Something I get asked a lot is, "I want to start a store, but where do I start?"  As I approach my third anniversary as a seller in July, I have decided to compile the most helpful resources I have found in one spot.

One note - creating materials and running a store is a lot more work and takes a lot more time than you think it will!  For my products, I have spent anywhere between 3 and 80 hours in the creation process.

  1. First, you need to decide on a name for your store.  Do you want to use your own name, or come up with a store name?  
    • Before making the decision, please make sure to google and search TpT for any possible names you come up with.  There are a lot of stores and blogs out there, and you don't want to unintentionally choose something identical or too similar to a name already in use.  That will cause major brand confusion - not to mention it is very rude to the person who used the name first.
    • Ask friends and family about the name you have chosen before committing to it.  There may be negative connotations or associations that did not occur to you, but may turn off some buyers.
    • Try to avoid being too specific or narrow in any name you choose.  I've seen many sellers start their stores or blogs with names like, "Third Grade with Mrs. Smith," only to be moved grade levels a year later.  
    • Make sure your chosen name is available across social media platforms.  You may not start out with a Facebook page or Instagram account immediately, but you definitely want to make sure those options are available.  (Tip:  If they are available, go ahead and set up accounts.  You don't have to do anything with them right away.)
  2. Educate yourself about copyright and trademark law.  I really can't stress this enough!  What you are used to doing in your own classroom or therapy room is one thing, but you can't just post everything you've made as is without running into possible copyright or trademark violations.
  3. Learn how to create resources for TpT.
    • Jenna Rayburn has a great tutorial on her blog.
    • Erica Bohrer also has an excellent tutorial.
    • I highly recommend Powerpoint for most product creation.  There may be a bit of a learning curve if you are not used to it, but it is much more graphics-friendly and much easier to copy and paste similar pages than Word.
    • Attractive cover images and thumbnails are a must.  Potential buyers will never even click on your product to check it out further if it doesn't look attractive and well made.  Don't rely on the automatic thumbnail generator on TpT - make your own in a separate Powerpoint file.  Tip:  Make these slides square, and "save as" individual JPGs.  Check out this tutorial on product covers.
    • Make sure your copyright information (ex: c 2015, Natalie Snyders) is on every page of every product you make.  It can be small and in gray print, but it is important that buyers can find their way back to you.  This will also offer you some protection if someone posts one of your items online without your permission (yes, this sadly does happen).
    • Save and upload your products as PDFs.  Both Word and Powerpoint have the option to "Save As" a PDF.  (Pro tip: Make sure to save your original file where you can find it!  You will likely need to go back to make changes or edits later on.)
    • Have someone else (preferably in your field) that you trust proofread and edit your products before you post them.  This will help catch typos, spelling errors, and formatting issues before you post items.  
    • Also, make sure that you include directions and your terms of use on every resource you post.  Don't assume that because you know how to use it, everyone else will, too.
  4. Decide what kind of resources you want to post.
    • Don't copy what others already have posted, whether another seller or a commercial company (such as Super Duper or Linguisystems).  In order to stand out and succeed as a seller, you need to have original resources that fit a need for buyers.
    • Consider what resources are already available.  For example, there are literally hundreds of articulation cards out there.  Don't waste your valuable time working on something that has so much competition unless you feel that you have a unique way to approach it.
    • Have something that you were forced to make for your students because you couldn't buy it anywhere?  That is a great place to start!
  5. Find some clip art to help dress up your resources.
    • TpT itself is a great place to search.  There are many clipart freebies available to help when you are starting out and don't have much to invest.
    • Many sellers offer reasonably priced bundles and template sets that are perfect for new sellers, especially for covers and thumbnails.  Here are a few more options.
    • If you are purchasing from a seller NOT on TpT, you will need to carefully read their terms and conditions (even on free downloads).  Any clipart you download to use MUST allow commercial use.  A few sellers (especially on Etsy) may have limits on how many times their clipart can be used before an extended license must be purchased - personally, I find that much too complicated to keep track of, and avoid buying from those sellers.
    • Consider a commercial subscription to a site like Smarty Symbols for "inside" product images.  This is great for when you need LOTS of stimulus pictures, such as when you are making an articulation product with pictures.  Their terms are very friendly to TpT sellers, and they have search features that are designed for SLPs (such as the ability to search by sounds in the initial/medial/final position of words).
  6. Learn how to price your products fairly.
  7. Learn and utilize appropriate channels to promote your products.
    • Have your own social media accounts (Pinterest account, business Facebook page, Instagram, etc)?  Those are great places to share your products.
    • Find ways to work with other sellers to help promote your items, find out about and join in collaborative events, and ask any questions you may have.  There are seller's forums on TpT itself (look for a link on the page called "My Dashboard"), collaborative Pinterest boards, and several private Facebook groups for active sellers.  Collaboration with others is definitely key to eventual success, whether you are a new or established seller.
    • Do NOT spam SLP Facebook groups or other seller's pages/blogs with promotion for your items.  This is considered to be very poor taste.  (In the same vein, don't post on other seller's pages and say, "I'm your newest follower!  Follow me back."  Genuine followers happen naturally.)  
  8. Learn how to manage your time.

    • It can be difficult to learn how to balance a "day" job and family life with creating new materials and using social media.  Pick up some tips here.
    • Understand that every product you attempt to make will take WAY more time than you think it will.  My shortest freebies took 3 hours to make, and my longest individual products took about 80 hours to create.
I hope this has answered some of your questions about how to begin as a Teachers Pay Teachers seller!  If you have other questions I can help answer, please leave a comment below.

Is it time to update your resume?  Looking for a new job?  Or perhaps you are getting close to graduation and are wondering what to put on it?

I recently created these completely editable resume templates designed specifically for SLPs and teachers.

Now, don't worry - I'm personally not looking for a new job, but I did want to update my professional portfolio that I created this year for the Danielson evaluation tool that my district uses.  I decided it would be easiest to do some of this in a resume format - after all, I want to make sure my administration knows exactly what I do and what I am responsible for when it comes time for my evaluation next year.  I tried looking around online, but couldn't find anything that was attractive enough that also fit our profession well - so I ended up making my own, of course!

I created four similar - but unique - templates that can be customized with your information and color scheme.  Included in each set is a resume template, cover letter template, and blank letterhead, as well as detailed instructions.  Two versions require you to download custom fonts, but the other two are designed with fonts that are generally pre-installed in most versions of PowerPoint.

Not sure what to include in your resume?  Here is a sample:

If you are a new grad, I would simply adjust the format I have used to fit with your experiences.  Instead of "Current Responsibilities," I would call it something like "Professional Experience."  There, I would list all of your relevant grad school placements, what disorders you have worked with, how many students, etc.  If you have other work experience (perhaps a graduate assistantship) that is relevant to the field of speech-language pathology, I would change the "Previous" section to something like, "Other" and list it there.  Use the "Education & Certifications" box to include your anticipated graduation date and your undergraduate degree(s).  If you haven't received your state licensure yet, but will apply upon graduation, I would state something like, "Eligible in May 2016 for Illinois Licensure (after graduation)."  Use the "Miscellaneous" box to list any professional organizations of which you have been a member (such as your campus chapter of NSSHLA or Special Olympics).  

If you are a more experienced SLP, I would include any important trainings or certifications that you have gone through (such as PROMPT, PECS, etc.).

What do you think?  Is this something you might use?

I don’t know about you, but every summer after the school year ends, I start thinking about what I can do next year to improve.  Now sometimes, that might be how I want to change my bulletin boards, or rearrange my materials and furniture.  But this year, one thing that came to mind is that I don’t think many parents and my fellow teachers and staff have a good understanding of what I do with their students - or why it is important.

Sure, I try to spread awareness every May for Better Speech and Hearing Month, but I don’t think it is enough.  I feel like I try to explain when I do my initial and re-evaluations, but I also know that there is a lot of information at those meetings, and it’s hard to absorb it all at one time.

So I decided what I needed to do was to come up with some one-page handouts in parent-friendly language that clearly lay out what speech-language pathology is, a description of some of the most common communication disorders, and the impact of those disorders can have in the school setting.

And so, after many hours of writing and tweaking and suggestions from non-SLPs (thanks to my parents and teacher husband!), I came up with these:

 SLP Explanation Handouts for Parents and Teachers

Obviously, I always set out to make products that will be helpful, save time, and make my work life easier.  But I have to admit, this is one of my favorite products I’ve ever made!  I plan on making copies and having them ready to hand out at every IEP meeting I go to for both parents and teachers.  I will also be sending them home at the beginning of the year with every student.  They are also going to end up in my professional artifact portfolio for my administrators when it is time for my evaluation again next year.

Want a closer look?  I’m offering a free one page sample here!

PS:  Want more exclusive freebies?  Sign up for my email newsletter here:

Today, I would like to give you a sneak peek at where I work at home.  My current office started out as a tiny upstairs guest bedroom when we moved in a couple years ago.  And by tiny, I mean enough space for a twin size bed, nightstand, and that's about it!  It's about 9" by 9", so it doesn't hold much.  Plus, it has a built in cabinet along all one wall, so it's hard to put any furniture there and still be able to open the doors.  Here's what it looked like as a guest room:

After talking with my husband earlier this year, we decided the space wasn't being used a whole lot.  We decided to move the bed downstairs and make it into a daybed in our living room, which would leave the room free for me to use as an office.  We had a few extra pieces of furniture in our basement after our move, so we borrowed a few different pieces to to use in my new office temporarily.  

I knew I wanted a brighter, happier color on the walls than the pale blue that was there.   I decided on this happy mint/aqua green (the darkest shade on the color chip) that matched the fabric on my bulletin board.  Pretty colors like this make me happy!  :)

I decided to paint the walls and the giant built in cabinet the same color, so it wouldn't stand out as much.  I also wanted a new desk and bookshelf with more space to handle all of the various items I need for office work, plus a dry erase board for all of my projects and ideas.  Here's what the finished room looks like:

I'm kind of in love with vinyl quotes now (did you see my desk project?), so I knew I wanted to find something for this awkward space about the cabinet.  (It is from Blue Couture Design on Etsy.)  I think it fits me well!  :)

I'm really happy with the way it turned out!  What do you think?

It often comes with the territory of working in the school setting, but often the furniture and storage options we "inherit" may be a little worse for the wear.  When I moved to my current position three years ago, I inherited this desk.  Sure, it's perfectly serviceable, but it definitely needed a little love!

I know some of you may be moved from building to building or room to room without much notice, but I am the only SLP in my small district, and had been in my room for two years before I decided it was time to do something about it.

First on the to-do list was a paint job.  It's amazing what a difference this alone made!  (I wasn't sure what type of paint to use, so I went to Home Depot and bought what they recommended.  This took a coat of primer and two coats of black paint designed for metal surfaces.)

I had it like this for the past year, but the chipped edges really were bothering me.  I also saw this fabulous desktop makeover from Maureen at The Speech Bubble SLP, and decided I wanted to do something similar!  The following picture shows what my desk top looked like originally.

I purchased white contact paper and a vinyl inspirational quote from Etsy for this project.  (The great part about working with contact paper and vinyl is that it is easily removeable should I ever need to take it off!)

First, I thoroughly cleaned off my desk and waited for it to dry.  Then, I cut contact paper to cover the top of my desk.

I knew contact paper would be tricky to work with, so I made sure to have plenty just in case!  I definitely learned the hard way that you DO NOT want to use a straight edge that is smaller in width than your contact paper!  I ended up with tons of bubbles that I couldn't fix when I started out this way.  I had to take those pieces off, and started again with a yardstick.  It was SO much easier!  I still ended up with a few small bubbles, but they are not very noticeable.

Next, I lined up the quote decal where I wanted it in the center of the desk, and carefully peeled off the backing, according to the seller's instructions.

I chose this particular quote as a positive reminder for myself, and I love how it turned out!

I overlapped some of the contact paper over the edges of the desk, which did help cover up some of the worst chipped areas.  I then cut some cute bulletin board border from Schoolgirl Style and attached it with sticky tack.  (I may use velcro strips at a later point in time if this doesn't hold up well.)  

And here's the finished project!  Tell me, what do you think?

Today, I'm pleased to welcome Daria from Speech Paths with the latest installment of my "Stepping Outside Your SLP Comfort Zone" series!

Hello everyone!  My name is Daria O’Brien from Speech Paths and I’m sharing how I stepped out of my comfort zone!  Thank you to Natalie for hosting this terrific series!

Before I tell you my journey establishing a school-wide curriculum, let me briefly orient you to my background and school environment.  I’ve always been drawn to challenging populations, especially kids who struggle with social skills and behavioral concerns.  Since so many of the students I have worked with throughout my career struggle navigating the social world (both in and out of the classroom), I quickly keyed into the work of Michelle Garcia Winner.  I remember hearing Michelle speak at our state convention in the 1990s, before autism was a part of our clinical vocabulary and before she coined the phrase “social thinking”.  She described what was then called “semantic-pragmatic language disorders”.  No matter what we were calling it, I knew she was on to something and that my students would benefit from her intervention methods.

I officially became an “MGW groupie”, reading her work, attending numerous seminars and utilizing the methods that became the foundation of Social Thinking.  I even had the pleasure of speaking at her conference in San Francisco and again in Philadelphia. 

For the past 7 years I’ve worked in a private school with a primary population of students classified with some sort of behavioral issues.  Most stem from learning disabilities, autism spectrum, and attention deficit problems.  We are an out-of-district placement, with classrooms K-12 and an enrollment of nearly 300. Most of our students require social skills training as part of their IEP.  As we realize, in order for students to generalize these skills and use them functionally, they require the support of educators and their peers to practice learned skills across a variety of social contexts.
Although I have implemented social-cognitive therapy with my students during our speech time, I knew the curriculum was applicable to ALL students in my school and felt strongly that the methods would help control behavioral issues.  My “big picture” was to implement a school-wide Social Thinking (ST) curriculum. 

Initially, I had to suppress my impulse to run to administration and unleash my brainstorm.  Although it was a great idea, I needed to proceed slowly.  One lesson I have learned along the way is that most people are resistant to change and coming across too strongly and quickly is never advisable.   Too much too quickly would almost certainly be my downfall—20 classrooms, nearly 300 students and countless staff would certainly require a team approach that evolved in stages.

My first step was to organize my thinking and put together a plan.  ST is comprehensive; which aspects would most effectively serve the school’s population?   A common denominator among the majority of students was struggles with emotional regulation.  The Zones of Regulation program (Leah Kuypers) and foundational ST skills (expected/unexpected behaviors, whole body listening, thinking with your eyes) provided a great starting point. 

Next I decided to pilot the program and measure its success.  I consulted with several colleagues who were open to collaboration and could provide me with access to several classroom settings to “test the waters”.  This collaboration allowed me to push into areas such as health, counseling and even language arts while still aligning to state standards.    The pilot lasted an entire school year and the results were significant: behavioral incidents decreased and teachers reported an increase in overall social communication skills. 

Armed with these results, it was time to approach administration.  Prior to our meeting I wrote a proposal of how I would like to implement the program school wide including the team that would be involved and their responsibilities, alignment to CCCS, and scheduling.  With administration’s approval, the implementation of a school-wide ST curriculum was slated to begin in the fall of 2013.  As we end our second year, the ST program continues to evolve, grow and benefit our students.

Here are some tips to help you if you would like to step out of your SLP comfort zone and establish a curriculum into your school:

1.  Have a plan.  As SLPs, we are great at establishing goals and objectives as well as breaking tasks into small subsets.  Use this strength to think of the “big picture” and the increments needed to reach your goal.    

2.   Collaboration is key.  A school-wide program is too great of a task to develop and implement on your own.  Communicate with supportive staff and establish a team.  Use your leadership skills to reinforce the value of those you are collaborating with as they are critical to your success.

3.     Educate staff.  Hold inservices and regular meetings to reinforce concepts so there is consistency in methods and a shared professional vocabulary.  Our team provides updates and tips at weekly staff meetings as well as through emails and incidental discussion.

4.     Find help for “clerical” tasks.  Find an eager staff member to pitch in to make copies, bulletin boards, etc. (we have two classroom aides that volunteered their services).

5.     Provide visuals.   Every room in our school, from the nurse to the cafeteria, is equipped with Zones posters.  Hallway bulletin boards also help to keep the concepts in the forefront of the student’s minds. Visuals are also sent home for display and discussion.

6.     Bridge what you are teaching into academics.  Most ST concepts translate easily into areas such as language arts, where students need to understand the emotions and thoughts of story characters.  By embedding ST in the general education setting, our school has adopted common social-emotional language that is accessible to all students. 

7.     Proceed in gradual phases.  For example, during phase 1, SLPs and counselors versed in ST provided whole class lessons to classrooms to model instruction and share knowledge about vocabulary and concepts. Phase 2 focused on co-teaching with classroom teachers, and in Phase 3 teachers will be expected to teach and use the Social Thinking framework in their classrooms (with on-going professional development and support provided by the team).

8.     Provide parenting workshops.  Our first was held at the beginning of the school year; communication is maintained through regular emails and letters. 

9.     Measure your results.  We developed a rubric that teachers can quickly fill out to measure the behaviors and communication skills in their classrooms.  We also take into consideration the number of behavioral incidents dealt with by crisis specialists.  Parents also provide anecdotal information.

10.  Be prepared for setbacks.  Many people are resistant to change in the status quo and some are defiant.  Take a deep breath and respect their perspectives.  Let those people know that you are willing to do whatever it takes for the benefit of the students.  Eventually, they’ll come around!

     - Daria

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