Making your own teaching materials

I am a big fan of tailor-made resources. They allow me to be very precise in what I would like my students to pay attention to. Sometimes you can find exactly what you need somewhere, but it may take quite a bit of time. In my view, hat time could be put to a better use if instead you produce your own.

Think about it. It makes you to look at the content in a new way. We are a creative profession, so why not to take the opportunity to piece something personal together, something with an audience in mind, your own students, with very specific needs. They'll notice!

Bespoke resources
It might be a one-off here or there, or it could instead become more of a long-term project. You could create your own resources, little by little, so that in the end you could teach a course based entirely on them.

Making new resources, in my experience, opens a space for reflecting on the way you deliver content, and gives you the chance to share as well. And your work could be very well received because precisely what you came up with might have been missing. So there you go: you can help some other teacher struggling, perhaps someone new to the profession.

Concerning newcomers to teaching, producing new items may be difficult for a number of reasons. In the following section I will mention two, for now.

It is very common as a new teacher to resort to existing text books and to tried and tested materials. It also seems very easy to just download something from the internet. The question one should ask oneself is: is it exactly what my students need? Sometimes our students are given too much information at the wrong time, simply because it happened to be on a nice document that someone else produced with a different audience in mind, and you found it and you were looking for something similar, although not exactly that... I have seen it happening.

I have myself given too much content at times, back at the early stages of my teaching practice. If you are new to the profession, it may take a little bit of time to build up the confidence to do more with less.

A different scenario is one where you are part of a team, where you may be supposed to follow a script, so that a big group of students experience coherence in their contact with different members of the teaching team. Then, in that case, I would recommend to try not to introduce changes in content unilaterally. The more experienced teacher responsible for the teaching may have taken many years to produce the exact resources that work well in the particular teaching context in question. Does this mean you cannot contribute?

If you want to leave a mark, I would suggest to try a different way. First of all, consult with the team before introducing any changes, this may seem obvious, but sometimes this is overlooked. Teaching a class has a narrative, a rhythm that some teachers may have been fine-tuning for years. It would be good to try to understand this narrative and its context before deciding to make changes. Reading carefully the teaching plan is one way to get some clarity, but this could be complemented with a conversation. Asking questions is always a good way to start one.

For those new in teaching, who may not be in a position to make decisions as for the content and mode of delivery, there is still a lot to gain by simply discussing and trying to understand the rationale behind the existing materials. This is far more important and shows that you are being proactive in a constructive way.
People having a conversation

If you discuss possible ideas you may have for teaching a particular item with the person in charge of the decisions, this opens an opportunity for an exchange where everyone wins. There will be a need for articulating the reasons for and against certain views and decisions, and by the end of that conversation learning has taken place on both sides. Regardless whether the ideas were accepted or put on hold. If those ideas are not implemented, you can still create resources that will in future facilitate your teaching them, so there is no reason not to make your own, no matter what!

These are of course my views. What do you think? What is your experience?


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