Sunday, November 15, 2009

Teachers Sell to Teachers

This article was in the Seattle Times today. It's about teachers selling lesson plans they have created to other teachers. It's an interesting idea but, as you can imagine, some issues.

"Thousands of teachers are cashing in on a commodity they used to give away, selling lesson plans online for exercises as simple as M&M sorting and as sophisticated as William Shakespeare.

While some of this extra money is going to buy books and classroom supplies in a time of tight budgets, the new teacher-entrepreneurs are also spending it on dinners out, mortgage payments, credit-card bills, vacation travel and home renovation, leading some school officials to question who owns material developed for public-school classrooms."

"Teachers Pay Teachers, one of the largest such sites, with more than 200,000 registered users, has recorded $600,000 in sales since it was started in 2006, $450,000 of that in the past year, said its founder, Paul Edelman, a former New York City teacher. The top seller, a high-school English teacher in California, has made $36,000 in sales.

"To the extent that school-district resources are used, then I think it's fair to ask whether the district should share in the proceeds," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents."

The two main issues are apparent. Who "owns" a lesson and shouldn't teachers just want to help other teachers without a cost benefit?

I can see a district trying to say that their professional development aided a teacher in being better and that the development helped the teacher create a lesson. But can they prove that? Many companies make employees sign a contract that has a clause about anything created during employment at place of employment. (Of course, you could work anywhere with a laptop so that's a problem as well. Should school districts?

I note that in the story several teachers talk about using the money in their classroom but some said they used it for themselves. I see neither crime nor sin in either use.

I'm not a teacher so I don't know how teachers feel. I think that anything that you create is yours unless you had specific training. And should these lesson plans be patented? I would think it possible for two teachers worlds apart could think up the same lesson plan but who thought of it first?



dan dempsey said...

Perhaps MGJ can sell her Strategic Plan. That could be the first sign it has any value. {or perhaps she bought it on eBay or Craigslist}.

I guess a lot of Board Policies may have been sold as they are never used apparently gone.

Eric B said...

It seems pretty straight forward to me - if a teacher uses District resources and time to create something, then that should be the District's. If the teacher does it on their own time, then it it is the teacher's. Obviously if a teacher is making doilies in the evening he/she could sell them, why not lesson plans? On the other hand, clearly if a teacher were creating materials during their paid prep-time, then they have been compensated for that already. And lesson plans (or other such items) would be copyrighted, not patented, so that law would pertain.

Abc said...

Seems to me that there would be very few teachers willing to buy. If you know where to look, people are willing to share their lesson plans and even curriculum without charging a dime. Two sites come easily to mind:
(1) a homeschool site popular with homeschoolers:
(2) a site run by a friend of a friend: the math/science nucleus
Other sites with free lesson plans include the BBC, NASA, USGS, ScienceProjects and A to Z for teachers and even the local library (King County is better than Seattle Public). Many times, the necessary books are not only free but available in eformat. Now that I think about it, many of the government programs will even supply a class with everything necessary to carry out a class for free.

Abc said...

something else comes to mind, why wouldn't teachers share willingly with each other, especially with new or student teachers. Reinventing the wheel each time just seems like a lot of wasted work. Time-tested methods that are effective and work should be passed around. Reinventing the wheel, so to speak, is a phenomenal waste of time.

seattle citizen said...

If scripted lessons are developed further, the only people profiting will be McGraw Hill and Scholastic stockholders.

Teachers now can use all sorts of interesting things to fill out lessons to meet their individual classroom (and even student) needs. But the further along we go towards scripting common curricule, the more these individual efforts are moot.

Color me cynical, but I worry...

Abc said...

I'm very sorry that you interpreted my post to that I would ever promote scripted lesson plans. Most text books are submitted to a stringent PC process before ever hitting the classroom. Did you check out the math/science nucleus? The entire program is absolutely free, offered by a teacher tired of the Fremont School System's approach to science education. As for homeschoolers, they can be downright ornery when it comes to using "scripted" lesson plans. And what is wrong with using teaching materials provided by NASA, Lawrence Livermore Labs and USGS, all of which can be easily tailored to meet a classroom needs? The BBC and OWL sites also offer pretty good worksheets for Language Arts. HRC, here in Seattle, is also a great resource. Of course, the best places to exchange ideas is with your coworkers, at the school you teach as well as those at other local schools in this area. If you are interested, I can put you in contact with teachers in other areas of the country and even some in other countries. In addition to the internet,, when I was teaching, the best guidance I found was at my local community college, especially those in charge of remedial classes. I found that most were more than willing to tell you exactly and in detail the skills that today's high schoolers lack at graduation.

Michael Rice said...


I teach AP Statistics and there are multiple sites that offer lesson plans and activites for anyone that wants them. I also teach Advanced Algebra. I am using all the resources that I have to cobble together lesson plans everyday. If there is another Advanced Algebra teacher in the district who wants to talk to me about what I am doing, please get ahold of me and I will be happy to share.

I can't imagine why anyone would pay for lesson plans. I cna't imagine why another teacher in a school would not share what they have with another teacher. That sort of attitude goes against everything being a teacher stand for.

Dora Taylor said...

I found this article on Education Notes Online interesting in response to teachers selling lesson plans:

Abc said...

I still say it is a big waste of money to spend money on so-called lesson plans from a company based in NY, NY. Adapting and editing sometimes takes longer than actually adapting the material to what you want to t each, not to mention the books or materials some lesson plans require, especially at the upper grades level. Math and science teachers, I really recommend checking out the Math/Science Nucleus. Hugely popular, the teacher who created the program, offers it FREE of charge and also will tell you how to adapt it to your part of the country. She does offer for sale on her site some of the supplies necessary to create the experiments, but she also tells you how to cheaply recreate what you need also as well as other things you can locate locally to use instead. Need advice and local teachers won't share, contact some of the instructors at CCSF in SF. They love to share, just be prepared for a long and in-depth discussion on anything you want to know. With a few exceptions, all f them are fabulous.

Chris said...

Dan, MGJs plan is mostly Broad Foundation boilerplate.

Tiki said...

I think it's great that teachers are selling their lesson plans. They put hard work and thought into a plan, why not sell it so others can use it too? There is a lot of just plain sharing, but asking for payment validates the value of their work.

ttln said...

I believe my contract covered "intellectual property" issues. I recall something in my orientation about anything I develop while under contract belongs to the district.