Opinion
Teaching Opinion

Don’t Blame Teachers for Selling Their Lesson Plans. Blame the System That Makes It Necessary

By Kat Tipton — February 27, 2020 4 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When I was hired to be a 1st grade teacher, I was given absolutely no curriculum for reading or science. While my school did have a math curriculum, it was out of date from the brand new, controversial Common Core State Standards and did not match our assessments. Instead, I was told to plan with my colleagues.

This often led to me scouring the internet for good resources. While some coworkers were willing to share, they rarely sat down and explained what they were giving me, and I certainly never had the opportunity to observe them using it. I was in over my head and had no idea what I was doing.

Enter, Teachers Pay Teachers. A website where you can buy lessons made for current standards, created by current teachers? Sign me up! I bought phonics lessons and worksheets that saved me every week. I had never taught phonics, and wasn’t taught to read that way myself. Again, I had no idea what I was doing and very little guidance. That entire year was hectic, and staying above water was all I could do—this is a common sentiment from first-year teachers.

It’s no surprise that schools can’t afford up-to-date curriculum when many can’t even afford basic furniture or actual teachers."

I’m no longer teaching, but during the five years that I did, I regularly used the website. I never did get a curriculum for reading and had to supplement my writing curriculum heavily. I had no problem buying resources from other teachers on TPT, because I knew they worked hard to create something, just like any service or product.

However, there is a growing number of disdainful educators who are downright angry that teachers are daring to sell their materials on Teachers Pay Teachers. At a technology conference last summer, I heard a presenter loudly talking in the vendor expo center. I listened as he laughed and called TPT sellers the “whores of education.” In a session later that day, I learned about a website where teachers can upload their work for free for others to use.

Why are teachers expected to give away their hard work for free? The presenters in charge of the website explained that they were there to “help kids” and not themselves. I have seen this same sentiment on Twitter often. If you really cared about kids, you would just let people have the things you make rather than sell them!

But, is that fair? Do doctors who work with children give their medical advice away for free? Does Google look around, as it makes new technology for teachers, and say, “You know what? Let’s share all this with Microsoft. After all, it’s for kids!”? Can you think of a single other profession in which those in it are not given what they need to complete their job, are expected to make their own materials, and are then expected to just give those materials away to others?

It also makes me pause that many of those behind this “movement” on Twitter have sold millions of dollars worth of books on education. Their message seems to be: Publish a book full of strategies and ideas about education and profit off of it for years? No problem! Sell your lessons, decor, posters, or ideas? How dare you! In the same vein, the presenter at the technology conference who called TPT sellers “whores” was standing in the middle of an expo hall full of vendor booths that were there to—you guessed it—sell educators things. If it’s for kids, why don’t they just give it away?

The real problem here isn’t that teachers have made their own lessons and sold them. Teachers have been publishing their ideas and worksheets since there have been teachers. No, the real problem here is that so many teachers aren’t given what they need in order to do their job—for kids—that they have to pay other teachers to get what they need. The lack of funding in our schools is shocking, and it’s no surprise that schools can’t afford up-to-date curriculum when many can’t even afford basic furniture or actual teachers. Why are we angry with the teachers who are selling what they made in order to benefit others, make money, and, yes, help kids? Those teachers created resources because they didn’t have what they needed, and saving me the time and effort of creating it myself is worth a few dollars to me.

Many people point out that TPT isn’t perfect. Just like all retailers, it has problems. Yes, some of the products aren’t great. Yes, some of the sellers rip off other sellers. Yes, there are sellers who quit teaching just to sell full-time, thus defeating the purpose (they can’t test products if they don’t have a classroom!). However, a quick search on TPT shows you thumbnails, reviews, and previews. Just like shopping for clothes online, you can discern what might work for you and what might not. If you want to find quality items, it isn’t hard.

More than three-quarters of public school teachers are women. Would we value the work done by teachers and sold online—and would we be less likely to call those who participate “whores"—if more teachers were men? The average public school teacher makes about $55,000 a year, and the majority have at least two degrees. If a teacher had a side job at American Eagle, would she still be a “whore”? Why is selling something related to teaching as a side job considered to be the worst thing a teacher can do?

Teachers have found success and a second income by selling items they made in their spare time—why shouldn’t we be celebrating that? If you want to be angry with someone about the market for lesson plans and materials, be angry at the lack of funding in our schools that has caused this problem. Don’t blame the teachers who rose to the occasion and made a negative into a positive.

Follow the Education Week Opinion section on Twitter.

Sign up to get the latest Education Week Opinion in your email inbox.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion Best Ways for Schools to Prepare for the Next Pandemic
Being better connected to families and the community and diversifying the education workforce are some of the ways to be ready.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion The Classroom-Management Field Can’t Stop Chasing the Wrong Goal
And, no, new social-emotional-learning initiatives aren’t the answer, writes Alfie Kohn.
Alfie Kohn
5 min read
Illustration of children being cut free from puppet strings
Daniel Fishel for Education Week
Teaching Photos What School Looks Like When Learning Moves Outside
One class of 5th graders shows what's possible when teachers take their lessons outside.
1 min read
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va., on Sept. 7, 2021.
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Teaching Opinion Wanted: Students to Write About This School Year
Classroom Q&A is inviting teachers to have their students write about their school experiences for publication here.
1 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty