When began teaching, I was overwhelmed to say the least. No one could really tell me what I should be teaching aside from providing me with a list of standards, which are helpful, but are not completely clear about how the content should be taught. Instead, I was given teacher’s manuals. “You’ll need this manual to teach math,” said my mentor teacher and plopped a 4” thick binder down in front of me. “Oh, you’ll also need these to teach reading,” she said handing me five enormous spiral bound teacher’s manuals. “We also have the entire Lucy Calkins writing program that you’ll need to check out from the professional development library, and of course you’ll need the social studies and science teacher’s manuals as well - but those are spread out in various locations and some are in bins - just see what you can find - don’t worry - we’ll be here for you”. I never saw my mentor again unless I was having a performance evaluation.
I learned that to prepare I needed to read each lesson, digest all the material, review all the tips and tricks and notes about how to differentiate the content based on the types of learners that are in the classroom, and I had to do this for each subject daily. The fact was, I simply did not have the time. I needed to know what I was supposed to be teaching and I did not have time to write lesson plans for 4 or more subjects every day. Unfortunately, my story is not unique. My story is not even unusual. My story is the same story thousands of teachers tell about their initiation into teaching and their first experiences working with students. I was exhausted and beaten, and I had not even begun as a certified teacher - I was still working under an emergency substitute certification.
I began to look for resources to alleviate my burden anywhere and everywhere I could find them including books, journals, blogs, YouTube, or anything that I thought might help. I kept looking for something that would help me with the material that I had to teach. Considering that I had a new lesson to present every day in reading, writing and math, I was flabbergasted to learn that no one before me had put together a presentation to help guide the lessons.
I had previously worked as a corporate trainer, and there we worked as a team to create presentations for all the courses that our department offered. Every content area had a presentation that had been researched, prepared, reviewed, tested and was filed in an organized system for anyone to utilize. As the training department constantly had employees leave and enter, the presentations had to be easy to use and easily decipherable so that any trainer could pick up and know where to begin teaching. This was not available for the content I needed to teach.
When I looked at the mountain of reference materials that was given to me, I wondered why these teacher’s manuals did not come with PowerPoint presentations to guide the teachers. In my search for a solution, I came across Teachers Pay Teachers, an online open marketplace where teachers buy materials that are made by other teachers. I located a seller that made presentations for the reading curriculum I used and was quick to purchase them. With those slides, I was able to relax and freely speak about the content because the cues were on the board for me to follow. I had better control of the classroom because I was not referring to a teacher’s manual to see what I would need to do next and could pay attention and engage with the students.
I then started to create my own presentations for math lessons based on the content in the teacher’s manuals. After using them in my classroom and sharing them with my colleagues to use in their classrooms, I shared them on Teachers Pay Teachers. I only had a few lessons posted to the website when teachers began sending demands for more. “When is the entire year going to be ready?” and “Do you have this for my grade level?” Therefore, I spent the summer creating math presentations for the entire year. The feedback I received was remarkable. In their reviews of my products, teachers were grateful for the format of the content.
I knew that I had to create these presentations as it was obviously a need that wasn't being met. As it turns out, these types of materials have a name: Educative Curriculum Materials, meaning they are materials that help teachers learn while simultaneously teaching students. I'll talk more about this in a later blog post, but I thought the concept was so interesting that I decided to write my dissertation on that topic. In that study, I found that teachers felt that they were better prepared to teach the lessons and that using the PowerPoint presentations saved them a considerable amount of time with lesson preparation and greatly improved their lesson pacing. Therefore, my new goal in life is to help ensure that teachers feel supported by providing them with the materials they need to use in their classrooms.
Elementary Teacher/ Teacherpreneur
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