Some schools spend shed loads of money on fancy resources to support teaching, learning and assessment. But do they need to?
Teachers have never had it so good when it comes to resourcing the curriculum. There is so much great stuff out there that every day feels like Christmas and there seems to be a ‘solution’ for everything. However, there is no so much stuff that teachers often complain that the use of resources, “including commercial products, did not always reduce their workload, because their time was taken in identifying, accessing and then tailoring resources to need.”
There will always be something new to excite teachers and plenty of materials do a great job enriching the learning experience. It’s all there for the taking but normally at a cost. Although there are some really great free resources available via the internet, many teachers spend a fair chunk of their wages on resources to enhance their teaching even if their school doesn’t or can’t.
I have spent a small fortune on the latest teaching books, learning games and toolkits and some of it has been worth every penny. But then, some of it hasn’t. I may have unwittingly bought into a fad or trend and got a bit carried away in the process.
I think Terry Borton sums it up well in his book Reach, Touch and Teach. Although written decades ago, what he says is just as true today. He says that schools spend millions on educational materials but:
Much of it is junk; some of it is very exciting; all of it is expensive. But we ignore the one material that is never junky, that is always exciting, that is always there, costs nothing, and is more complex, sophisticated, responsive, and dynamic than any other. Our students are our best educational materials. Every classroom has thirty teaching machines. All they need is to be plugged into each other.
How true is that?!
We have the materials for learning right there in front of us and yet we plonk other resources in front of them that hide their presence, potential and power.
How many of us actually use the children themselves as the basic teaching material? Do we see children as human resources with something to offer or do we too eagerly go looking for something else to give them?
Interestingly, the 2018 CooperGibson Research ‘Use and perceptions of curriculum support resources in schools‘ doesn’t even mention or recognise children as actual resources.
Teachers might complain that their school is under-resourced and they have very few up-to-date materials. Some say that they don’t have the equipment and resources to do their job. That could well be the case but they are probably ignoring the obvious.
Some schools are incredibly well-resourced but some of what they have goes to waste because staff don’t have the training or expertise to use it or it dates rapidly because of technological progress or curriculum changes. Commercial resources don’t guarantee success because they are there in the classroom – someone has to know what to do with them and get the best out of them.
Getting the best out of children doesn’t require external resources – they are the resource and we have to get the best out of them without buying into something else.