The New York Times reports on this thriving new marketplace and the debate over rightful ownership of lessons plans:
Now, 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 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 even home renovation, leading some school officials to raise questions over who owns material developed for public school classrooms.
“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 N. Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.
Beyond the unresolved legal questions, there are philosophical ones. Joseph McDonald, a professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University, said the online selling cheapens what teachers do and undermines efforts to build sites where educators freely exchange ideas and lesson plans.
“Teachers swapping ideas with one another, that’s a great thing,” he said. “But somebody asking 75 cents for a word puzzle reduces the power of the learning community and is ultimately destructive to the profession.”
Teachers like Erica Bohrer, though, see the new demand for lessons as long-awaited recognition of their worth.
“Teaching can be a thankless job,” said Ms. Bohrer, 30, who has used the $650 she earned in the past year to add books to a reading nook in her first-grade classroom at Daniel Street Elementary School on Long Island and to help with mortgage payments. “I put my hard-earned time and effort into creating these things, and I just would like credit.”
What’s interesting are the responses to the Times story. A first-year teacher wrote:
Lesson planning was my downfall two years ago when I was a first-year English teacher. I bemoaned that the lesson plans of the many English teachers who had preceded me and worked with the same curriculum were unavailable to me.
I previously worked for a medical education company where all concepts and strategies belonged to the funding sources that paid the employees’ salaries. Because we weren’t expected to waste time reinventing the wheel, we were given access to the best ideas and practices. Yet as a public school teacher, I was told by the head of my department that teachers own their plans.
But another teacher responded:
Try as I might, I cannot recall taking a vow of poverty when I became a teacher. Nor can I remember ever being compensated for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours I’ve put in on weekends, evenings and vacations.
Teachers continually develop and tweak lessons, often on their own time and without the use of district resources, to reach an increasingly diverse and sophisticated population of learners. The fact that we are willing to pay for lessons superior to the curriculums bought by our school districts doesn’t cheapen what we do; it raises it to a new level of commitment.
This is a very interesting question, but I lean toward the argument that lesson plans were developed as part of the job so they belong to the school. In the same token, if teachers are buying lesson plans, why should it come out of their pockets? Shouldn’t the schools pay?
What do you think?