Kindergarten Teacher

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Teachers Pay Teachers- The Sequel

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Valentine’s Day- decorate the teacher

So my last post did what I intended, it made people think. Way more people than I EVER imagined but obviously it was a topic many had opinions about from both sides of the aisle. I tried not to attack but it is hard to question a person’s thinking without that happening — not impossible, but difficult. Before I get into ”the sequel” post let me tell you a little about me…

I am an early childhood educator. Teaching kids is all I have ever done. I taught swim lessons as my first ever job, worked at a daycare through high school and paid my way through college working at another daycare. I graduated with an early childhood degree and my first and only job has been teaching Kindergarten. This coming year will be my 14th year teaching. My journey was not that smooth. I never quite fit the mould of the Kindergarten teacher and was actually told by my professors I would be “the worst teacher in the history of teaching.” Why? Because when I turned in my final end of teaching unit it was in a plain three-ring binder. No glitter, colored pages, feathers, cute font, or perfume spritz all over it. It was simply a binder and my lessons. Great lessons if you ask me, I worked HARD on those lessons to meet the needs of the kids I was teaching. Yet, I got all C’s and was told I would fail as a teacher. Despite that I held firm that the key to teaching was relationships, and that those relationships would make me a success in the classroom. Then I walked into my first class the week before school started and I panicked. What if parents judged me day one based on the room, what if other teachers talked in the workroom about my lack of decorations, what if the kids noticed… I went home and asked my wife to help me decorate. I fell victim to the pressure of cute.

Much has changed and I am more confident now. I have my own style. I want other teachers to feel like they can have their own style and if they don’t have one to be able to build that in a way that is genuine. Teaching is a field full of passion. That is what the TPT post showed me more than anything. We are a passionate bunch and it warms my heart.

So here is my main question: How can we help teachers (especially new teachers) sort through all the resources? Since TPT is the only online resource I am aware of (apparently there are many) that is what I focused on. Where on the site is the discussion and passion that I saw in the comments? Those defending TPT: how do you help teachers find the best materials on the site and get across that they are not the end all be all? I had so many great comments from those that love TPT and I want the wonderful views you had to be part of the site. We can all agree there is junk on the site mixed in with awesomesauce. I heard many times that teachers need to search for the great content on TPT but that seems to go against the notion of it saving them time to use the site. Where is the dialogue happening and how can we make it better?

My second question: How can we bring together Team Cute and Team No Cute? For those of you selling there was an overwhelming response about the cute and I hope you were listening. Sounds like there is a market for a toned down version of what you are doing along with a market for the cute. I mentioned cute because I wanted to “air out” the pressure (see what I did there) that teachers often feel about making their room fit the primary grade standard. The pressure is real and many teachers feel it. My hope is that both teams can see the value in teachers doing what feels most comfortable to them. If you love cute and design is your thing go for it but be conscious of how you react and discuss rooms with others. If you despise cute you must also be conscious of how you react and discuss. We must all keep the focus where it belongs — the children — and I doubt anyone needs a reminder of that. My last point about cute, though, is: What about the boys in your class? Many approaches to cute, themed classroom decor have a very feminine look to them. Everywhere I go I am told we need more males in the classroom yet we all know that is not going to happen. What we really need is the female teachers to work to offer the things they feel a male teacher provides. Beyond that, what about the girls? What message are we sending the girls when we place so much emphasis on appearances?I understand that you spend 36 weeks per year in your classroom and you want to be comfortable, but the reality is: our rooms are not for us, they are for ALL our students. Balance is key.

This blog is a reflection of my thoughts. I love that people view it but the bottom line is I post how I feel. It is how I reflect on what I am doing and my attempt to be a better teacher, nothing more. I hope that you will comment, I appreciate thoughts that pushback against what I post as long as they are civil. Dialogue is valuable and welcome on any of my posts! I hope everyone has a wonderful summer and great start to the school year.

91 Responses to Teachers Pay Teachers- The Sequel

  1. I’m a college math teacher and I’m still overwhelmed. What works for me (in sorting through stuff) is #EdCamp and what I’d like to propose as a “sequel” to it called #EdWS (Ed Workshop).

    There’s so much – but we need time to digest, internalize and create. I want a place, coworking with other instructors, to print stuff, organize it, decide how I’ll implement it in class and then make a solid plan.

    How do you sort through? Slowly. And you miss a lot. But I pray, sacrifice chickens, receive chi and use the force to make sure I get what I need when I need it. Or rather, get what the students need, so I can make sure they get it when they need it.

    Thanks for your honest thoughts, MattBGomez. As always, you’re an inspiration!

    • Hi Bon,

      You said “There’s so much – but we need time to digest, internalize and create. I want a place, coworking with other instructors, to print stuff, organize it, decide how I’ll implement it in class and then make a solid plan.”

      I am not sure where you live, but this is the philosophy behind PLAYDATEs, started in Chicago by Jennifer Magiera and the #BURNTA team and spreading across the country. I founded PLAYDATE L.A. (coming August 17) for this very reason. At these unconferences, there are no presenters. The sessions are for teachers to play with technology tools and brainstorm together how to implement the resources in their classrooms in a way that will work for them. If there is no PLAYDATE in your area, you might consider starting one.

      Matt,

      Thank you for an honest and thought-provoking pair of posts. I really appreciate your reflections.

  2. I do know there has been quite a bit of discussion about the “cute” themes on TPT. Even on the sellers forum.

    Why so much cute? I think one of the reasons is most early elementary teachers are women. Women tend to go with cute. (Also a bit of an issue with our book selection for read-a-louds and classroom libraries. Both Jon Scieszka and Dav Pilkey talk about that issue.) Also several sellers have made a small fortune with her units and there are quite a few people trying to emulate her style.

    Like you, when I taught first grade I used real images as often as possible. I loved my digital camera and used it all of the time. (This was back in the mid-1900′s) I also worked hard to include lots of non-fiction books, sports books, adventure books and silly books for read-a-louds and had them in my classroom library. I was aware that many of my boys would most likely need to be courted to join in the land of reading and writing; and to do that, I had to have things that interested them.

  3. Jen says:

    I am a high school teacher so for me it is hard to personalize my classroom. I share it with another teacher and there are at least 6 classes of different students in there per day. I agree with you that if we focus on the cuteness all of the time it can often take away from the content. More importantly, what are we teaching out kids when they have to present their work to us or the class? What’s more important – cute or content? Balance is the key. I always tell my students that they start with content, organize it visually and then add cute of they have time. I think that is what we should do with our classrooms. Put up the most important things, organize thing s so that they are not cluttered and easy to see and then add in some personal flair. The cuteness should not consume us because it is supposed to be fun after all right?

  4. Emily says:

    Yes!! An #EDWS is a fantastic idea! I have so many ideas and things I want to implement – and I need to time internalize, create, and figure out how it will all work in my classroom. Thanks Matt for opening up the discussion!

  5. Deborah says:

    Matt, you understand the heart of teaching…letting a lot of the learning come from the kids!

  6. rosalind says:

    I agree completely! How one’s classroom looks is a true judgement! Looks can be deceiving- how can you judge a book by its cover- Never mind how much preparation is involved! I agree about your passion- That is what you can’t teach!!!Thanks for your passion!!!

  7. Candace says:

    We had similar discussion in our district tech team about unifying the web site from pre-K through high school. The primary teachers had cute pages, while most other grades/buildings wanted clean, clear effective pages. The difference between cute classrooms and cute websites is that the parents used the website more than the students, so the clean pages won out. Cute has it’s place, but I really like your comment about the boys in the class. We must each make the decision based on what is best for ALL of our students.

  8. I think you nailed it when you said that the classroom is not for us, it’s for the students. When reflecting on anything we choose to put in the classroom our thoughts need to be on the students. And we need to be intentional; what is the purpose of each and everything in our learning environments? I know that if I don’t have a clear, thought out answer for why a material or activity is a part of my day, then I likely did not choose it with the kids in mind and need to rethink its value.

    That may be a way to begin to help new teachers wade through all the stuff out there. We need to model for them how to be intentional in choosing materials and activities and support them in doing so. Even if that means flat out asking each other “why did you choose this?” I think we all need to challenge and support eachother in being reflective and purposeful.

  9. Thanks for being who you are and staying true to yourself. Even though I was in lower primary for years I was never “cute” and at first some parents would judge me by this. Once parents found out how much I loved their kids they could care less about the decor. I have always felt in it being the kids’ room what’s up should be theirs.
    Kids get it, they are excellent judges of character. They see past the glitz and into your heart. Enjoy your Matt.

  10. Laure Dotterweich says:

    When I started teaching kindergarten in the very early ’90s, I worked hard at making my room look fun and inviting and yes, cute. I’ve learned over the years that it’s not important. What’s important is getting to know the students and letting them create the room. They should be leading the learning. I now spend my time researching and looking for what my current students are interested in. My classroom changes yearly and yes it’s a lot of work but when I took out the trying to make it all cute and my chosen-theme related, I found a lot more time. I spent more time in the moment and less in the future. On another note, I went to a conference and learned that kids need and want real pictures. They relate more to them. It impacts their brains more. As the presenter said, “They know fake when they see it.” Another great idea is to have the kids create the ‘posters’ and ‘signs’ and things for the walls.

  11. Laura Nabors says:

    Thank you for all that you do. I am a kindergarten teacher at a private Christian school. I am somewhere in the middle. I have always said I don’t like to put more into a craft than they kids. So please keep doing what you do. I actually used your symbaloo pages today in a presentation on showing some teachers at my school what you can do with symbaloo. Thank you!
    Laura

  12. Christine Nevarez says:

    Matt, I am new to Twitter (June 2013) and you were one of the first that I began to follow. Thank you for your ideas. I have been teaching and involved in Bilingual education in ALL grade levels, including adults, for 23 years. When I first started teaching it was in the Elementary level, I would make cute outside bulletin boards, doors, artsy projects, that had to be perfect to. Compete with the “Jones’” teacher next door. However, when I started at the High School level, realized that “cute” didn’t matter. (Especially when they would vandalize it or use it as a basis for their own art tags :) ) Now back in the Elementary level, I start with a clean room. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have bulletin boards, but my cutesies is on the title which leads to student work samples to complete the board/display. Then it becomes 90% student made, 10% teacher made. By doing this, students are more eager to become creative and do a great job, because they know they are the ones that are on display. You should see them light up when others comment on their work/creations. This motivates them to continue working hard.

  13. amanda says:

    As I said in the original TPT posting I create a theme in the classroom and my students add to it! The last three years I had superheroes which appealed to the boys and girls. This year I am changing to a nautical theme since my classroom was torn up this past year due to some remodeling. I try to go for neutral colors and neutral themes that appeal to make and females. There charts posters and interactive writing soon take over!

  14. Ms. BBZ says:

    Here’s what I think – content is more important than “cute,” but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I LOVE the clipart I use on my stuff. Am I aware that 9 times out of 10 it’s for me, not the kids? 100%. I still do it, because *I* like it, and fresh clipart promotes my product as being as professional and “finished” as I know they are.

    But here’s what I don’t do – go crazy. My covers for TpT are cute as all get out (if I do say so myself), but I don’t extend that into EVERY page. If I make a unit about energy, the student pages are made for students, with the maximum amount of content and higher-level thinking as I can possibly fit.

    I don’t make everything worksheets, because that’s not how I work as a teacher. I include ideas for games, web sites to visit, questioning tactics. I include ideas for integrating technology, music and REAL art (not just crafts, though I’m not opposed to a craft or two). I make my products for people who use TpT the way I do – as a supplement to what I’m already doing for my kids. That changes every year, but sometimes a good idea is a good idea.

    My husband, a middle school teacher, doesn’t do cutesy either. But he bought Jen Runde’s math notebook, and used it as a jumping-off point to help other teachers at his school create and use interactive notebooks. Was he concerned with “cute”? No. Did he blindly use the resource without thinking about what was good for his kids? No. But seeing some of the techniques she used a) made his job easier when they aligned with what he was doing and b)inspired him to try some new things in his class. Was that worth the $10 he paid? He’ll tell you it was.

    To answer your question about how we help people sift through, I believe that’s where blogs are *really* helpful. I follow a select number of blogs that I LOVE. They are usually very interactive, or constructivist-based, or focus mostly on HOW they taught – how they problem-solved with a struggling student, how they integrated science/social studies, etc. Then, if they have a product that matches my needs, I buy it. I don’t buy everything they make and blindly use it. I pick and choose the things that *I* need most.

    Here’s what I *would* like to see on TpT – more constructive criticism. Oftentimes the comments are either I LOVE IT or I HATE IT. That doesn’t help me. I’d like to see thoughtful comments about things people liked AND didn’t like about the product, without tearing the creator apart unnecessarily.

    • Amy says:

      When you leave negative comments in my experience sellers will delete the item or the comment. I left constructive feedback about how I really felt about a product and less than five minutes later the entire product was removed. I even saw a blog post where sellers recommend contacting them BEFORE leaving the feedback if there is an issue first I tried that and got no response from these so called top sellers.

  15. I have loved reading both of your posts and have shared them on my FB page, we have been reflecting on not so much the room decoration (although the use of stencils and colouring always effect me negatively as an ECE) at present it is more the mass hype and marketing of tools ( both app based and paper template based) for how to record your program and documentation to meet the EYLF (Australia). There appears to be a lot of ‘scare’ mungering by the sellers to say that if you aren’t using their stuff or doing your documenting in a particular way you won’t pass your visit!!! I feel educators should be designing their own which works for them and the children in their group, each year may be different depending on the children and their way of working through the year and their learning journey. No right way, as you are doing it should be a reflective learning journey that you have with the children as you develop you r skills, research and learn :) thanks for getting everyone reflecting :)

  16. Matt,
    I am a seasoned kindergarten teacher (35 years) from Alberta Canada. I have read most of the comments on your last post. I began teaching in the time of dittos without technology. The expansion of technology has made rethink how ,and what ways, that I engage my students in their learning. This year my technology journey will begin with the introduction of IPADS as I have four of them for a center for my students. I also have a smartboard that I am only beginning to use on a daily basis. As a teacher, I believe that I am a life long learner, with some years being a great learning curve ( ie IPADS) than others. Thank you for all the information you have shared in this realm- your expertise and sharing of your about technology and things like symbaloo have been a great gift, which I truly have appreciated.
    Cuteness is only part of the problem- the bigger problem is the focus on measuring successful learning by academic worksheets- Another problem is sifting through all the information out there on the net. The internet is a huge resource that has changed our lives.
    I have always believed in the importance of relationships and the value of play. Sometimes, as teachers, we get so focused on the need to prove that we are teaching by methods that demonstrate learning externally, that we forget to let our kids be truly engaged in the learning. We get distracted by the current pendulum swings and perceived(sometimes real) pressures by the state ( here in Canada the provincial) program of studies or your CORE goals, that we forget we are teaching kids.
    Many of my kids come from limited income and experience backgrounds, so it is even more important to me to provide my kids real learning experiences – paper pencil tasks are somewhat limiting and often more difficult for them.
    I have used TPT as a resource and found some new things to add to my bag of tricks. I have very limited wall space so there are not many posters up( not enough space to hang up my kid’s work)
    I am not very good at cute and organized( sometimes I admire those that are) but I do have a classroom filled with books and manipulatives that provide kids the opportunity to explore and learn.
    I believe in teaching from my heart and that is what works for me. Like you said in one of the posts, you have to teach in a style that fits you.
    Thanks for the interesting professional discussion- now I am going back to my playing with fabric – I am still on vacation for another month .LOL Soon enough I will begin to explore what to do with my IPADS- I probably will write you and ask you a question or two about what to do with them…
    Regards,
    Anna

  17. Jenny says:

    It would help if giving anything less than a perfect rating on TpT wasn’t frowned upon. Sometimes I download an item that works well for my class, but it’s not particularly original or incredible- and yet I would be “mean” for giving it less than perfect scores. If the rating system actually meant something, it would help me sort through materials easier, but as it is, we’re highlighting everything as the cream of the crop- which means the cream of the crop can’t really rise above.

    I will agree with a previous poster, though, that blogs help tremendously. For me, I follow those people who have great ideas and materials- and that helps me find some of the best things out there!

    I think THEMED learning materials help get kids engaged more than CUTE learning materials, and my room is similar. My desk has more “cute” because it’s my space and the things I like, but then again, I love football and frogs, which aren’t inherently “girly” things. My room is themed in mostly blues and greens, but what makes it comfortable for my kids is the beach umbrella over the library, the comfy seats to sit in as they read, and the fact that it looks like I care about the room. Kids need to walk into a room and know that their teacher cares about this job and this class- and as long as that passion is showing somehow, that’s what matters. And teachers need to help each other with the pressure to be “cute,” but I also know that when I spend a lot of time there, it’s important for me to like where I am, so I can understand why people like it! I think as long as they don’t lose sight of the content, and they make sure it’s not too girly, I think it’s okay. But you’re right that the dialogue needs to be happening- so thank you for having the courage to bring it up! I look forward to following your blog and reading more of your thoughts.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Jenny, as I looked through TPT I found very little reflection. I found a lot of support for the sellers but little conversations. Even on the blogs I find the conversation limited. My hope is that the reflection increases and thus the support increases. In my world it is standard to get folks asking questions and pushing back against what I say, and I am a better teacher due to that. Maybe more real feedback would make a difference on TPT. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  18. Heather Dennis says:

    Thank you for your words. They have given me a boost of confidence that I am not the only one out there who is not a cutesie & themed person. Last year during open house I had some parents who were a bit negative to my bare room. But I did have one parent {of a boy} who came in & said your room is very zen & I felt a little relieved because at least one parent got how much the classroom environment affects the kiddos. Back to a blank slate for another wonderful year in 1st grade!!
    ~Heather

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Good for you Heather. I think the key to that is communication with parents. Let them know why you do what you do. A great way to start the year is by explaining your philosophy. The email I send to parents before the 1st day of school will be posted later this week.

  19. As a seller and purchaser of TpT resources, I completely agree that more dialogue on the site would help. I have received some constructive criticisms of resources that left an initial sting, but ultimately helped improve the quality of the resources I post. Every so often, folks leave heart-felt testimonials on how they used the resources as well, which is SO rewarding!

    I teach middle school mathematics, so my “cute” factor is quite low to medium. I think providing adequate white space for student work in the resources is more important than cute (especially when SO MANY publishing companies do not provide such space for kids to work and breathe a little!)

  20. Lou says:

    Hey Matt – love, love, love the way you have inspired discussion and reflection – two valuable traits for a teacher. Being an old codger I have seen classrooms go through many themes and teaching styles. First and foremost I encourage student and new teachers to be bowerbirds. Take on what resonates with you and throw out the rest. Comparisons do you no favours but adoption of great ideas is highly recommended. Making connections through social media forums like twitter and blogs, as well as face to face have always been my preferred professional development mediums.
    I remember one year where a parent walked into a classroom where it was a parent teacher get to know you night and stated for all to hear that she felt this room was very unstimulating. The teacher looked up and asked ‘To whom?’ It didn’t look like other highly decorated rooms but it had many of the children’s work splashed around the room. It was also at the beginning of the year and had very few ‘teaching’ posters around it. The teacher calmly explained that as the year progressed instructive posters would be added as concepts were taught and displays of the children’s work demonstrating their talents would fill the room. These words stuck with me and I am often reminded when I enter rooms and wonder how many children refer to posters that have been put up for display with no reference to their existence. So I make it my responsislbility that nothing goes up without all in the room knowing why they are there ( and can explain that to parents who feel the need to challenge!)
    On a personal note I do know cute does not always come as naturally to the malesas it does for some females but to me that is life – ying and yang. And given I have both genders in my class I keep in mind I need to appeal to both!

  21. I posted this comment on your previous post, as well, but I think it bears repeating: I think it is important to note here that Matt’s criticism of “cute” was (and is) not of cute, per se, but of the CULTURE of cute that runs rampant in early childhood and primary education. It is a problem in our field that teachers who are less into cute often feel alienated and alone in their preference for simpler, plainer, more child-created classroom design, decor, and materials. When we use a teacher’s classroom decor (and the time he or she is willing or able to put into that decor) as a proxy measure of that teacher’s dedication and competence, we do our entire profession an enormous disservice. The fact that EXCELLENT teachers and student-teachers receive poor evaluations, bad grades , and parent complaints because they have thoughtfully, deliberately chosen a simpler classroom environment is a A PROBLEM in the culture and perception of our entire profession. Cute, on its own, is one thing (and perhaps one day I will have the courage to tackle the debate over the true place and value of cute in ECE), but the CULTURE of cute is truly problematic, and we ALL need to work to diminish it.

  22. Shirelle says:

    Can I ask where you guys find blogs? I hear some of you saying it helps a lot and I am so interested. I teach fourth grade in a program for severely emotionally disabled students. Any suggestions would be great. And even though I don’t teach KG and I was offended by the first post I read here (TpT-but focusing on the blast against cutesy), I will probably come back to this blog from this point on because it has been very engaging and I have looked through other posts. But I may not be able to use much with my ‘babies’. Also, how are you guys using twitter to help? I hate that one!

    • Matt Gomez says:

      I find most of my blogs through twitter. Either by following educational chats or having someone I follow tweet out a link. Right now I follow around 85 blogs. #overkill I am sorry I offended you, my goal was to cause conversation not to hurt feelings. I promise my intent is not to “take down” the site, I only want more conversation happening. I would welcome you back to my blog any time and I am working hard to find TPT blogs that I enjoy. I feel we all need to come together. As for twitter most of us use educational chats to find “our people” as Amy says. Building a network takes a little work up front but once you have it built it pays you back forever. Thanks again for commenting, I truly appreciate you.

    • Hi again, Shirelle! (BTW, this kind of conversation is EXACTLY why i love blogs and twitter…) In fact, my first response to this question was to ASK my twitter people for recommendations… In the meantime, two of my favourites for older elementary are: http://adunsiger.com/; and http://www.pernilleripp.com/. Great authors who have great conversations. As for twitter – are you on it? If you follow Matt and me (@happycampergirl), we are always happy to answer questions and help people get started. We just did a presentation about using Twitter as a PD resource, and you can check out the handouts here: http://missnightmutters.com/conferences-and-pd-sessions/sde-national-i-teach-k-kindergarten-conference-july-14-18-2013. Hope this helps -thanks for being willing to stick around and keep learning with us!

  23. Shirelle says:

    Also, how are you guys responding to specific comments?

  24. Shirelle says:

    OK, so the educational chats are???? (I’m sorry, I am actually pretty tech savvy….in my classroom. I must admit that social media escapes my skills at this time. But I am a quick learner.) And I don’t think you meant to offend me. But the same way you are annoyed at the people who judge you for not being cutesy, it annoys me for being judged for having a ‘cute’ classroom’. The reason being that I don’t actually set out with that goal in mind. I just happen to have awesome spatial reasoning skills, a fabulous creative bone and a pathological obsession with pink! I more often than not have all boys in my room and the pink never bothers them in the end. They sometimes make comments in the beginning like, this is a girl’s room and I remind them that I am in not in fact, an alien. LOL…they quickly see that the choices of colors vary for them. I let them choose just about everything else. Their books, bins, and desks plates reflect them or what they need….or sometimes simply what I can find. Because that is hard too. I am very organized in my classroom but not in real life. But I found out in my first year that this personality flaw would be the death of me in a classroom. When I set out to organize myself, it turned into a really cute setup! And it works, so I stick with it with some tweaks. Thank you for your post. I never even got around to responding to the rest of it. I do use TpT, but not as a copy and paste curriculum. I feel that they are resources and ideas just the same as you find in your blog hopping. I don’t really see the difference in the two methods.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Educational chats are a group of teachers getting together at a certain time to discuss topics. To do this they use hashtags like #4thchat, #edchat, #kinderchat etc. Much like Instagram if you are familiar with using hashtags on that site. They all have a meeting time once a week for a formal conversation but also constant dialogue throughout the week. There are many twitter chats and this is a great list. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AiftIdjCeWSXdDRLRzNsVktUUGJpRWJhdUlWLS1Genc#gid=0 As far as your last comment, that is where I had concern. Most of the blogs I follow are about conversations and resources, which seems different from the TPT blogs I have seen that the main goal is selling. I am on a mission to find the ones I feel are doing it best. I think TPT is a great resource but I also want teachers to “reinvent the wheel” as often as possible. Every teacher can make great content, even if it doesn’t look like it belongs on TPT it is still valuable for the classroom.

  25. Shirelle says:

    Thank you very much Mrs. Night! I am on twitter technically…..I rarely go on. I will follow you guys though…as soon as I remember my sign on!

  26. Chrissie says:

    1- I am SO MAD at the teachers who told you that you would not be a good teacher because your work was not dressed up enough. Good for you for forging ahead and proving them wrong.
    2- I love the thoughts you have about what this is all for. It’s for the kids. If we keep that in mind, its not for the district, the principal the teacher next door, but the kids, we will be fine and the kids will succeed.
    Thanks for the post!

  27. Scott says:

    Matt, you always make me think. Today, as I was working in my room, I kept thinking about ways to get the kids to help create the environment. I was questioning each poster (and I don’t have many) and its place in my room. As I’ve said before, I’m not into cute and have resisted the pressure I sometimes felt last year. But now I’m also being more intentional. Thanks for the conversation and the inspiration.

  28. Deanna Jump says:

    Matt, I am a happily married woman but I think I love you! Your Littles are so lucky to have you for a teacher. Have a great school year!

  29. Jen says:

    I totally understand how your intention is to begin conversation but I don’t believe you went about it the right way. Your posts are coming off as a person who has a grudge because someone once told you you’re not good enough. These disbelievers were obviously fools and I think it’s happend to us all at sometime in life.
    What good is education if all teachers are the same? Just because a teacher has a “cute” classroom doesn’t make them a weak teacher? And the same for a teacher with a “simple” classroom.
    Why can’t they be both? We all know this profession is difficult and it takes real passion to be part of it. We all have our different touches and that’s how we learn and grow together.

    So instead of calling educators out and get people worked up, why not simply ask…. “Does everything in you classroom have a purpose? If not, how can you make it purposeful for the student experiance?”

    And the same for tpt, just because you’ve seen some bad cases of “laminate and place” with stations doesn’t mean that’s all that’s what’s taking place. Instead ask “how are these pre-made activities useful for your students?”

    I still appreciate your eagerness to want to start a conversation, I just questioned if you chose to use “controversy” to get the attention.
    Have a great summer and I look forward to your posts this school year!

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Jen your comments are exactly what I feel is missing from TpT. Where is that questioning and dialogue? If it is there I am missing it. As far as going about it the wrong way… it is difficult to question something people love dearly in the correct way. The attention comment does hurt but that is something I guess I have to deal with. Only people that truly know me understand my heart. Hopefully I can prove that wasn’t my intent over time. Take care

      • At the end of the day…TpT is a marketplace…not a democracy. Which is exactly WHY this discussion isn’t happening.

        • Matt Gomez says:

          Nicolette, great comment. What about Amazon? They are a marketplace that has a culture of inviting all feedback. It makes the site better because people can decide what products are the best for them based on feedback.

          • Renee G says:

            TpT invites feedback, also. Buyers can give feedback to sellers about their products, and rate their purchases, and those comments can be read by other buyers as well.

          • Matt Gomez says:

            Renee, again I agree but why are the comments overwhelmingly positive? That is not typical for a marketplace. My concern is there is a culture that does not support reflective feedback. I have even heard that when sellers get less than positive feedback there could be backlash against that person, especially if they are a seller. All I know is the comments and feedback don’t match a place of business. Again thanks for commenting

          • Renee G says:

            Wait a minute. TpT does not control the feedback that buyers give to sellers. AND…. if you were a seller and spent time in the forums, you would see that there is a lot of discussion among sellers helping each other with their products, and people changing and revising products because of comments or feedback or suggestions by buyers or other sellers and then asking others to give them feedback, help, etc etc etc. Perhaps most comments seen by the public, as you say, are positive. You think that’s a problem. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because teachers are polite. Maybe most of them are too polite. Maybe there could be more reflective, constructive feedback. But again, that is the buyer, it’s not TpT. Perhaps you should go buy some products on TpT and leave the sellers what you think is “constructive feedback” for the products you purchase. Oh, wait. You said you make everything yourself. Do you like what you make? Do you think it’s good quality? If somebody bought it from you and left you a comment that they like it and can’t wait to use it in your own classroom, do you think TpT should step in and say, “wait a minute! That feedback is not constructive!” Seriously. I do think this has been a great conversation and I’ve enjoyed reading peoples’ points of view and I have considered the views of those who’ve had less that wonderful experiences with TpT but I can’t really take seriously comments that insist that TpT is somehow deficient because buyers leave positive feedback and not every product can be edited. Plus, because you are not a seller on TpT and you don’t see the conversations among sellers, you are assuming that those conversations don’t happen. But they do. You just don’t see them.

          • Matt Gomez says:

            Renee, please don’t put words in my mouth. I never said or eluded to TpT controlling feedback, ever. I said I feel there is a culture among the users of the site that does not support it. There can be more feedback and TpT is working on it. They started a new blog just a few days after my original post. They are listening and I have had nothing but positive interactions with TpT staff as well as several top sellers. Many people saw my intentions were heartfelt concerns that I had. As you have mentioned it led to a great conversation. Again, I laid out my thoughts and my concerns. The fact that my post caused such a stir and reaction seems to support the idea that reflective feedback isn’t welcome by many on TpT. I never claimed to be all knowing, I am simply a K teacher trying to do my best and blogging about my journey.

          • Liz says:

            The issue I have with the feedback on TpT is that it seems that most of the feedback is given before the resource was actually used. “Love it!” and “Looks awesome” are in no way helping me. Although I am guilty of posting such feedback because I needed the credits I receive from the feedback. I don’t know what the solution is but I agree there should be a system in place to better help us sift through the products.

  30. Shirelle says:

    I recreate the wheel….when I can. I spend a lot of time on school things, but I am both a devoted mom and wife. My kids have many after school activities and grad school is not pleasant! I say that to say that not everyone has a ton of time on their hands to recreate everything, every year. And it isn’t always as simple as it seems. I suck at science and would be the first to admit that. I have probably scrounged for more science activities than anything else on TpT and Teachers Notebook. It has really been helpful there. I also have been happy with many of the math investigations that I find. And even having to modify it still works for me because it gives me a place to start that I wasn’t thinking about at first or couldn’t quite wrap my mind around. That is what I meant about it not being different from you taking ideas from your bloggers. I don’t follow most of their blogs because they are boosting merchandise and it is a tad bit annoying! But if I can’t figure it out from what =ever resources i have or find online, I talk with my people face to face! I don’t totally disagree with some of your original post on the matter. i just don’t like the generalizations that were made. Those are dangerous slopes. But honestly, a bad teacher will make anything bad. And if a teacher takes something from TpT or from a ‘sharing’ individual and just uses it as is all the time, then that is that teacher’s fault. Not the seller. Thank you very much for your help tonight.

  31. Barbara says:

    You are simply refreshing! I’m so glad I found your blog. I follow many tpt blogs and while I’ve made some great friends I’m yearning for blogs with real conversation. I’m wondering if the cuteness thing is more of an issue with American teachers. I have no idea really but I teach in Canada and hadn’t even heard of themed rooms until I started blogging! Cute doesn’t really bother me and I actually like it, but I don’t do much of it in my room cause I think it’s a waste of energy that could be put into actual teaching. That being said, one year I did all my BBs in pink paper and I was curious about the boys’ reaction (grade 1). They told me they really liked it, all of them, but I took it down halfway through the year cause it was driving ME crazy. Too stimulating — haha! I’m going to subscribe to your blog and hopefully I’ll get braver and started posting some slightly controversial topics on my own blog. BTW, I wish there were more primary teachers like you!

  32. Deedee Wills says:

    Matt! I am sorry… but you look pretty cute in your outfit! There! I said it! AND I want to mention that you made a darn cute Piggie #3! Thank you for keeping the dialogue open. I love hearing other people’s perspectives.

  33. Lesa Haney says:

    So, not to stir the pot even more, but I kind of feel the same way about how many educators use Pinterest. I will post a picture of my classroom once I set it up but I usually just start the year with one thing on my wall–a big orange splot. Read my blog post to find out why. http://lesahaney.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-first-read-aloud.html

  34. Fran Kramer says:

    So I decided after several days to respond to this post but to try to do so in a thoughtful way. TpT reminds me of a grocery store where you get to pick your favorite foods(curriculum) to take home and use to make delicious meals. However, if you want to understand who I am(or other teacher bloggers) and the “value” of my materials it is important for you to read the content of my blog so you can purchase items as an informed consumer. If it won’t enhance your menu, leave it behind just as you would in any store. Many bloggers work hard to build an audience and try to make materials that drive their curriculum in a purposeful way. I have taught kindergarten for most of my career and do little of the fluff because we are so standards driven.We are on the road to rolling out the Common Core which has forced me to make my teaching even more intentional. So… cute is so secondary and purposeful is essential. We now focus on Big Ideas that go across all curriculum and encourage children to answer well designed Essential Questions. Is there hard work? Yes. I am challenged every day and have to work hard to make material comprehensible to young children, looking through an early childhood lens. I hope you can give me insight into this as the year unfolds. I still believe most of us work hard and are filled with a love for the work we do.
    I love that you have hit such a nerve. We all need to look at our work and remind ourselves of how important this job really is. Our impact on our students is huge.
    At this time I am a mentor teacher and when I walk into a classroom the room environment does not need to have polka dots for me to love it. I look at the walls to see what “growing charts” have been created, do kids have ownership of the room, and do I see students engaged in the hard work of learning? Are they working collaboratively and talking in a purposeful manner with each other. Is the teacher facilitating their learning and moving around the room?
    I look forward to other conversations that help me to examine my own practices and force me to stretch my thinking. Thanks Matt for opening this can of worms.
    Fran Kramer@kindergartencrayons.blogspot.com

  35. Thanks for your post. There were a couple of elements though that I wonder if you might think about some more.

    The idea that cute is for girls and not cute is for boys is a battle we must fight against- especially as kindergarten teachers who are shaping kids’ perceptions. Boys love play and fantasy- and that involves pink and glitter. It can be trained out of them. By claiming that cute stems from women, I cringe. When we consider the boys in our class, we don’t have to make our rooms less cute for them.

    That being said- classroom environment is important to invest time developing. There should be a place for every child in the room and one way that can be done is to create the room with students. Leave part of it blank so they have a place to add their art and photography. At the same time, color coordinating book bins so that they serve a function and keeping a clear color scheme in the room is arguably important. Advertisers and graphic designers go about their day knowing paying attention to the way a product (in this case the room) is published entices and even motivates a user (in this case the child).

    Long story short- of course, content, material, and respect are chief elements in a classroom- but design principals and layout enable students to be even more productive. It also shapes their worldview so we have to fight against making sure our “boys” or our “girls” feel comfortable. In my view, there shouldn’t be anything in your classroom that isolates or caters to a gender.

  36. I appreciate your followup and further reflection of the comments many of us left. You are more focused this time I feel on the issue… how do we help new teachers sort through the crap and find the awesomesauce (love that BTW.) Just as you say that you need to make your room you, you also have to do that with your resources. Advise for new teachers when it comes to shopping on TpT, a teacher store, or where ever… know what you need, look at the value for the price, and look at the rigor of the activity. If it meets those three needs then you are probably safe. It’s not a perfect science but you do need to use caution and only purchase things that support the learning of your kids.

    With regards to boys in your room. My classroom would fall into the ‘cute’ category. It is all bright primary colors with solid color borders. There are no owls, flowers, or other ‘girly’ things. As a matter of fact, we use legos and building blocks often to make letters and sight words. We do lots of STEM which I would say would fall into the ‘boy’ side of your view.

    Is my room still cute.. yes.. just the same way as my walls in my home are painted tan and I have pictures up there. My home I want calm and put together, my classroom I want bright and cheery. My room is not overstimulating… I don’t do patterned borders and posters that have not meaning or that I don’t use. It does bother me a little when teachers don’t put effort into their spaces. For example.. there is a teacher at my school who took over a classroom it is is exactly the same as the teacher left it. She has not moved a poster, table, or really anything. Her room feels cold and not put together. She says it’s her choice to have things minimal but it honestly is exactly the same. There are even things on the walls that are not appropriate curriculum for her grade and that she never reviews with the kids. It is one thing to have a minimal approach to ‘cute’ and another thing to not care.

    Again I appreciate your reflection. I too was at the Blogger Meet-up. I am actually a really good friend of Debbie and she spoke very highly of you several times to me in Vegas and has continued to do so. I think rich conversations are important but I felt as if your first post had the true meaning of what you were trying to say masked with a bold statement about TpT (even your edited version.) I truly feel as if your statements could be made about any teaching resources. TpT has been such a blessing in my life! It has allowed me to leave a RIDICULOUS district and move to a school where I would put my own kindergartener there. (I took a HUGE pay cut and TpT has supplemented this for me.) It’s not extra money.. it’s money going to pay my bills so myself (as many others) are very defensive about it. Especially with recent issues districts have had about people selling.. many of us are on edge about our right to sell teaching resources and very passionate about it!

  37. Melissa says:

    I appreciate the fact that you came back to add some new opinions and explanations based on the feedback you received. That shows that you are not just set in your own opinions and willing to listen to what others believe in, so thank you for that. I have read through almost all of the comments on both posts and it is definitely an interesting debate. I don’t like when someone bashes TpT for no reason. I think you have some reasons, but I don’t think it is enough to say that TpT is a “bad” thing. I’m also not saying that TpT is perfect right now and I too find it difficult to sort through to find what’s good. It seems funny that there is so much controversy over the CUTE. I think it’s a personality thing mostly and as someone else mentioned, does not mean you are a good OR a bad teacher. Having a cute classroom shouldn’t mean that they don’t care about getting to the meat of the learning, just as not having a cute classroom doesn’t mean they are a boring teacher. I don’t think it deserves as much debate as it is receiving because I don’t think there is a right or wrong. People who like cute will probably buy cute things on TpT. People who don’t like cute, either won’t buy OR will find the products with less of that and that’s ok too. I think there are sellers on TpT who probably sell “less cute” things too. So I guess I’m just thinking if you are a teacher who doesn’t like cute, then you don’t HAVE to buy cute things on TpT or buy anything at all. That doesn’t mean that TpT doesn’t have quality products just because it has cute things either. Personally, I try to make my products with the “meat” in mind first and then add a little cute so it is visually stimulating but not distracting. The one point I do agree with is that decorating your classroom should be intentional based on what is important for your students. I think it’s ok to have cute posters if you use those posters as references WITH your students and teach them how to use them too. When I first started teaching I had filled my walls with tons of posters that I thought the kids would need to reference throughout the year, but I didn’t teach them HOW to use them or reference them very much. Now I change what I put on my walls each year based on how I teach and what I feel my students will use and will benefit from. I also try to leave space for their work and our charts that WE create together. Again, teaching style plays into how you decorate your room. Finally, the debate about teachers just buying and using the next day without thinking of their students’ needs is not a TpT debate – it is an effective teacher debate. There will always be teachers who buy a resource, or even create a resource, that is not what is best for the students. This is not a problem with TpT, nor was it created by TpT. This is a problem that administrators in those buildings should be on top of by guiding these ineffective teachers to create and choose resources based on students’ need and standards in place. Finding good resources can be VERY overwhelming so I think it is more a conversation that should take place within schools EVERYDAY, because it changes everyday and with each new year (like you said). Maybe I’m wrong and there would be a way for teachers to have that conversation on TpT, but it would probably go a lot like the comments here on your blog – some like one thing and some like others. Maybe the descriptions of each product need to be a little more specific so buyers can really find what they NEED. I’m not sure what the answer to this is, but it would be interesting to see if there could be something like this in place that would work in the way you propose.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Melissa, thank you for the great comment. I will argue that I wasn’t saying TpT is “bad” I was only voicing my concerns. As I look through the TpT site and the blogs of the top sellers I don’t see the conversation I think is needed. The TpT blog itself does NOT even allow comments. My concern is teachers are afraid to be reflective because it might hurt their chances to move up the selling ladder. If they question a product or disagree it goes against the norm on the sites or blogs. This is my opinion from somewhat limited exposure, if I am wrong please direct me to those bloggers, I want to highlight them!

      I don’t want to end TpT (like I could anyway), I want to see it become more valuable to teachers. I certainly don’t have the answers but I did see a few issues I wanted to discuss.

      • Melissa says:

        Matt – thanks for the reply. I understand your concerns with there not being a place for discussion and I do think the TpT blog should allow comments. However, I question whether there would ever be a place where you could debate which products are “good” and which products are not. When we buy into a program in our district, there is no place for me to contact the authors directly and tell them what I like and don’t like about their product. TpT gives you the chance to connect personally to sellers. I don’t know if it would be fair to have a place where can say “Don’t buy this product, but buy this one because it’s better”. Who’s to say it’s better? Some sellers might get bashed unfairly so others can be highlighted. I could see it becoming a popularity contest of sorts. I think the rating system occasionally has some reflective comments and specifics, but it’s also hard to be objective when it is directed at someone personally. If something doesn’t work for my classroom and my students, should I say it is a poor product?

        I will say that I find the reflection you are talking about in the blogs I follow and there are MANY that could be highlighted as providing guidance to some amazing ideas and products. Most of the blogs I follow not only highlight their own ideas, but others’ ideas as well. The collaboration is there by highlighting what has worked in their classrooms for their students. If that looks like something that would work for me and my students then I can go get the product or adapt the idea. It would get very overwhelming if that was taking place on TpT with however many thousands of sellers there are out there. Sellers will want to promote themselves, naturally. Bloggers, in my opinion (maybe because I am a blogger myself), will generally show a more complete picture. So maybe that is where the “answer” lies. :)

        • Matt Gomez says:

          Awesome response Melissa! Let me be clear, I don’t want to good product/ bad product debate. That is counterproductive. I am looking for reflective discussion on the how and why of products. Like ” I bought this amazing packet and am struggling to use it, please help” or ” I think (enter idea) would make this product even better.” I am searching for those blogs so help is appreciated!

      • Melissa says:

        Again, Matt, I appreciate the conversation. I agree that good product/bad product would be counterproductive. As far as some of the conversation you are talking about – I think that happens at times when buyers email or contact the seller personally. I don’t know that it is out there for the public to see, but I think most of the sellers that I have come in contact with are always open to that communication and put it right in their descriptions (i.e. Please contact me with any questions before or after your purchase). I have also read multiple posts of bloggers where they address the questions they receive about products and then make changes and adjustments.

        As I was trying to think of which blogs to tell you about, I couldn’t narrow down my list. I think I follow about 100 blogs and every one of them has these things to offer. If they didn’t, I don’t think I would follow them. Therefore, when I come across a product I like on TpT I try to find a blog post about it so I can learn more. Of course, it might be helpful to have all of those personal conversations there to read, but not everyone wants their opinions and questions out there for the world to read.

        So, I am not sure how to give you a list of the MANY wonderful blogs out there, but I know they are there. I guess it seems that there might be a lot that happens behind the scenes of TpT that provides those questions that none of us are aware of. I would say that the top sellers would be able to shed more light on that than I can, but I’ve seen it as well. Again, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’ve appreciated the back and forth!

      • Renee says:

        Mr. Gomez, I am wondering if you have a seller’s account at TpT because in the seller’s forum there are many conversations of different kinds, including more than one among sellers who do not do “the cute.” Also, as I have read through these comments, I’ve seen more than one mention about the “best sellers”…. but there are many, many sellers on TpT (and I am one of them) who are far from the “best sellers” and who have quality resources for teachers (and many, I will be the first to admit, who sell things I would never buy… but that is MY choice as a teacher).

        I guess I am wondering what kinds of conversations you want to see on and within TpT or on teachers’ blogs that are related to TpT, and whether you also request that these kinds of conversations should be available on, say, the Lakeshore website, or the Houghton-Mifflin website, or the Pearson website.

        Just wondering…

        • Matt Gomez says:

          Renee, I do not have any type of account on TpT. The term “best sellers” is not the correct term, what I mean is “top sellers.” As I look through many of the blogs and TpT resources I struggle to find the “how” and “why.” I am encouraging dialogue beyond “this is amazing” or “this is cute” on the site and blogs. Yes, all businesses should have social spaces that encourage dialogue. I think Amazon does this as good as anyone because they have developed a culture that appreciates all feedback.

  38. Hey there…I don’t have much time to comment today, but I wanted to add my 2 cents. I am a 4th grade teacher who doesn’t “do” cute. My classroom is very student-centered and my walls sort of coordinate because I picked fabric that I liked when I moved schools because I knew it would be up there for a decade or two (6 years so far…still looks great). I am a teacher blogger and TpT product creator. My products aren’t cute or glitzy (though it wouldn’t change them if they had glitter or clip art–the lesson would be the same) and I teach in a very constructivist, student-centered fashion. My resources are geared toward helping teachers teach in a more in-depth way and to push the rigor and engagement in the classroom. Period. Do I put engaging covers on my products? Yep. Why? I want people to notice my work. It’s good. It deserves to be seen.

    I think the fear I have when people make sweeping statements in our social media world, is that people pick up on sound bites and phrases and things go viral. If I were to blog about my musings about male kindergarten teachers based on some observations I made about a few and it went viral–I certainly would expect to touch some nerves!

    I think that’s what frustrated me most about the original post–it felt like a sweeping statement. I can go to my local teaching store and find pre-made teacher resources that are garbage. I don’t buy them. I can look at some of the activities published in textbooks that are garbage. I wouldn’t use them. There are resources on TpT that I wouldn’t use as well–because I don’t feel they are quality enough, because they don’t match my student needs, or because I have a better way of tackling the problem! That being said–there are some DEEP, quality resources out there that are helping teachers do their job better and in ways they wouldn’t have been able to do without the information in them. The beauty of the online community is that change happens quickly–far faster than books can be published and textbooks can be revised. I have been able to share teaching ideas and resources that might not make it into teacher’s hands for years if they waited for their district to adopt something new or buy them a book that hasn’t been written yet. If I can get a handful of teachers to rethink how they teach math BEFORE their district does–think of the impact I can make . . . and have made. I have had comments like, “This resource was the best professional development I have had in 20 years of teaching.” I made a difference…and many of us are.

    Anyhoo–I’ve only met/worked with 3 male kindergarten teachers so I will hold off on making any sweeping statements. ;) I hope you can recognize that there are some amazing bloggers/resource creators out there who are truly providing a great service to teachers and students. Thanks for your follow up post and for the discussion.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Fourth Grade Studio, thanks for the response! My #1 concern is the fact that teachers can’t edit most of what they buy, even slightly. To me this is an issue that can be discussed and hopefully fixed one day. I know there are copyright concerns, I know sellers have been burned but TpT is a large company and I feel it can be addressed.

      I believe the top TpT sellers care about what they are doing. I believe they are passionate about helping and changing lives. My question is does it bother them when their products are used the wrong way? If so don’t they want a space to encourage the correct way through reflection and dialogue? I haven’t found that space yet, and I think it is needed. As I look through the TpT Facebook page it is all positive feedback. Does everyone really agree with everything people are saying and doing there? I would guess not. I understand it is a community build around support but sometimes pushback is the best support because it makes people think.

      I think the culture in the community frowns on anything but positive thoughts. Again, if I am wrong show me those conversations and I will point people to those sellers and conversations.

      Take care

  39. I love TPT, but I totally get your point. It’s not one size fits all at all, but there are great resources out there. I just presented on TPT at a regional conference, and I referenced your original blog post and made the point that you have to “weed out the junk.” TPT has also inspired me to create on my own. I share it freely with every K teacher in my district, and try to price it cheaply in order to make it cost-effective for other teachers. By the way, I am a new follower and love your thoughts on teaching kindergarten. Kudos to you!

  40. jackknife74 says:

    55 comments about cute?! In my best Allen Iverson voice, “Cute….we’re talk about cute here…cute.” Kidding aside, it’s a worthy conversation. I would have jumped in if it was about teachers wanting to be paid or not ;)

    -@iamkesler

  41. Kim says:

    I’m a home schooler, not a classroom teacher, but I do love TPT (both selling & buying). It has encouraged me to get beyond the physical curriculum and use ideas that really impact my kids rather than just use a bunch of pre-planned workbooks. For us, cute is a big deal. Not just “girly” (although I do have four daughters & no boys), but eye-catching. My kids enjoy things that look nice. Sometimes they even help me pick out the clip-art. When I design things to sell on TPT (mostly games/centers) I try to keep them attractive visually, but content rich. I do not think that content and visual attractiveness need to be exclusive. I am usually not interested in products that are not visually appealing even though their content might be good, simply because it tells me that the teacher did not care enough about the product or students to put the few extra steps in to make it “nice”. I mean, how hard is it to choose a nice font, correct font size, etc.? For the record, my kids are 10, 9, 5, and 2, so there is quite the age range for which to choose visual content.

  42. I still don’t understand why you feel that TpT products should allow for editing? Why not just create the product yourself then? I know in the OP that some commenters said that is exactly what they do. Good for them. That is how I got started. I wanted what I wanted to teach our children and so I made it myself.

    Are there are any educational resources you buy at Teacher Supply stores or any other store that are printed and allow you to edit? I am remiss to think of any. That is just not the norm.

    And there are some resources on TpT that are editable. I think it is much more common among the upper level educators, but they are there if you look for them. Really, you can probably find it all on TpT (yes, both good and bad, high quality and poor quality).

    • Matt Gomez says:

      I think TpT should allow editing because it is different than any other resource teachers have had before. They are the “new way” and with that comes improvements and new concepts. It is a challenge for many reasons to allow editing but I feel it is the next step in making the site even better. Thanks for commenting!

      • Renee G says:

        TpT *does* allow editing. Many sellers edit their products by request, and many make their products editable in the first place.

        • Matt Gomez says:

          Renee, yes they do allow editing but it seems few use that option. As many sellers have noted they have had bad experiences allowing editing. I wouldn’t say “many” allow. I am wondering if TpT can integrate a site base editing tool for at least the wording on all the documents. Would be a neat feature that would set them apart. Thanks for commenting.

          • Renee G says:

            Matt, it seems you just want TpT to be something it is not. It is a marketplace. It is the “store” part of a collaborative market, sort of like the person who owns the land where the Farmer’s Market takes place. Sellers pay for a spot and then make their own decisions about what they want to sell. Individual sellers on TpT own their own copyrights and make choices as to how they want to market their products. As a seller, I would not want TpT to offer this kind of editing tool for *all* documents. I would rather they do what they do…. support sellers in a free marketplace where sellers get to call their own shots. Frankly, you seem to just be casting aside the whole “open marketplace” philosophy of what TpT is, a place where teachers can sell what they create to other teachers. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy, sell, edit, or not edit. That’s each person’s choice.

          • Matt Gomez says:

            Renee, yes, I want the site to improve and I think many have that goal. I prefer a space where teachers can make the products available there meet the needs of their kids. That was the concern I voiced and for many it was something they didn’t need to hear. For others it was a good reminder of keeping the focus on the kids. I think you are taking this post for much more than it was intended. I asked teachers to think and consider my concerns, not to avoid using the site or change what they do.

  43. Rhonda Baldacchino says:

    I think there is a place for both. We are all different and what a boring place it would be if we weren’t.
    I believe ‘different strokes for different folks’.

    My children get so excited when we have a new display in my classroom. They love to bring their parents into the room to show off their work.

    At the end of the day it really is about what works for you.

    Also, if you were to make two worksheets available (both with exactly the same content but one with pretty pictures and the other with no pictures), and let your students choose which one they would like to do, it would be interesting to see which worksheet they would choose? Pretty or plain??

    This was a great discussion and I liked reading all the responses.

    Rhonda
    Classroom Fun

  44. Tania says:

    I have read both posts and the comments and I think that there has been such an emphasis on “cute” that it is getting ridiculous. I see nothing wring with creating an engaging, stimulating and attractive classroom for your students. Some of you may be the lucky ones who teach in classrooms that have matching furniture, paint that isn’t chipped or peeling and carpet that doesn’t need to be thrown out……they are not the classrooms I have taught in. I would hate to learn in a room that is devoid of personality or that is sterile and ugly, so why should people be criticised for trying to create a warm and inviting room from something that is dingy and decrepit, often with teachers own funds, does this mean they are more focussed on “cute” rather than content, I don’t think so. I also like to support those visual learners with focus walls that use borders to draw they eye to certain areas or delineate certain sections, these would be concepts/posters/anchor charts that have been part of learning or to stimulate questioning and inquiry.

    As far as TpT sellers using “cute” clipart for products that they sell, I do not think this is going to be detrimental for student learning or engagement. After all, students are exposed to a range of images including but not limited to photographs, cartoons, illustrations, paintings, well the list could go on. Should we only provide realistic photographic images for students to view, I don’t think so, it should be one part of showing students the different types of images in the world, just as they show us when they produce their own images, the important thing here is to find a balance.
    It has been very interesting reading all the comments but I think you run the risk of being hypocritical when you say one way of teaching is better than the other, do what you feel comfortable with in your own classroom for your own students.

  45. Emily says:

    Hmmm . . . Somehow I agree and disagree with you at the same time! Clearly you have had to deal with this issue in a way that I haven’t, so it’s hard for me to truly understand why you feel the way you do about some of the points you make. It sounds like this has been an issue for you your whole teaching career, and I am appalled that anyone in the teaching field would tell their student what you were told by your college professor! That’s unacceptable for any reason, in my opinion, but for such a frivolous reason as how “cute” your lesson plans look is just wrong.
    That being said, I have to say that I am not aligned with a lot of your thoughts either. There is actually a lot of brain research out there that states environment does make a difference in student learning. The color palate, the flow and layout of your room, and how you present it does have an effect on student learning. I wrote a post about that here a few years ago when I was taking an HET (Highly Effective Teaching) course. Now, does that mean it has to be polka dots or owls? No, of course not! I do use polka dots as my accent, but that is a personal choice that represents my style. We all need to have balance in our lives by using and expressing our creative side, and for me, designing my room gives me that outlet. Sure–it’s for me as much as it is for the kids, but what is wrong with that? And kids do notice. I redesigned my room after I took the HET class I mentioned so that it was a more brain-friendly learning environment for me and my students, and they NOTICED! And yes, parents and teachers noticed too. That’s not why I did it though. We all decorate our house to reflect our own personal style too, and when people come over, they notice. That is not why we do it (or for most people in my world anyway, it’s not the reason!). It’s just a reflection of our personal creativity. I did have someone tell me once that my room looked like it was a magazine showcase picture (and it was definitely NOT a compliment the way she was told me!). There may be people who view my classroom design as a competition where I am trying to make others look bad, but I think that is on them. I would NEVER do that–my room decor choices have nothing to do with them any more than what I wear has anything to do with them! Ha! I think the fact that teachers sell their stuff on places like TpT show that they too are not trying to outdo anyone else–they want to share if someone else finds it valuable.
    As far as the content goes, I agree that there is some good and some bad on there, but what the good stuff is can be subject to debate as well. For example, I firmly believable that teaching from a basal is not a good teaching practice, and I avoid anything on TpT that has to do with a basal. I am aware, however, that other teachers may find those resources a great tool. Personally, the way I sort through what I think is good is by following the stores that fit my teaching philosophy. That way I get updates on what they create. I don’t typically just surf the site–too overwhelming!

    The art teacher at my new school said it well–”cute” (or whatever word you want to use) is a matter of taste or style and we all define it in our own way. I’m not offended by the “cute” stuff out there. Not all of it is how I would define “cute” for myself, but I don’t begrudge anyone else their style whether it’s pink and fluffy (which is SO not my style) or lack of any specific theme or design. That is also a reflection of your personal style, and that’s ok too! I will throw in that I agree about not making it girly, however. That can be an uncomfortable environment for any kids who don’t like that kind of thing.
    So I guess I don’t see all the “cute” stuff as a big deal. The people selling are trying to create eye-catching stuff so others will notice it, and if it’s not your thing, then you skip it, right? I have seen some of your posts before I think, and tech is your thing, right? You would probably agree then, that having in your room like a smart board, laptops, iPads, etc. doesn’t necessarily mean that you are creating 21st century learners–it’s what you do with those tools. Yet I’m sure you would not advocate for getting rid of those tools because it gives the impression that you may be a good teacher. I don’t see why your classroom design should be any different. Sure, it may give the impression that you’re a good teacher who cares about your classroom whether you are or not, but what is the point of hating on someone else’s design? Like in an art museum, if it doesn’t speak to you, you say, “interesting . . . ” and move on, but you don’t usually lobby to have it removed when there are others to whom it does “speak to.”

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Emily, great comment. The reflective thinking you showed in that comment is exactly what I was hoping every teacher would do before creating a class EVERY year. Maybe that means they need more balance, maybe it means nothing changes and maybe it means everything changes. The key is a thoughtful purpose. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  46. Sharmon says:

    I’m about to begin my 23rd year of teaching. I don’t sell on TpT or have a blog (although I want one)! I purchase a variety of products. This is just like “the old days” when you paid $25.00 for a book from Company CD and could use 2 pages or 2 ideas out of 190! Maybe the next year you could use more. Sometimes you could not even use two so maybe you passed it to someone else or recycled it. There was no opportunity to have any dialogue with Carson Delosa. You, as the teacher had to decide what was a good fit for your class. The same is true with TpT. There are great products, of high quality, that might not fit your class at that time. Every class is unique.
    This brings me to my next point regarding products being editable. I like products to have an editable feature. However, if you check new products regularly you will see people who copy other people’s work. Making everything editable is like leaving your purse or wallet open. Every person wouldn’t take it but the risk is too high to take that chance.
    My next point is regarding more dialogue. There is often communication going on directly with a seller regarding direct questions or specific issues, before, during, or after a sale.There’s mo need to publish all of it because people don’t read pages of comments and questions. Last year I asked Deanna Jump a question and when the reply came I saw that 2 people below me had asked the SAME question and another after me. During the past several weeks I have received emails from 2 of the “Top Sellers” myself as well as several others. Many of these sellers edit, add on, price adjust after purchase to make buyers happy. Some sellers are better than others but then again all buyers aren’t the same either,
    My comments about cute in conclusion. The saying looks don’t matter is not technically true. We want what’s appealing: the guy, the girl, the car, house, food, etc. Children are the same. Research has shown they perform better in an organized cohesive space. Colors that coordinate are easier on the eye and reduce headache. Even the lighting matters with many schools adding incandescent bulbs over fluorescent. Whatever is in the room should be meaningful and not look as if a case of skittles erupted. Don’t hate on cute. It represents a great deal of effort. For the majority of time the teacher and class are the only people seeing it.
    The number of posts shows the heart of all of us. The cute, the not so cute. We are the same. We are Teachers…

  47. Becky Marie Vodek says:

    Thank you for causing me to think. I am going into my 7th year of teaching and am overwhelmed by pinterest, tpt, and just “googling” anything classroom related these days. I have always had an inviting classroom, bordering on the edge of cute, but realize all the hours, days, weeks, months I have spent scouring websites, catalogs, teacher stores, dollar bins to find the next “fun” thing for my classroom. Then spending hours placing a poster or sign, rearranging the book character animals twenty times until they look just right and just plain over-thinking every detail of every part of the classroom getting it “perfect” for Open House. Sadly forgetting the real reason I am there … to teach.
    I found Miss Night’s Marbles blog this morning as well, so it has been an eye-opening morning! I am thankful it is still July and I have time to process all of my new learning.

  48. Misty says:

    Matt –

    I was sent a link to your blog so I could catch-up on the hot TpT debate. I am so glad to have found your site. Not only have I found your insights on TpT intriguing but it has made me think as have several of your other posts.

    To tell you about myself, I am changing careers. It has always been a dream of mine to be a teacher and now I am student teaching. I found myself looking at rooms and saying “cute” “not cute” “not cute” “cute”. After reading your post I realize that it was necessarily “cute” that I was searching for but rather “effort and intention.” Some of the rooms I labeled as “cute” would never make the pinterest cut. So I had to think some more, talk it out, and reflect.

    I can’t wait to read more from you!!

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Glad you found me Misty :) Cute or not cute is certainly not the debate. Classrooms can have great content with and without cute. The key is being thoughtful which you obviously are already doing. Best of luck this year!

  49. Hi, Matt! I read this post yesterday and was thinking about it all day. I know you’re thinking “Mission Accomplished” — you got us talking & thinking! :) I follow you on twitter and follow your free app of the day on pinterest. One of your comments was about teachers buying things on TPT before they even know their class & the specific needs. I think there is a big difference between buying & preparing materials and the specific time you choose to implement it. When you post about a free app (or even a paid app) that I think I will use in my classroom I try to download it right away and get the good deal. It doesn’t mean that I will for sure use it that year or with a particular class, but I am preparing myself based upon the types of things that have helped my 1st graders in the past. I think TPT is much the same. We know the general needs of our particular grade and want to be prepared with materials. As far as the cuteness, you had some great points. I appreciate that you are challenging us all to continually go back to “the basics” – meeting the needs of the students. BTW, I should mention I am a long-time customer of TPT and more recently a seller. I love the materials there and think it’s wonderful that teachers are able to share (free or paid) their materials with other teachers.
    ~Melissa
    Teacher Treasure Hunter

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Thanks for commenting Melissa. The only mission I know for sure I accomplished was making myself think through the process. This space has been so meaningful for me. I appreciate you joining the conversation and following my journey.

  50. John Blake says:

    Good for you, Matt, for not giving up on your beliefs as an educator! I hope some of your old professors read your blog, but it sounds like they wouldn’t be the type to do that.

    Cuteness certainly has its place in the elementary classroom, but as with all things that have the potential to be bad for us, moderation is the key. I have walked in (both physically and digitally) to many chronically cute classrooms over the years. All I can think is how distracted the students must be by all the apple cutouts, tissue paper teddy bears, and cross stitch alphabets.

    As a male teacher in the elementary grades, I also pride myself on building relationships with my students. During the 19 years I have spent in the classroom, I have also learned to eliminate as many distractions in my classroom as I can. I don’t aim for sterile, but rather clean and organized. Okay, I may have my LSU and Saints display (“shrine,” as some of my students have noted) in the corner, but it is not overwhelming. I take this same approach in the creation of materials materials for my students and their families.

    Thanks for opening your forum for us to discuss this topic. I am a fan of TPT, as well as a seller (full disclosure).

  51. I agree with the issue of “nothing but cute” on TpT: I’ve actually opened a store on TpT where I try to bring an edgier, more diverse kind of materials to TpT, but I doubt I’ll have much success: the way the system works is that it only promotes its top sellers and those top sellers are selling, well, “cute” stuff. So people like me are stuck in the backwater with only a few nibbles here and there. They’ve got change their idea of promotion to include people who are doing something really novel and interesting, not those who are just selling the same materials over and over.

  52. Jenny says:

    Well, booo, I’m late to the discussion! I will try not to repeat the responses I’ve seen here. The thing that kinda bugs me is that we, as teachers, strive to teach our students to build relationships and cooperate with one another, which means to not judge one another. So, how hypocritical it is for *any* teacher to judge another teacher based on their cuteness appeal, lack of design, or too much cute. There is no “right” way. Let people make their own decisions and enjoy doing what they do. I do like the warning to not get too caught up in how cute their classroom or projects are, but usually there is a time and place for everything. I think the cute graphics can assist in learning by capturing some students’ short attention spans. One last thing, there are boys who appreciate cute, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Vive la différence :)

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Jenny, my hope is that we can question each other and have dialogue about our practice without it being considered judging. The lack of constructive feedback is one of my main points. As you can see from the post this is something the community is not accustomed to and that needs to change.

  53. Claire says:

    This is my first post but I read both posts and many of the comments. I am a TPT seller and blogger and I don’t do “cute” at all. I am also a secondary ELA teacher, so maybe that is why. I have seen other sellers get ahead of me because they do cute and have a ton of clip art on their covers. That does bring people into their store…more than mine? I don’t know and don’t have the data to prove it. I am different in that I teach kids who usually bored or unsuccessful in traditional settings because of learning disabilities and social/emotional issues. When I make something, I need to grab and hold their attention- my products do that with photographs (that I take and sell on TPT) and graphics that are interesting and provide interest. My blog is about what it is like to teach students with learning disabilities, how I do it, strategies I use, and why their reactions are the way they are. Also, I am a mother to a 7 year old ADHD and dyslexic son that I reference and discuss. I will I had more commenters with suggestions so we COULD get a discussion going about what works and what doesn’t with these students but I just don’t have the traffic yet. (hopefully soon though!)

    I agree with much of what you have said – except the editing part. I use to make all my products editable until I found out that another seller had taken my entire literature guide and then moved a couple things around and sold it in a PDF format with a copyright on it and date. I was out of luck at the point and started saving and uploading everything in PDF format. That is why I don’t offer my products editable.

    • Matt Gomez says:

      Claire, thanks for the comments. Several have commented about the issue with people stealing when they allow editing. I understand that concern and I don’t have a solution. Maybe at some point technology will fix that problem.

  54. Lori says:

    The problem with pre-packaged ready to laminate units is that they’re written for that teacher’s classroom…not mine. I can certainly use others’ ideas, but I have to modify them to fit my classroom. My near bare walls fill throughout the year with mentor texts, teacher models, student work, and charts of vocabulary and authors’ crafts made from the books as we read them. At the end of the year, I throw them away because a new group of students and reflection change the lesson.
    It saddens me to also hear so many people in education claim that there are little to no resources for teachers. Books, Books, Books. Authors like Kelly Gallagher, Katie Ray Wood, Linda Hoyt, Kylene Beers, Jeff Anderson, and many others provide rich and authentic ideas for the classroom based on research. No, the books aren’t free, but other people in other professions spend money to continue to grow, so why don’t we…principals can put money for professional development towards purchasing these books though.
    After reading people’s comments, I think an entirely different post could probably be devoted to arguments. I believe it’s important for students to cooperate in class, but everything we say and do is judged. I like how in the CCSS introduction it refers to one of the traits of a literate individual is one that can critique; it should be done respectfully, but that is what makes learning higher level and authentic…when students can move past merely comprehending and move towards critiquing speakers and writers with evidence based claims and counterclaims. When people disagree with what I think, I dig deeper and grow…off topic a bit I know.

  55. hibbardjenn says:

    It appears that I’m quite late to this topic, but I have a unique perspective on classroom decor. I realize this is not completely on-topic, so bear with me. I’m an elementary music teacher who sees over 540 students over the course of a week, and I teach approximately 10 or more classes every day, K-3. I have always wanted the opportunity to allow my students to take more ownership in the class decor, but I don’t have that luxury. For me, function wins every time. To me, that means I must provide a room that appeals to a large range of students. It must also reinforce/guide what they are learning, or at the very least, provide some sort of review. This means that my walls are reserved for posters involving all of the musical elements. The spaces left over are reserved for the “music in our lives” board, in which students add their favorite song/artist, or a brief message on how music affects their daily lives. The other space includes a bulletin board with “iPods”, in which each grade has a playlist showing their repertoire, which lengthens as the year progresses.

    Now, one might ask, why not allow the students to create the posters of music elements? Simply put, it’s not the best use of our learning time. I see each class for a total of 50 minutes (25 minutes each) a week. It’s a painfully short amount of time, all of which should be spent in musical action (singing, playing, exploring…). I have taught long enough to know that getting out (and putting away) the supplies needed to create any project in our class takes at least 10 minutes, which is nearly half the class time.

    As a music teacher, I am marginalized…often. As a first-year teacher (many years ago), all I ever had was the internet and a music convention once a year to keep me from feeling like I was on an island all by myself. I sought desperately for wisdom, but most of all, for teachers who understood my perspective. I rarely found them, though I did find many helpful blogs. TpT was not around when I was a new teacher, but if it was, I would have likely used it only to seek out ideas that I deemed “better than mine”, just as I do now. Though, I’ve been more inspired by reading blogs, where I see the ideas in action.

    All of this is to say that I think we needn’t worry about new teachers getting lost in TpT products that are not of good quality. I think we should worry about what sent them there in the first place. After all, new teachers don’t need TpT to utilize a bad idea, they need only to lack good judgment.

  56. I completely agree but not fully; I sell on TpT because I can get a wide distribution of my materials, which doesn’t include “cute” (I discussed why I don’t do “cute” on my blog: samizdatmath.com)

    I only sell things that I think address important issues about teaching and learning, including a very popular item called “Fractions: You’re Teaching It Wrong” which sets teachers straight on a very complex topic that is fraught with confusion.

    I also price my products somewhat high because I want teachers to value them and take them seriously: it’s very hard to take something seriously if you got it for free or paid a buck for it. I don’t make a huge amount of money compared to people like Deanna Jump, but on the other hand, it does enable me to put more time into the development and publishing of more things that will help teachers do a better job with a very difficult subject.

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