-for resources? The members of the senior leadership team on 50K who teach 5 lessons a week? Or the NQTs struggling by; underpaid, overworked and stressed? As I write, a catalogue of ‘essential resources for new teachers’ is being promoted on the TES, costing up to 20 quid a time and ready to cash-in on NQT nerves.
Any teacher who has used TES resources (or any resources shared online) will know that the quality is incredibly variable. I understand that in theory market forces should work to weed out shoddy paid-for resources, but when teachers are scrambling to put together completely new schemes of work following the government’s KS4 exam syllabus overhaul, I can’t help but think that people are going to end up paying over the odds for poor resources. Not least because very rarely are shared resources good for ‘off the shelf’ use; you always need to tweak and change in order to cater for your students and teaching style. Moreover, there are some seriously dodgy pieces of work that inexplicably get 4 or 5 star ratings. This is frustrating even when it’s free but when you’re paying it becomes a serious issue. Indeed, the quality of a resource isn’t objective but depends on how it’s used and by whom.
Finally I’m concerned about how this could go in the long run. Already when searching for new GCSE resources on TES the first few pages are dominated by ‘premium’ (paid-for) content. This means that a cash-strapped teacher has to trawl through even more stuff before finding a suitable piece of work. What’s more, if TES are taking a percentage of every resource sold, is there a danger that they bump premium content up the search list? It feels as though an incredible project is in danger of falling apart.
This post isn’t meant to be a criticism of the TES, but rather a call for all teachers to share top quality resources with each other for free. If every teacher committed to this goal, we could save each other thousands, millions of hours that could be better spent helping students. Rather than your masterpieces being locked up with a price-tag they should be on display for all the world to see!
You can find my resources here. Feedback welcome.