A few weeks ago, I published a post called My issue with Teachers Pay Teachers. I expected it to be controversial, but I didn’t expect the level of outrage that it sparked. Including my replies, that post has over one hundred comments and, admittedly, most of them are in disagreement. I like to think that the post itself was written politely and respectfully and, if you read the comments, you’ll see a large number of educators justifying their opinions in a similarly respectful, professional manner.
What you won’t see on that post are the many, many comments that I trashed due to their nastiness. When I first started blogging, I witnessed @TeacherToolkit‘s Ross Morrison McGill being trolled on Twitter by educators who disagreed with him. I sent him a message of support and also expressed my surprise that teachers could act in that way. I’ll remember his response forever: “Sadly, I’m no longer surprised.” As an established blogger, he learnt the sad message long before I did: not all teachers are nice.
The published comments on that TPT post prove that I’m open to disagreements, debates and even criticism, but I won’t tolerate nastiness or trolling and I certainly won’t engage with it. That was a tough day! The hurtful comments came in thick and fast! True story: at around 7pm, I turned off my devices in protest and announced to my girlfriend that I could not take any more abuse. The following day, I woke up to more personal attacks and wildly untrue stories. I was deeply upset but also disgusted that a minority of teachers reacted so viciously.
In case you don’t have time to read the 100+ comments on that post, let me share a snapshot:
“Thank you for opening the discussion…”
“Thank you for sharing your perspective…”
“Interesting post. However…”
“While I completely understand your point,…”
“My perspective is that…”
“I agree with some of this. That said,…”
These comments were written by people who disagree with me (many of them strongly). However, these teachers were professional enough to do so with respect. It is hugely important to challenge ideas rather than people and, after such a tough time following that post, I sincerely thank all of those teachers who responded with professionalism and kindness.
On numerous occasions, I have stated that disagreements are not only inevitable but welcomed. We benefit from hearing other perspectives and debating ideas. We must remain open-minded. If you ever disagree with me, please tell me! I learn most when my thinking is challenged and stretched. Sometimes you’ll change my mind and other times you won’t, but I’ll benefit either way. Hopefully, you will too. These exchanges, however, must remain professional. My blog/social media spaces will not be platforms for trolls.
One of my idols in the education world is George Couros (I challenge you to find a more inspiring, thought-provoking blog than his, The Principal of Change). I was struck by this paragraph in one of his recent posts and felt the need to write about it myself:
“There are not “sides” to education; we are all on the same team. There is a lot a “forward-thinking teacher” can learn from a “traditionalist”, and vice-versa.”
Click here to read the rest of the post. Also, check out The Innovator’s Mindset by George. I read it this summer and it’s genuinely one of the best professional texts I have ever read!
His blog post is not just about whether you identify yourself as a progressive or traditional teacher. Education is a complex field; there’s no one, correct way to teach. As George points out, there are no absolutes in teaching and learning. Very few teaching ideas (if any) have been accepted globally and timelessly.
Due to this complex nature of education and the lack of absolutes, we won’t always agree on what’s best for children. However, we can assume that educators are doing what they believe is best and, as George points out, we’re therefore on the same team because we have the same goal. Everyone on the team deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. Remember, as well as being adults and professionals, we’re also role models.
So, as the new academic year begins (back to work for me tomorrow), let’s vow to be a team. Let’s support, encourage, mentor, share and collaborate. Let’s disagree with respect and open-mindedness. Let’s remember what team stands for: Together Everyone Achieves More. We will achieve more, but guess who will benefit the most from our teamwork? The children, of course.
This post was not intended to be negative or disheartening. Unkind teachers are obviously just a minority. I want to reinforce the positive message. Click play below and listen to the surprisingly relevant lyrics. This is how I feel about our amazing profession and my colleagues worldwide. Indeed, we’re all in this together.
To receive blog updates, find the ‘Follow’ icon (below or in the sidebar) or ‘Like’ my Facebook page. Your ongoing support and encouragement are very much appreciated.
Hi Adam – again I am saddened to read this but not surprised. I have written extensively about this since 2013. My creating/selling teacher resources started when I lost my job in teaching in 2011. High debts; selling house; premature baby etc…. having to reinvent myself and working at home; plus not seeing my friends anymore (due to premature baby) found myself working late into the night to create blogs, articles, books and resources. What better way to make a living and be rewarded for my time and effort (until I got back into school) …
I first wrote about the issue here when TES downgraded my FREE resources I had shared (and lost copyright of) because I had published a book – written after school hours to share best practice and (hope to) earn 50p per sale as a bit of pocket money for my time and effort. https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/?s=vamoose –
The reason? My book was 3 clicks from my TES profile… to my website… to Amazon… to then buy my book. I had apparently breached their T&Cs for selling a book with an Amazon link to my book on my blog. My outrage from blogging the story led to the TES terms and conditions being changed for 8 million users across the globe. At the time I met with TES leadership in London. I posed the idea that I didn’t need TES anymore because I wanted/was already hosting my own resources on my blog to maintain 100% copyright. I also floated the idea that I was selling them for £1 and making 95% each time … I was already aware of TpT… Two years later (July 2015), TES launched their TpT version to help cover their £300m debts from a recent takeover. Three years later, 1,000s of teachers are selling resources… and I suspect some are making £1000s every month.
The real issue is this. Teachers do not have enough time to create resources during working hours. If they do find the time, great… and as a profession, we need to stick together and sharing FREELY to help a fellow teacher – this is a very good thing indeed.
The core issue is that school funding is reducing and teacher salary – we often do not have the basic equipment needed to make the classroom/lessons function. E.g. pens, posters etc. As a result, some teachers use their own cash instead of the school supporting / funding classroom resources. Some school may reimburse, but a school cannot monitor or budget for all teaching staff to go shopping online for things needed in the classroom. Teachers often need to bypass dated finance processes in schools so that they can have the resources quickly so that they can bring the curriculum to life. It’s often easier to buy a box of highlighter pens or a poster from your own pocket rather than fill in forms; make a payment and wait weeks for delivery or to be reimbursed (or not at all). This doesn’t make it right.
Another key issue is copyright. Passing on school resources or your own ideas? Who owns the idea? What if I work at my desk at home after work to create my own content? And content not for school but for another project? Perhaps a self-published book? Do I own it or my employer? Can I not create other resources outside my day job? After all, millions of people have a day job and work night shifts or pursue a hobby (bar work, freelancing, busking on the street or whatever it is) to make ends meet; chase their dreams. Does employment mean you cannot work elsewhere in your own time?
The next issue is selling digital resources – when you purchase something, you have no real idea of the quality until after purchasing. E.g. TES for example, do not quality assure resources until someone reviews or reports something. E.g. lets an organisation know someone else is using my idea/logo on their resources and also selling it. Been there too…
In a social media landscape, we are only delaying the inevitable… and some people will be content creators and others content consumers. I like to consider myself as both. Consuming and creating. For years, resources I created at home and books I wrote for 6-18 months (well into the early hours of the morning) were for survival. They cleared my debts and helped pay my monthly petrol bills. Today, having been through this story for 5 years; faced two copyright legal battles and also seen many others take my own ideas and sold, it’s a fine line between surviving and thriving; contributing, making a difference and being rewarded for it.
My best advice? If you don’t like it – don’t buy it… but also give your best ideas away for free.
Thank you so much for your contribution to this discussion. There are so many interesting points here to digest! I appreciate you sharing your personal and difficult experiences. The TpT debate keeps looping back the issues of teacher workload and salary. I still don’t agree with the idea of charging each other for everyday resources, but I can at least relate to these key issues that affect our profession. I can understand points of view without necessarily agreeing with them.
I’ll get in touch with you personally about some of these points. There’s too much here to discuss in a comment section! Thanks again for your input!
Thanks for sending me here, Adam, and the kind words. It’s crazy how nasty people can be, but also how much potential for professional learning there is when respectful educators get together and share ideas.
I totally agree. After your troubles this week, I thought you might be able to relate to this! You’re not alone! Always ignore the nasty and focus on the professional learning opportunities that others provide.
Adam, I like what you said about all being on the same team and using professionalism when we converse and disagree with each other. It is in those times that we learn and grow. I follow traditional math blogs as well as forward thinking blogs because, like you said, we can all learn from each other. Both help me shape my thinking. You have many great thought and I appreciate you sharing them with us.
Thank you for your support and encouragement. I totally agree with your comments. Most teachers are very professional and open-minded. Reading this back, I worry that I was too negative. I fully recognise that nastiness comes from a very small minority of colleagues.
Keeping your last thought in mind is so important. A few can spoil it for the many that contribute positively. Thanks for your optimistic take on this subject and for being brave enough to blog about it.
It’s unfortunate when teachers model behaviors they would never tolerate from their students. Students will not practice appropriate digital citizenship unless they see it modeled by adults, and how confusing it must be when students are told to conduct themselves online in an appropriate manner while seeing the opposite acted out. Thanks for taking the time to appropriately respond to the comments on your TPT post and weed out those that you didn’t want to be associated with your blog. Your courage to state your professional opinion and stick to it is encouraging.
Thank you for the support. I totally agree with what you say about digital citizenship. I know that many of my students look at my blog and that’s fine because I have nothing to hide, even in the comments sections. I don’t want my blog to be a platform where poor digital citizenship is modelled by anyone. It is just a minority though. I need to keep reminding myself of that.
I do stick with my TPT opinion but it’s still nice to have a greater understanding of where other people are coming from. We can agree to disagree while appreciating each other’s perspectives. Like I said, other times people will actually change my mind. That’s good too!
We seemed to have lost all civility in this world. Sadly, educators have not been immune. We have forgotten that good, fact based debates is what drives intelligent discussions and makes us THINK. The process makes us “dumber.”
Thanks for the support. I agree with you. Let’s remember that it’s just a minority, though. Most discussions and debates that I have with colleagues around the world are positive and productive. It’s a shame that some don’t act with the same dignity.
I love how as I read this post, I feel a strong sense of anger/protection. I cannot believe how mean some people can me. And we’re teachers! We encourage our students to be open-minded, tolerant and respectful. I’m so hurt that you were not treated as such. And then, you end your post with High School Musical, and I smile. I even laugh. I love how you can turn a situation around. We can all learn from you.
Have a fabulous school year.
Thank you for the support and kind words. It wasn’t supposed to be such a negative post. Originally, I just mentioned the TPT thing towards the end. Then I realised that there’s actually lots that needs to be said on this matter. I wanted to end positively though. I’m glad that the HSM song achieved what I wanted it to achieve. I didn’t want my negative experiences to override the positive message, especially on topics that I feel so passionately about, such as Twitter, blogging, PLNs, online collaboration, etc. The mean teachers are a small, almost insignificant minority.