The power of social media to connect: #tptvegas14

Every time I go to a conference, I say that the best part was connecting with the people I admire, learn from, and care about. I think that was ten times as true for the first TeachersPayTeachers conference held last Friday in Las Vegas.

tptvegas14

These are the ladies (and a few gents) that I connect with more than any other in my daily life. Sometimes it’s done through the TeachersPayTeachers seller forums, but most of it happens in our collaborative groups on Facebook. There are huge groups with hundreds of sellers, and smaller groups targeted toward particular grade levels and niches. Most of us belong to multiple groups.

Much of what we share in these groups isn’t work-related at all. We talk about weddings and births, divorces and the death of loved ones. We offer encouragement and prayers during rough times and on more than one occasion, we have banded together to take up donations for other sellers.

We’ve arranged small meet-ups in our own little corners of the world and try to seek each other out when we travel, but for the most part, we have never met in person. These friends know more about me than most of the people in my own community, and we’ve never seen each other face to face…until last weekend.

tpt conference 2014

Critics of TeachersPayTeachers often argue that educators should be sharing with each other freely and helping each other out. They have no idea how much of that very work goes on behind the scenes. Almost every product my friends and I have put on TpT has been brainstormed, edited and proofread, and even classroom tested by other sellers. We then share each other’s creations on Pinterest and Facebook and within our own schools…anywhere we think the product can help improve teaching and learning. That same spirit of collaboration was so evident at the TpT conference.  Each session of the conference was presented by a TpT seller who was sharing his or her secrets of success with the people who are technically competitors.

There was a warmth and energy in our gatherings that I’ve never seen at another conference, and I think that’s due to two factors. Firstly, most attendees had already forged strong connections online, so just about everyone knew at least one other seller. A lovely teacher from Spain traveled by herself for the sole purpose of this conference: she shared that in the seller forums and everyone rallied around her to make sure she felt included and was never alone during the weekend.

Secondly, each one of us truly wanted to be at the conference and had paid our own way to make that happen. There were no reluctant attendees forced to attend by principals or just trying to rack up continuing education credits. Each person was passionate about and invested in the purpose of the conference, and that made the conversations even more valuable.

tptvegas14 conference

One of the highlights of the conference was meeting Paul Edelman, the former New York City teacher who founded TeachersPayTeachers after looking for a way to sell his own resources as a supplement to his teaching salary. I have noticed a fierce loyalty to Paul from the longtime TpT sellers and quite honestly never understood. I figured he was a typical CEO and pretty far removed from the individual sellers on the site.

At the opening keynote, I finally understood why an #edelmaniacs hashtag exists on Instagram. Paul (pictured below) teared up as he shared how proud he was of our success and the way we have used TpT to offer tremendous and largely untapped value directly to our colleagues. He teared up again at final event of the day when he was presented with a beautiful canvas that we sellers paid to have designed for him by one of our own.

We were also able to meet many of TpT’s 32 staff members, some of whom work in the NYC headquarters, but many of whom work remotely and had never met each other, either! Every one of them was as equally kind-hearted and friendly as Paul. Amy, the Community Manager for TpT, has always seemed to know each one of us individually but I assumed that was just another of her super talents with customer service and seller relations. Nope. It was clear as she hugged and connected with us between sessions that she really does know and care about each seller. It was pretty mind-blowing.

paul edelman teacherspayteachers conference

I wish that more people outside of the TpT world understood what a tremendously empowering company TeachersPayTeachers is for educators. I’m going to share a post later in the week with some thoughts on bridging the divide between various education circles on social media, because this has been on my heart a lot lately, especially since ISTE.

I would also love to see people at other education conferences as plugged in as we were at TpT. Making those connections online BEFORE the conference is essential to making connections AT the conference! The Twitter stream, Facebook, and Instagram have been full of great stories and info, and there will be dozens upon dozens of people (far more than at a typical education conference) blogging session recaps and takeaways afterwards.

If you’ve never checked out TeachersPayTeachers for yourself, I really encourage you to use the site to find, sell, and share materials that work in your classroom. Any money you spend purchasing materials is going directly to the TpT family: a teacher who created the resource and a company that supports and empowers teachers to run their own entrepreneurial businesses.

And if you’re already a seller? This is for you:

tpt conference 2015

 

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marsha McGuire July 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

Such a great post Angela. I was so nice to get to meet you (although briefly) in Vegas. Thanks for summing up what we are all feeling so well with words.
Marsha

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2 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:36 am

It was wonderful to meet you, too, Marsha! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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3 Kelly Malloy July 14, 2014 at 10:40 am

It was truly an amazing experience. I agree with you that TpT is an amazing company that really has not only empowered teachers, but really cares about all of us in a way that so few companies do. I can’t wait for next year!

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4 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

It was really amazing to see (and feel) the energy in that room, wasn’t it? You can’t fake that. Paul and Amy and the rest of the crew are good people. :)

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5 Jen Sykes July 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Well said, Angela! TpT is truly a collaborative effort to empower educators around the world. The classroom impact on Teaching and learning is inspirational.

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6 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:38 am

Thanks for chiming in on the collaborative aspect of TpT. It just wouldn’t be possible to do what we do if there wasn’t collaboration happening constantly!

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7 Suzanne July 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm

This was the most inspiring conferences I have ever attended. It was so good to meet and visit with you again.

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8 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:38 am

Yes, it was super inspiring for me too! So glad we were able to connect!

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9 Sally Bondelevitch DeCost July 14, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I’m more impressed than ever with Teachers Pay Teachers, and more proud than ever to be part of it! In a time where teacher are often lacking in respect, they understand and appreciate what teachers are all about. Thanks for sharing!

I’m glad I got to meet you! :)

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10 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:39 am

That’s a great point, Sally, about teachers and respect. Many sellers on TpT are not even respected in their own districts, and their schools try to take ownership of the things teachers have created on their computers in their own time. It was great to be supported and empowered at the conference!

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11 CaseyJane July 14, 2014 at 10:54 pm

I enjoyed this post~ because it is true! I enjoyed meeting you (love the pic of us at the restaurant!) and can’t wait to continue the collaboration. Thanks for the inspiring post and uplifting words.
CaseyJane

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12 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:40 am

So good to meet you, too! I am looking forward to the continued collaboration as well.

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13 Terri Izatt July 14, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Angela…this was so well written and so well spoken. It was great to meet you, I wish we were sitting closer and had more time to chat. Next year (and online). You have been an inspiration since the beginning of your first website. I am humbled and inspired to know you.

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14 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:40 am

That’s so sweet of you, Terri! I appreciate that. I’m so glad we were able to do brunch on the last day. It was wonderful talking with you.

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15 Paul Edelman July 15, 2014 at 8:46 am

Hi Angela,

Insightful post. Very much look forward to your piece on the divide between TpT’ers and ISTE-Twitter type connected educators. Always wondered why the latter never embraced TpT. Look forward to it.

Glad to have met you.

Best,

Paul

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16 Angela Watson July 15, 2014 at 10:57 am

Thank you, Paul!

I have thought a lot about why most of the Twitterati/techies in education don’t embrace or even seem to have TpT on their radar. I have many dear friends in the ed tech world and am very active on Twitter, so I go back and forth between the different circles. In the conversations I’ve had, I’ve noticed a misperception that TpT is about selling worksheets and lesson plans. The folks on Twitter are about transforming education: they do not see the value in purchasing rote learning activities (preferring higher level thinking projects and such) or someone else’s ready-made lessons (preferring student-directed and individualized learning.)

What they don’t realize is that most of what sells on TpT is neither worksheets nor lesson plans! Most of the best sellers are stuff like interactive notebooks, hands-on activities, inquiry-based projects, centers, games, and cooperative learning activities. My own products are all designed to support students in actively constructing their own knowledge and building more rigor into the curriculum. TpT has been summarized in the media as a site for “lesson plans” but that’s only because that’s a term the general public is familiar with.

In past years, I have seen less resistance to the idea of teachers selling (rather than freely giving away) their materials, because that’s the other issue at stake here. More people are realizing that this is a way for teachers to earn extra income AND enhance the learning of their students and kids around the world. I think there has also been a greater awareness of the giving nature of both TpT and its sellers, and that money has never been the driving goal.

My hope is that this post helps dispel some of these myths around TpT: if there was ever any evidence that we give away information and resources freely and work together to accomplish powerful things, it was the TpT conference. Thank you for an amazing opportunity to collaborate face to face.

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17 Adrianne Meldrum July 16, 2014 at 3:18 am

Hey Angela! It was so fun to meet you after Rachel’s session. I think one thing that stunned me most was how many people recognized me! All these years I felt pretty much invisible as a blogger and seller, but at the conference I was able to connect with others that I chat with almost daily and those who I admire (like yourself). I felt right at home!

If anything–I learned that we are all just great people. No one is a celebrity, but a caring teacher making the difference in students’ lives around the globe. Loved this post! See you next year!

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