Teachers Make More Money Selling Their Lesson Plans Than Actually Teaching

What are some of the biggest challenges facing teachers right now? First, that they’re underpaid, and second, that they are required to teach to a very strict set of curriculum guidelines. (Hello, Common Core.) Also, many teachers are required to come up with their own educational materials and tools.

Put these factors together and we get stories like this one, from Slate:

Seven years ago, when Erica Bohrer, a first-grade teacher from Long Island, New York, started selling her lesson plans on the website Teachers Pay Teachers, she just wanted to make a few extra bucks here and there. Item on the site, a kind of Etsy for educators, go for an average of $3.50.
Good decision. To date, Bohrer’s sample classroom decorations, reading comprehension cards, and lesson plans have earned her nearly $450,000 — and she now makes more money each year on the site than as a full-time classroom teacher.

(Just so we are clear about the math here: $450,000 divided by seven years is $64,286 per year, on average.)

Why are teachers selling their lesson plans to other teachers? Three big reasons:

1) Because they need the money.

2) Because they want material that they know will help them teach to Common Core standards. As Slate puts it: “When it comes to their craft, teachers trust each other most. More than experts. And far more than textbook publishers, who have been slow to produce enough materials that are in sync with the standards.”

3) Because it helps share the workload. Teachers are now not only required to create what you might think of as a “lesson plan,” but also materials that help students with special needs, as well as supplementary materials to help parents support their children’s education. To quote Slate: “A packet on how to teach parents about guided reading sells for $3.50.”

Teachers are also required to produce additional administrative work, such as binders that detail their effectiveness in the classroom, and Teachers Pay Teachers sells teacher-written guides to help them do that as well.

Could there be a drawback to this system? Teachers are sharing their knowledge, they’re supplementing their income, and they’re helping each other with their administrative work. What say you, Slate?

But some experts point out that many teachers are not trained or experienced curriculum developers. And they worry about educators relying too heavily on already overburdened teacher-freelancers to create thousands of new curriculum materials aligned with the Common Core.

Teacher-freelancers. Sit with that for a minute. Or consider this:

Karen Jones, an elementary school teacher from Buffalo, New York, also earns more from the site than her teaching job. She puts her children to bed each night at 8 p.m. and then spends the next few hours creating new products, responding to her customers, and promoting her work on social media.

Not to overly promote our Billfold Book Club summer selection The Subprimes, but this near-future story begins in a world where all teachers are, by default, freelancers.

If you are a teacher, have you created or purchased educational materials on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers? Is it a good way to earn extra money and share expertise?

And if you’re a parent, have you noticed an increase in administrative materials, packets on how to help your child with guided reading, and (in general) the stuff teachers have to produce to do their jobs?