Today I got to sit down with Michelle Cummings, the Chief Academic Officer of Teachers Pay Teachers and someone with 30 years experience in K-12. We got to discuss both the company and the current state of classroom education.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a marketplace which allows teachers to upload digital versions of activities or lesson plans, which they can sell at their own price, keeping either 55% or 80% of the money from each sale. Cummings talked about how proud she was that TpT currently serves 7 million users and that they estimate that 85% of all US teachers download at least one resource each year. They also have 160k teacher authors, which puts it at 2.2% of the users, doing slightly better than the sometimes quoted “90-9-1 rule”, possibly because of the financial incentive.

As so often happens, teachers sometimes have to use their own money to purchase the lessons, but TpT recently launched a school subscription service which allows teacher-users to use many of the resources without paying per resource.

In addition to the marketplace and the subscription, TpT has been able to put their finger on the pulse of the education community and publish reports which detail both the issues dogging teaching as well as potential solutions to these issues. 

Cummings says that she thinks unlocking the collective wisdom of the teacher community has resulted in “ a teacher centered learning platform” which she feels is an outcome “both of TpT’s founding values as well as the maturation of the technology”.

We started talking about many of the problems facing teaching. The main issue is that 52% of all teachers surveyed this year said they are considering leaving the profession, and only 16% say they would recommend it to someone looking for work, and Teach for America is seeing one of the smallest cohorts ever.

So what exactly are the problems? Cummings breaks them down as 3 parts.

  1. Compensation is too low and needs to be increased
  2. The workload, especially around the pandemic, has ballooned and needs to be addressed with more hires.
  3. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is more important than ever, both because students are having more behavior issues than ever before, and because teachers themselves are experiencing so much burnout from the issues of the first two. 

One interesting thing she pointed out is that teachers who have principals who care about SEL are much less likely to be thinking about jumping into a different job. So why is it so hard for principals to care about SEL?

According to Cummings, burnout is real for administrators too. They have pressure to perform on assessments, principals sometimes have   to pull double duty driving buses or being a substitute teacher as needed, and they are often thinking about job related changes.

ISTE is a reminder that Teachers and non-teachers come here because they are dedicated to education but that dedication has a limit. All of us who have a passion for improving education have to keep that in mind.

“…from policy, from EdTech, from industry partners, we need to wrap our arms around educators and schools.”

Michelle Cummings

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