It has long been said that good teachers borrow and the best teachers steal. Implicit in that is the understanding that when we teachers share our ideas and materials with one another our students benefit greatly. As a new teacher I was shocked how little material was available to me. Thankfully, time and the Internet have greatly improved that access. Unfortunately, Teachers Pay Teachers seems to be on a mission to undo any gains that have been made.
Though I’ve heard others say they’ve found good, free materials on TpT, they are the exception not the rule. This is by design. The site goes out of its way to make free content as limited as possible. As a buyer you have to make multiple extra clicks to search for free materials. Free lessons, no matter how popular or highly rated, are not posted at the top of site search results. As a seller you are told multiple times that should not list too many free items nor any large items for free. They state “excessive numbers of free items muddies the TpT catalogue.” How exactly? They don’t say. Apparently they operate under the theory that any free item is inherently less useful than a paid one.
Which is another problem I have with the site. It encourages teachers, especially new ones, to use materials that may not be the best for their students. Our brains are easily tricked into thinking that price means quality. It is the very basis of most luxury advertising. So, when one buys something from TpT they are given a false sense that it must be a good product. Sadly, on TpT, many of them are not. Tons of them are readings with multiple choice questions attached - some just link to a video and don’t even bother to provide a reading. While writing your own questions for appropriate media for your classroom is plenty valid, grabbing someone else’s and just assuming it will work is not.
Which leads to the core problem of the whole site - it just isn’t about collaboration or making education better for all students. It is about making money. We rightly get upset as teachers when corporations try to profit off our kids. If I design something for my students that learn from and are engaged with why would I do anything to hinder other students from sharing in that success? Would I put up a paywall with my colleague next door? Absolutely not. Neither would I do so to a colleague a street, city, state or even country away. I am the teacher I am today because others shared freely with me. My lessons are what they are because they build off what others have created. That is collaboration and should be our aim. It is not what TpT is about.
There are other sites out there that exist to share free lessons among educators like TES.com and betterlesson.org. There are also plenty out there sharing their own free resources specifically for social studies like EDsitement. That should be our goal, not personal profit.