“I spent ages on it, there’s no way I’m sharing it”
“They never share their resources, so why should I share mine?”
“I sent lessons around at first, but not one person thanked me – and I know they used them, I saw my PowerPoint on the whiteboard!”
I have heard all of the above comments when talking to other teachers about sharing resources. The topic seems to divide people into two categories: those who share, and those who don’t. It is the Marmite of the teaching world.
I am firmly in the pro-sharing camp, but winning others over to my side isn’t just a case of saying “please share your resources”. When you create a resource, be it a lesson, an activity, or a whole-year plan, it is a reflection of your own ideas and teaching style. It’s something individual to you, and sharing it can sometimes feel like you’re leaving yourself open to scrutiny.
Consequently, you can feel vulnerable: what if people think it’s stupid? What if they think I’m stupid? What if I’ve made a stupid mistake and all the people everywhere think I’m stupid?
Why share resources?
There is a lot of talk about those teachers who feel that only their classes should benefit from their work, and the dreaded performance-related pay often gets floated about as a possible reason for those feelings. But this is so incredibly shortsighted; surely all of us are in this profession to help children improve? The problem with wanting the best results for your class is that this can somehow mutate into wanting worse results for other classes.
All of us come at our subject with expertise in different areas, and there is much to learn from the wealth of knowledge in your department. It isn’t only experienced colleagues who should be encouraged to share either: new and recently qualified teachers could have great insights and can certainly bring fresh ideas.
Ultimately, sharing resources will save all of us time. There is no benefit in 12 different teachers all preparing the same lesson on Blake’s London; all searching the British Library website for contextual sources; all typing up notes or creating slides, and collecting images of chimney sweeps. Why have 12 separate lessons, all a variation on the same theme? A culture of sharing means this kind of ridiculous scenario doesn’t occur.
Adapting an existing lesson takes much less time, and still allows you to put your own personal stamp on it. You may still want to create your own, but the difference is you get a choice. If you think that sounds like a good idea, here are seven approaches that I have found can encourage more effective sharing of resources.
1. Sort out the 'shared area'
Dozens of folders and subfolders of cluttered resources won’t encourage people to share. Instead, archive old, outdated resources, and make it easier for people to find and share their work on the school network.
2. Make sharing standard – and lead the way
Sending around lessons via email, or sending an email to let people know you’ve updated the shared area, will encourage more people to do the same. When someone does share, thank them. Even if you don’t end up using their resource, it will make them feel more inclined to share again in the future.
3. Specifically ask if people will share a resource
They will feel flattered that you remembered (and liked) their work, and as long as you request and don’t demand, you shouldn’t upset anyone.
4. Talk about how you’ve used and adapted lessons
Some people feel there is a stigma attached to using other people’s lessons, and subsequently try and pass off other people’s work as their own. But if using other people’s lessons is normalised, then there is no need to feel that you must create everything yourself.
5. Sharing doesn’t just have to take place exclusively in your own department
Sharing material with those in similar subjects when you have an activity or resource that might benefit them helps to cultivate a culture of sharing across the school. And who knows? It might even introduce some extra variety to your lessons.
6. Move performance-related-pay away from individual classes
Leaders can help by placing responsibility for pay increases onto all teachers for all classes. This helps teachers to see that it is in their benefit to help every class, not just their own.
7. Remember that all resources are created equally
It doesn’t have to be a PowerPoint presentation; it doesn’t have to be a hand-out. Much of my planning comprises handwritten notes of annotation around a text or exam question, and it is just as acceptable to upload photographs of notes as it is to share a PowerPoint presentation.
Grainne Hallahan has been teaching English in Essex for 10 years. She is part of the #TeamEnglish Twitter group. Tes Resources provides an online platform for teachers to share their resources with one another.