Pay Teachers

On Selling Your Lesson Plans [Making Money As A Teacher]

Jose Vilson Mr. Vilson 8 Comments

Pay Teachers

Pay Teachers

Do you want to make money as a teacher? Of course you do.

You know how hard it is to make money as a teacher? We already work enough unpaid hours grading papers, calling parents, and writing lesson plans. Why not profit off of it?

These and other questions came up today because a frequent commenter asked me on my Facebook page what I thought about this topic. I said I’d leave it up to my folk on the Facebook page. You can read the comments for yourself. I liked most of the nuanced responses.

Before I give my own, here’s something to consider about this whole discussion. Teachers are often asked to take the altruistic, heroic roles for whatever reason. It’s bad enough that we have too many pockets of society that say teachers get paid too much already, even though I know more than a handful of teachers who take on side jobs just to make ends meet. The idea that teachers shouldn’t get paid more, shouldn’t even ask to get paid more, or try to sell their wares comes from a false dichotomy that makes teachers seeking to make money in any ethical way look like they’re not interested in anything but themselves.

Having said that, I don’t think lesson plans are the way to go. If anything, lesson plans seem to have an ephemeral value; I can’t use them exactly the way I used them before. If anything, lesson plans don’t translate well to other years, especially if the unit or learning arc look different year to year. You can even make an argument for things like group projects, performance tasks, or other assessment materials because a) publishers already try to sell that to us and b) good ones that come right from teachers are hard to come by.

Even then, I’ve shared most of my wares freely either directly on this site or indirectly via my school’s website. Lesson plans ought to come from the teacher, and with an understanding of what the teachers’ particular students need. That comes from experience and expertise, something I think all teachers should get paid for. I get it if a third-party vendor comes in and helps teachers who don’t know how to approach assessment or building a collaborative culture, but, if there are enough experts in the district, why not pay them for their expertise like you would somebody else? Especially with so many people who profit off of teachers’ labor.

These are just questions swimming around. I welcome other thoughts on this. Please.

Mr. Vilson

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 8

  1. NYCEducator

    My lesson plans are strictly for my use. If they’re handwritten, you probably couldn’t read them. If they aren’t, you probably still couldn’t understand them. Were I writing for an audience I’d include a lot more detail. There are a lot of things I do as a matter of course, and I have homemade abbreviations for things I do often.

    If I were writing something to guide other teachers, I’d write it completely differently. That would probably be a lot more work. In fact, if I were going to all that trouble, I might as well write my own textbook.

  2. Jmholland

    If I thought someone else could play the songs I play the way. I play them I might sell them. Ever since I heard Miles Davis’ version of My Favorite Things I knew it wasn’t possible for me. I could play the textbook song or your song but it would shill come out my song. That’s why I can’t sell them.

  3. msladydeborah

    It is ironic that you would post this particular topic. I have had friends and former colleagues talk to me about profiting off of my lesson planning skills.
    In my opinion lesson planning is really crafted to meet the needs of the students that are currently enrolled in our classroom settings. I like child directed styles of education and I am okay with planning to facilitate that type of learning. I know that a lot of my professional peers were not that comfortable with that type of planning and implementation.
    I find that it is the planning process that centers my role as a teacher. I have found over the years that I worked in a classroom that during the planning process I was able to identify where my need to improve my skills in certain areas were located. I could also determine based on the group of children that I was working with what type of outcomes needed to occur for a plan to be viable.
    I find myself questioning if a plan was purchased would that individual take the time to tweak it to suit their current population or would they just go with what is in the plan without thinking if it is well suited to meet the interests and needs of their children.
    I still have my plans but selling them is not the route that I would take personally.
    Thanks for posting this Jose! I needed to air my thoughts out on this question.

  4. Sam

    NYCEducator’s comment interests me because for the last 2 years my school has been a part of the pilot program using the Danielson rubric. Probably the biggest change I’ve had to make was writing my lesson plans for an audience. In my case this is an audience of up to 5 people, none of whom speak Spanish, which I teach. I wonder what lesson plan sharing and selling will look like as more schools have to deal with this new evaluation of teachers.

  5. John T. Spencer

    I feel mixed on this. Selling lesson plans feels a bit like selling student work or school curriculum guides. They are a part of the job. They belong to the school. It’s a bit like double-dipping.

    And yet . . . with dwindling prep periods and additional jobs teachers are asked to take on, can we really say that lesson plans still belong to the schools? Moreover, I get paid to write teaching columns and give keynote addresses (not often, but on occasion). Often, those come out of the experiences I’ve had as a classroom teacher. To what extent does all of that “belong” to the district?

    Think of it this way: selling lesson plans seems wrong, but selling PD books doesn’t. How many PD books came out of district or school PD that people created. Does that professional knowledge belong to the district?

    Is it okay to sell entire resources that you develop as a teacher? How about curriculum? If I take my visual writing prompts and sell them instead of handing them out for free, is that unethical?

  6. Post
    Author
    Jose Vilson

    Everyone, thanks for your comments.

    You guys were all on the same wavelength. Writing whole books or putting together whole PD / guidance pieces seems worth putting ourselves out there. To a point, because of the vast lack of expertise that’s spread through the teaching profession (the modal number of years of experience for a US teacher is down to 1), I could see why a program like Teachers Paying Teachers can be successful.

    I just don’t think that’s either sustainable or appropriate for either the purchaser or the creator. However, if someone said, “here’s a bunch of stuff I know that could make a good system for you,” or “Here’s a bunch of stuff I wrote about my experiences in a certain school environment,” then I don’t see why not.

    I think it goes back to how we see “profitability” and what we constantly ask of educators.

  7. Jesse Sandschaper

    So I know this is a bit old and I hope someone reads this comment but this article and the comments sparked an idea. I have never been fond of teachers pay teachers as it doesn’t fit well with my life philosophy. However the idea of a site that gave away lesson plans and sheets and ideas seems awesome. Kind of like a Wikiplans where people can come and put stuff they think is cool and get cool ideas. I think this could really build community and help a lot of people. Anyway if anyone likes this idea that reads this blog, hit me up and maybe we could figure something like this out. I love the idea of giving stuff away like this, my favorite hip-hop record this year, run the jewels, was totally free. I think our society could use more of that.

  8. Sandi

    Your inquiry brought out a deep respect for writing great lesson plans among teachers. The ones who responded clearly have experienced the time, effort and care put into creating them and their response was deeply personal. But looking at it from another angle, I say the idea is great. As a teacher I’m not “on” every hour of every day and the more experienced I get (it’s my 41st year) the more my brain freezes up when I’m trying to write one after school. I don’t mind saying I could use a little help. Why not give myself a break once in awhile? Maybe the plans for sale aren’t as nuanced as I’d like, but neither are some of mine when I read them a couple of months later. We’ve all experienced getting out an old lesson plan and wondering, Holy cow, what was I thinking?! I say buy them, sell them and trade them. They’re not sacred and you’re not damaging kids.

    Sandi Evans

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