As 2015 comes to a close, I wanted to take the chance to look back on the year and my TPT journey as a whole, and share some of the blessings that came out of opening my store – blessings that I never expected. The turn of the year always makes me feel a little “reflect-y,” and I shared my personal reflections on Instagram (@mme.andrea), but wanted to document some TPT-specifics in this space.
This month marks my one year TPT-iversary, and I can’t believe how much my little store has given me!
So here we go (in no particular order):
1. Pride in my students
I have always been proud of my students and all of their accomplishments, of course. But there is something about taking pictures of their hard work throughout the day and putting those photos together for a blog post or inside a new product that just makes my heart sing. I can literally feel myself swelling with pride and love for them as I reflect back on how far they have come and all the amazing things their little five-year old selves can do. I love them to pieces and I am just so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love, and TPT has give me the opportunity to notice that more than ever.
2. New connections
One of the best things about opening a TPT store is joining a group just filled to the brim of like-minded people! People who want to help other teachers save time, save money, and just be better. People who are willing to go the extra mile and sacrifice their evenings and weekends so that other teachers don’t have to. Over the year, I have joined many Facebook groups for teacher-authors, and I still am in awe of all of the support out there. There is no competition – these teachers really understand that a rising tide lifts all boats and provide answers to every question under the sun. I have seen fellow teacher-authors offer help in product development, cover page tips, translating/catchy product name advice, and even offer support in standing up to bullying. I am so grateful to everyone I have “met” through TPT!
3. And some reconnections!
Opening a TPT store has, funnily enough, led to make reconnecting with some old friends I hadn’t spoken to in awhile. Friends who also decided to open shops, and friends who ended up purchasing some of my products. I am not very good at keeping in touch with people, so any help in that department is much appreciated! :)
It isn’t easy to take a leap of faith and put your ideas out there. It especially isn’t easy to do it not in the language that you speak/read/write all the time, because you live in a minority community. Nova Scotia French and Quebec French just aren’t the same! You open yourself up to negative feedback, and no matter how many times you look something over, there seems to always be typos in one product or another! Most people are kind and fair, but I still beat myself up quite a bit if someone finds something wrong with what I create. But I totally understand, if you are paying money for something, you want it to be perfect so you can use it in your classroom! As a general rule, I am pretty hard on myself and strive for perfection (more about that coming up haha), so TPT has been really good for my courage and for encouraging me to put myself out there and share what works for me.
5. Realizing that I can’t do it all
I had a fantastic year this year overall, and can’t really complain. It was one of those years with far more ups than downs. However, I did have a few “downs” this fall, due to huge amounts of stress. It was affecting everything! I became one of those teachers who came home and cried because I had to go back to school later to get more done, and I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning to go to work. That was totally new for me and not something I want to ever feel again!
Luckily I have a fantastic naturopath (and boyfriend), who told me that I have to take it easy. As much as I want to be perfect and do it all, it’s impossible. What I find the most difficult about teaching, especially since I have added TPT to the mix, is never having everything crossed off my to-do list. There is always something else that I can/should/must do, #amirite?
So a huge, fantastic thing that TPT gave me this year (after a couple months of struggle) is the understanding that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay. As much as I love helping and inspiring other teachers, TPT is first and foremost for me. If I need to take a break for a few weeks to get some other things together for my classroom or for my personal life, that’s okay. I will come back stronger than ever after each break!
6. Pride in my own work
Every time I post a new product, I get a little thrill of pride :)
While it can be nerve-racking to see my products up there in my TPT store, I am also proud of myself each time. I have lots of little personal goals for myself and my store, and each time I reach one of my own milestones, I am proud all over again. It’s a nice feeling! When I look back at my first products (mostly bingo games haha) and compare them to things I am creating now (products with actual content and teaching), I see a lot of growth. I am really proud of my growth as both a teacher and a seller, and I am thankful to TPT for showing me that!
7. Reminders that I am NOT an expert and what works for me may not work for everyone!
I have done a lot of research since I started teaching, and I always strive to be the best teacher I can be. When something isn’t working for me in my classroom or if my students just aren’t getting something, I always turn to Pinterest and teacher blogs for inspiration. Then I tweak what I learn and usually end up making a product that I need for my kiddos that I in turn pop up on TPT.
Since I have done so much research, I sometimes forget that I am not an expert, haha. Sometimes I give advice (especially to new teachers), and then feel frustrated if other teachers don’t follow it. Because I have done the research, I have tried it out, it worked for me, so clearly it’s the best way, right?! Haha, no. Definitely not. In reality, discovering the multitude of resources and ways of teaching the same concept on TPT, and even hearing through feedback the different ways that teachers use my products, have done pretty well at reminding me that my way may not be the best way, and it is definitely not the only way.
My school is going through a transition year this year where we have a lot of new teachers, and I am pretty sure I stuck my nose into some places it didn’t belong and probably offered a bit too much advice. My school resolution this year is to stop taking other people’s inventories and just let them be ;) Because guess what?! We were all new once, and we all discovered through trial and error what worked best, and overall all the kids at my school are happy and learning, and that’s what counts!
8. The ability to reach and “teach” kids that aren’t even in my classroom
This is maybe the very best one of all. It still blows my mind every day that products I have created and used with my own students are being used by teachers all over. I am helping to teach so many more children than the 16 in my classroom! Every time someone leaves me positive feedback on TPT about how one of my products helped their students, or that their students had fun, parents noticed a difference in their children’s reading after using my product, etc., my heart just explodes with happiness. For me, this is what TPT is really all about!
When I was a new teacher, I kind of felt like I was stranded on an island with no help, haha. I was the only K teacher at my school, and the grade 1 teacher was brand new too, as well as my principal – and he had never taught elementary. My school has the most fantastic resource in the literacy mentor who was there my first year, but I was so overwhelmed by how much she knew and how much I was doing “wrong” that I was pretty confused and discouraged. Through no fault of her – she is incredible! I just didn’t have the time or the means to put into place everything she suggested, and I knew she was right and I should have been doing all of those things. But, if I can help just one teacher find their first year easier, or provide just one person with a ready-made resource that really helps their students, well… I will be happy!
I received two feedback comments this year that just made my whole year and any struggles I had while trying to balance everything worth it. This one came from my Lecture guidée en maternelle product:
“I don’t even know where to begin…this document is amazing! So thorough and visually pleasing, complete and a necessary tool for every primary teacher. I love this! Thank you!”
“Excellent mini-unit introduction to guided reading for Kinders! We just finished this last week. My kinders were actively engaged in each lesson and their success on the culminating activity (creating their own sentences from the 6 new sight words) blew me away! The parents have also commented on how their kids were coming home every night with new words. Best of all, I have added a few copies of each emergent reader to our classroom library and the kids take great pride and joy in being able to read these on their own!”
And I just want to say THANK YOU to the two kind teachers who left me those comments. You and the other teachers who leave me kind words are the reason that I keep working so hard and make any technology struggles, busy evenings & weekends, and sore wrists from being at my computer for too long more than worth it! <3