Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trim Trade: What is it?

Trim Trade in ended on Wednesday. I probably should have written this up before the event ended this year, but as usual, it was a big hit, lots of teachers took advantage of the deal, and we have a huge basket of recycled trim ready for the shredder. So where did Trim Trade In come from?
We started TTI in my 3rd year of running the Golden Apple. Our small San Ramon store was starting to burst at the seams, and our companies were really breaking loose with fun designs for classroom decorations. Every year, Trend, Creative Teaching Press, and ATA (now gone) would try to top each other with new, cute designs in borders. 40 or 50 new designs a year was now normal. It was easy to see that without discontinuing some old styles, we were going to run out of space fast. However, innovation in borders was a new thing. For many years, teachers had used the same style, year in and year out. I think I have some of the designs burned in my head. So when I decided to discontinue for example the plaid design that was in Trend's first catalog, it was a catastrophe for some teachers. And they told me about it by waving a strip in my face: "I've done my classroom in this trim for 5 years, what do you mean you don't have it!" Turning that strip of trim into a coupon for a new style was an easy solution. It often diffused the situation, and got teachers to change their classrooms decor around.
Twenty or so years later, teachers are now used to styles changing. We rarely have the same thing for more than a few years. Plaid came back into fashion for a while, Gingham was a hit again. Now we do it as a tradition, since most teachers like changing things around anyway. Many stores across the country do a similar promotion, since the idea caught on at other stores, but it started here and it's something we can't discontinue!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is Wrong With California?

There are probably many answers to that question! Here's what I'm wondering about. Have California 4th grade teachers stopped teaching about our state's history? I'm a 5th generation Californian, and I remember 4th grade, and all the amazing stories of our state. I also loved learning all about ranchos, missions, the gold rush and especially Joaquin Murrietta, the California Bandit.
At the Golden Apple, we have always kept a very large section of resources on California History. I ordered anything and everything that I thought a teacher might love. The demographics are such that there just aren't that many 4th grade teachers in a given area. Not enough to make California resources a high-traffic part of the store, but the teachers that came in appreciated our selection. When the internet came along, the first thing I put up on our site were our California materials. Finally, our huge assortment of books, music, charts etc could reach a state-wide audience!
The first disappoint was - it's hard to advertise California resources online. Every 4th grader working on his mission report clicked our google ad. The second disappoint was, even in the store, California history resources have stopped selling. Books that would sell in the dozens now sell in the 2-3 a year range.
Now bookstores love to blame Amazon for everything, but I checked - we have a better California history assortment than Amazon, at least for a 4th grade teacher.
I'm suspicious that the decline has more to do with Standardized Testing and NCLB. They're not testing on California history. No test, no teach, that is often the reality now days. That's a shame, because I can still remember our 4th grade field trip to the Irvine Ranch, our trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano, building a mission out of sugar cubes, and the crazy story of the little girl with golden curls who met the bandito Juaquin Murrieta. Kids that miss this in 4th grade don't have much chance of ever learning it again - but at least they can fill in bubbles!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rep Day is Wednesday!

It's our biggest event of the year, and we start planning for it one year in advance! So what is it exactly? Rep Day is August 5th this year. It's an opportunity for teachers to interact with the publishers who produce classroom resources. These publishers (most if not all founded by teachers) work very hard to match their products to classroom teacher needs. They are not encumbered by the rules for Textbook publishers - they watch for trends and try to have materials that match the trends as soon as possible. Many times, they are so out in front of classroom trends that teachers don't even know resources exist. That's why the reps come out, to show the teachers what the latest resources look like.
And then there are the free bags! All year, boxes of products arrive specifically for our Rep Day bags. Last week we spent the good part of a day stuffing bags and getting them ready. The first 200 teachers to arrive get a bag. Many teachers take their bags back to school and hold a big swap with other teachers, so everyone ends up with items appropriate to their grade level.
On top of that, every company represented at Rep Day is on sale for the whole day. This year, because it is our 30th year, 30% off. That's a big deal.
Finally, we try to make it fun. Prizes, games, silliness. Let's face it, so many teachers in a small space is going to be crazy. We go with the crazy. Come on out and have a good time, get there early and enjoy yourself. It's only once a year!