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Change Your Teaching Materials Periodically and Keep Your Students Engaged


Teaching is a tough gig. You might have a great year with one set of students, then the following year it seems like your students are recent graduates from the inferno. As the wise Forrest Gump once said, “… you never know what you’re gonna get.”

When students are not engaged, they act out. So how do you keep them engaged?

Although personality management is something one learns over time, other remedies to calm inattentive or unruly students and get them back into learning are found in learning materials.

If you are experiencing difficulties teaching, because students are unable to understand or relate to their books, you do not have to endure a year of madness. There are many supplementary materials that you can implement in the middle of the scholastic year to improve lessons.

One problem area that we hear about all the time at Alpha concerns math books. Schools often use the same math books year after year. At some point, teachers find themselves in a dilemma when students do not relate to the books anymore. The  math lessons are lost on students.

We’ve heard different versions of this experience many times when speaking with teachers at conferences, in our store, or when they call us. We find that teachers share their experiences and issues with us after they realize that we are not a publisher.

It's not just math, however. We hear similar stories in every subject -- English, French, Science, Religion etc. Many teachers and schools are frustrated about their teaching resources, but they do not know where to source new materials. Since they have used the same ones for so long, it seems difficult to find out what else is available.

There are many different publishers to contact in order to figure out what new books would be the right one. It is not work that can be done during the day while a teacher is teaching. After school, there are extra-curricular activities, marking and other administrative obligations. Therefore, at no fault of their own, it is difficult for teachers to make time to meet with different publishers during business hours. So, teaching methods and programs become stagnant and students disengage.

This is when we get a phone call asking, “Can you show us everything in…”, or “Can you recommend something in [insert discipline] that’s new, relevant and age appropriate?” Some teachers come into the store (we are open late on Thursdays) and straight-out ask us, “What are the other schools using?” Or, “What’s new and being adopted in alternative schools?” Or the opposite, “What are the school boards using?” We can offer this information since we have relationships with school boards, private schools and alternative learning centres.

A lot of our information about textbook effectiveness, however, comes firsthand from teachers, principals and homeschoolers. This enables us to recommend certain textbooks and resources based on real teaching experiences and not just what the book jacket claims. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the book you are using is bad; it just means that it is not working for your students at this time or anymore – it is time to try something else.

With information about textbooks coming to us from different sources, we can recommend alternative math, science, language, religion, history, or supplementary materials, for example. We can inform teachers about new novels and graphic novels, or books that make it easier and more engaging to teach and learn classical texts.

The advantage we offer over dealing directly with publishers is that we provide an objective perspective on the materials in question. Whenever possible, we try to maintain strong relationships with publishers or we form partnerships, that way we offer their products with a confident understanding of the benefits of their programs.

Schools find that we make buying easy for them, because they do not have to get their books from a million different sources. They can just come to us and we do all the heavy lifting. That also cuts down on administration costs.

As an added benefit, we might be able to buy those books that you no longer want, which is an effective cost saving opportunity for your school.

So if you are having a hard time with your current teaching materials, we welcome you to call us. We are happy to meet with you in our store, office, or we can visit your school if possible. We provide sample copies of books, as well as educational discounts.

Good luck wrapping up the fall semester. Let us know if you have any questions.

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