Teachers Need Honest and Thorough Conversations about Materials
According to both state and federal governments, the solution to professional exhaustion is to outsource the creation of teaching materials. This will supposedly give teachers more time to focus on delivering the material in the classroom.
(Myself, I'd rather that what I came to think of as 'grey time' - playground duty, assemblies, homeroom supervision, and sports days - was given back to me so that I could focus on my core task. In my experience, grey time quickly becomes 'black time', where you hide in the toilets, the local mall, or your car, trying to get a hold of yourself.)
The problem with this is that the best resources - the ones that really get teachers and students together in a classroom experience where everyone learns - are created with teachers, not for them. A unit of work that hits the mark with a Year 8 class in a single-sex majority ESL area in Sydney's Inner West may not work for a rural co-ed high school with low literacy attainment.
When we write resources which explain something, contextualise it historically or intellectually, analyze its construction, and evaluate its merits and importance, we're building the ongoing subject knowledge that you need to teach authentically. Without this, you're insecure in your professional knowledge. You're ventriloquizing someone else's stuff.
The best resources are created with teachers, not for them
Obviously, using an off-the-shelf unit for one class out of the four or five that you teach isn't harmful (rather, I think it shows that you're 25% overworked, or that you're doing a 1.25 job). But for teachers to trust and benefit from resources that they haven't directly created, they need a thorough and honest conversation with the resource writer.
It's unlikely that government schools will employ a resource writer for each school, much less each department. This is where companies like Diving Bell, and platforms like Teachers Pay Teachers, or tes.com, are filling a gap.
But for writers like me, it's easy to sit at your desk and wonder how well those resources are really working. Customer ratings are helpful, but it's more efficient to talk to teachers before you get started. Whether it's a bespoke unit written only for your school or an open-use unit bought on a platform, the role of resource-writers will grow in the future, as teachers try to manage the workload of bigger classes and more differentiation.
So talk to us. Tell us what you'd like in the resources you need. What topics or texts do you need? At what level? For how long do your units run? What's the level of your classes? What's the level of your teachers? What are your weaknesses - and how can we support you?
It's impossible to help a student who won't mention that they're struggling. As the year gets underway, plan ahead for the terms to come. Leave a comment below and tell us what you'd like to see in our resource offering - help us to help you.
Have a great 2023!