March 18, 2018
It is hard for me to believe but it was 10 years ago that I created my first game and started my company Rule the School. How did that happen you ask? In 2002 I started a new job as an Itinerant Teacher in a large public school district’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. My training and experience as a speech-language pathologist and teacher of the deaf made me feel comfortable with most aspects of the job. However, I had IEPs that had self-advocacy goals on them and I had no idea how to teach that. So I did a lot of investigating, reading, talking to others and I learned from my students, especially from going into their classes. I gradually learned what knowledge and skills they needed to acquire, practice and use.
Maybe because my oldest daughter was very hyperactive, I am a proponent of brain-based active learning. I also knew from experience that kids love to do anything called a “game”. So I came up with the idea of teaching self-advocacy skills in a game format. I sketched my board game idea on paper, used index cards for the card decks and used my students’ feedback to refine it. At that point I knew a few things for sure. First, it was a good idea. Second, it was a niche product. Third, I had no idea how to sell it. Remember, this was 2008. TeachersPayTeachers had only started in 2006 so was still quite small and I had not yet heard of it. Also, I was old and did not know how to create things digitally!
At that point I picked up a catalog of online courses called ed2go and found a course titled something like how to turn teacher made materials into products for sale. It was developed and taught by a high school chemistry teacher who was successful at this. It was an excellent course and was truly “cookbook” style. As a result of that course I had a plan. I asked a very talented graphic designer that I knew from middle school carpool to create my game board. Because I am an itinerant I wanted something compact so she created a game board that folded into a small square.
I also needed something sturdy to carry everything in so I decided to package it in the colorful and attractive Blingvelopes.
After I had some paper copies of the game I gave it to several colleagues to try out and give me feedback. I heard a lot of positive feedback but also suggestions to make it data-based. With that advice, I developed data sheets for each of the two card decks and sample ways to write IEP goals for the skills included in the game.
I then had the game boards manufactured and the card decks professionally printed. It was important to me that each card deck also come with blank cards so folks can add scenarios as well as individualize it for students.
How was I going to sell the game? I knew that I had to have an online store and thank goodness my husband is a techie so he was able to set up a website and store using Paypal.
After I developed my second product, I began exhibiting at conferences. What fun! Today it is the thing that I enjoy the most. I love meeting people from all over the world and talking about their students and their programs!
In 2011 the world of apps was exploding so my husband turned my first three games into apps available in iTunes.
In iTunes there is a link to my website to print out the Data Sheets and Sample IEP goals. Then in 2014 I had the graphics for my board game converted into two 8″ x 11″ pages and began selling it and the rest of the games and activities on TeachersPayTeachers. I am so glad that I persisted in developing this first game and the rest of my self-advocacy games and products for students with hearing loss. It is my passion that my students become independent and these resources help me and many others toward that goal.
In honor of this anniversary year there will be money saving ways to get your Rule the School Products throughout 2018! Check this website, Facebook and Instagram tomorrow March 19th, 2018 to see how to get a free digital product.