Curriculum

Cashing In on Lesson Plans

April 09, 2010 1 min read

Controversy is brewing over some savvy teachers’ practice of selling lesson plans online, as documented by “Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions,” a much-read New York Times piece published late last year.

So-called “teacher-entrepreneurs” sell their lesson plans on their own blogs or on commercial sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers or We Are Teachers.

But school administrators have begun raising questions about whether or not teachers have full ownership of the materials.

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“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,” Robert N. Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, was quoted as saying.

While not currently required to, some teachers do split their profits between school and personal life. For example, Erica Bohrer, a Long Island elementary teacher interviewed by the Times, said she used the money earned from selling lesson plans to add books to a reading nook in her classroom and to help with her mortgage.

“Teaching can be a thankless job,” Bohrer said. “I put my hard-earned time and effort into creating these things, and I just would like credit.”

At the same time, some educators fear that profiting from lesson plans might undermine the potential of online professional communities in which lesson ideas are traded freely.

Teachers swapping ideas with one another, thats a great thing, said Joseph McDonald, a professor of teaching and learning at New York University. But somebody asking 75 cents for a word puzzle reduces the power of the learning community and is ultimately destructive to the profession.

—Bryan Toporek

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A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2010 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook

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