Today many educators in public schools find themselves underfunded, lacking resources and pressed for their most valuable commodity: time. Teachers often invest their own money, labor in isolation and struggle to overcome the limitations of shrinking budgets and ever-changing standards.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) sought a way to offer teachers access to resources, lesson plans and a community of peers. In 2012, the AFT launched Share My Lesson, a free lesson sharing platform and network. Updated in March 2016, the site has grown to more than 1.1 million registered users and is changing the way educators approach their work.
More than lesson plans
“We asked ourselves: How do we get any educator access to a wide variety of quality resources that they can use in their classrooms and in their preparation?” says Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT. “Share My Lesson was one answer.”
The platform is free to join and is open to all teachers, not just AFT members. On it, educators can upload and download specific lesson plans, exchange comments and tips, and curate “collections” of lessons geared towards specific goals, like helping new teachers get their sea-legs or assistance with ongoing professional development.
“[Share My Lesson] has a wide variety of lesson plans, high quality videos and inspiration,” says Amber Chandler, NBCT, an author, blogger and teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, New York. “I might use the resources or simply draw from them, but I like knowing that it is an educator creating the resources on a trusted source that I don’t have to be wary of.”
The site is a resource for teachers who want to avoid reinventing the wheel every time they develop a new lesson plan. “Creating new and engaging lessons takes a lot of time,” notes Melissa M. Day, a pre-K teacher at Franklin Elementary School, San Antonio, Texas. “I started uploading early childhood lessons because there was a need for them. Now, when I go onto this site, I can find full lesson plans already created. I have saved a lot of time using lessons from other educators.”
Day has also found the platform to be collaborative. “I got to meet two teachers who were using my lesson. Seeing my lesson plan in action was inspiring, and I gained new ideas to make it even better.”
Share My Lesson often means more to teachers than simply a resource for lesson plans. “Teaching can be [an] isolating business,” says Chandler. “It is, to me, an absolute requirement for teachers to have a wider frame of reference than their own classroom and building. The platform allowed me to widen my perspective from the teacher down the hall to teachers across the country.”
Jeffrey Somers, [email protected]