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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kristen Mattson

Bring PD to Teachers with The Toilet Paper

My followers have probably seen a tweet or two about “The Toilet Paper” that I hang up in school each week. I have had more than a few questions about it, so I decided to take a moment and give you the low down in this blog post. When I began my job as a high school librarian last year, I had a lot of great ideas about learning, instructional technology, and pedagogy that I wanted to share with teachers. The problem was that for the four years prior to my arrival, the learning resource center had lost a lot of traffic because of the environment that had been created by my predecessor. The library was not seen as a place to go for instructional help or ideas, and I made it my mission in the first year I was there to change that perception.

In a school of 150 teachers, very few of them even seemed to notice my existence in those first few months. I made it a point to go to where they were – department offices, the teacher’s lounge, and classrooms, but found it very difficult to strike up conversations that went deeper than exchanging names and pleasantries. I wanted to get my ideas out there, but was not stumbling upon any great opportunities by happenstance. So, I decided to start writing up my ideas in a newsletter format that I named “The Toilet Paper.”

“The Toilet Paper” earned its name from the location where it is so cleverly placed – taped to the wall, inside a sheet protector, above the toilet roll dispenser in all staff bathrooms. Now before you make a face, why not put information here? After all, your reader is a captive audience for the time they are there, and everyone makes a trip to the bathroom at least once a day!

So what goes in “The Toilet Paper”? Well, I started off trying to give out some teaching tips. I pulled ideas out of professional development books I had in the library. One week I wrote up a few ideas for bell-ringer activities, the next was about strategies for working with vocabulary. Now, almost a year later, the publication has evolved into a place where I post anything and everything about education that could be relevant to teachers. I find most of my posts through Twitter and blogs that I read. Some of you may have even been featured writers in our school’s bathrooms! Just this week, I hung up a great blog post by Scott Rocco (@scottrrocco) about leadership in schools.


At first, no one knew that I was the one hanging up this new publication. It was actually kind of fun to be the secret TP writer. No one balked against it, because no one knew where it was coming from. Teachers didn’t feel pressure to change their instruction or adopt a new initiative. No one spoke of “The Toilet Paper” as something that MUST be done – it was simply just an unoffensive, unobtrusive, non-time-consuming reminder of what good school could look like. Eventually, I was caught coming out of the men’s restroom with a roll of masking tape and a pair of scissors in my hand. I figured I had better explain myself or the rumors about me could be worse than the truth 🙂

Imagine my surprise, though, when people actually started asking me to post archives in a shared folder, and when I missed a publication because life got crazy, teachers noticed. I still chuckle when I walk down the hall and hear an instructional strategy coming out of a teacher’s mouth that was posted in the bathroom just two days prior. Why do people love “The Toilet Paper”? I think they love it because it’s easy. It’s seamless. It gives them ideas that they can take or leave, and it doesn’t cost them any extra time in their day.

The success of “The Toilet Paper” has led me to start investigating other ways to provide “micro-PD” to the teachers in my building. It has also helped me build relationships with teachers and earn some of the respect and credibility I longed for when I arrived on the job. In fact, I am getting so busy collaborating with teachers, I may need to start outsourcing “The Toilet Paper” very soon! If the concept of “micro-PD’ intrigues you, click here for another idea!

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