Teachers are selling their lesson plans online for very good money - Should the district get a cut?

Article here

Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions

Seems kind of petty and grabby for the school system to want a piece of the action for something the teacher created themselves.

No, I don’t think the district should get a cut.

Well, if the district put any work or resources into developing the plans, they should get a commensurate share of the proceeds. But those of us who actually know teachers know the district put dick-all into these lesson plans, aside from giving them guidelines of what skills they have to teach through the year and providing the textbooks some of the plans were based around.

I didn’t read the article yet, but my question would be…If the teachers created the lesson plans on company time, wouldn’t the district own the lesson plans?

Right, the curriculum designed by the district is different from the lesson plan designed by the teacher.

It depends on the contract, but generally lesson plans are not created on company time.

What amuses me is that the vast majority of teachers buying these lesson plans are presumably doing so on their own dime. I don’t see districts saying “hey, it’s not your responsibility to pay for lesson plans, let us pay for that”, so I don’t think it’s cool to turn around and say “Hey, you came up with lesson plans, that’s part of your job, you can’t make additional income from that.”

You’re a top rated master teacher, why aren’t you cashing in? This would seem to be ready money if you have organized lesson plans that can be sold to others.

These districts already expect plenty of uncompensated, off the clock duty. If these guides are written off the clock, screw the district.

I think these two statements are just about what I feel. If the best teachers come up with lesson plans on their own time and their own dime, then they OWN those plans, just as a writer OWNS his writings. I think it’s a matter of intellectual property, a copyright issue. And if a gifted teacher can make money off of an exceptionally good lesson plan, more power to him or her.

If they’re written during contracted hours, most employers will have weaselled it into the contract that intellectual property rights revert to them. In fact my current contract, which is a joke, states that any professional work I do while I’m employed there belongs to them. So I can go home and write a book at weekends about dealing with teenagers’ EBD, and they own it. Bullshit. But anyway, they may have a legal right, but it’s not moral in my opinion. Planning a lesson is not twenty minutes or an hour of your money, it’s my years of experience and exercise of not only my professional skill and judgement, but also my imagination. You can’t say that belongs to my employer.

Additionally, I often plan on paper at home/on the bus, or in my head whenever and wherever, and then just shove it onto my laptop when I get to work. Does that make it their property or mine? Sure, I made it into a powerpoint when I got to work, but I planned it while I was in the shower that morning. I cut up the flashcards after I got to work, but I made them at home. Where can a line be drawn? Most teachers I know (colleagues, friends, and me) do most of their planning on their own time. Certainly where I work at the moment, there’s no time to do it while you’re there… it’s constant meetings, paperwork, breaking up fights, watching CCTV footage to pinpoint troublemakers, oh and occasionally teaching.

And Manda JO is totally right as well.

I don’t think teaching is the kind of hourly work, like a cashier at Wal-Mart, where there is “on the clock” and “off the clock”. Teachers are not subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act: http://www.payrollpartners.com/Portals/0/FLSAProfessionalExemptionflowchart.doc They are exempt like most professionals. Teachers are actually more likely than most workers to have an employment contract, and intellectual property should be a bargaining point in that contract. Once the contract is signed, both parties should hold up their end of the deal. In general I am not terribly sympathetic to employed teachers marketing what they developed for their taxpayer-paid salary. I wouldn’t like the parks director marketing a guide to the state parks, either. (If the IP is legally assigned to the teacher by contract, though, I can live with it). However, if unemployed and retired teachers want to independently develop some lesson plans, that seems like a legitimate entrepreneurial opportunity.

What really amazes me is that the market for lesson plans is so inefficient. Maybe the controversy over this will bring some attention to actual rigorous testing of lesson plans using control groups, and making the best ones widely available and put into practice. The act of teaching and the planning of lessons are different skills, and no need to reinvent the wheel a bunch of times. Someone has already figured out how to have kids count M&Ms. Is anyone marketing their lesson plans based on documented learning outcomes?

The teachers can just say they graded papers on the clock and wrote the lesson plans off the clock.

The thing is, though, IME, the lesson plans, the activities . . .these don’t really matter. They are a red herring. If you understand how kids think–the 7000 different mistakes they can have in their understanding, the different sorts of gaps different kids will have in their prior knowledge, the different “intuitive” leaps that will lead them in the wrong direction–if you understand these things, then almost any “lesson plan” will work. If you don’t understand these things, the lessons are meaningless because you don’t know what they are supposed to actually do, which bits matter and which bits can be tweaked.

This stuff is hard to can for two reasons: one, you need to know all those potential mistakes, misapprehensions, and false leaps for every single thing you teach. It’s not “Kids think like this _____________, remember it.” It’s “When you are explaining market supply, kids will think this, this, this, and this” or “Once you have kids who understand such-and-such about thesis statements, some of them will immediately think that means so-and-so is a good idea”. Second, these things vary by locale and shift over time, so even if you learn all these things for a subject, transplant them to a different school (or quit monitoring the kids and adjusting for a few years) and there are different mistakes, different false paths, different concepts they struggle to grasp. This is why teaching is a craft.

This is why I don’t really look to market my materials–even though I have some pretty cool ones–they don’t really mean anything to anyone who doesn’t understand them, and anyone who understands them doesn’t need them.

My point is that I don’t think there is a “clock”. Most professional employment in the US does not involve a “clock”. There can be core hours, like needing to be there when school is in session, but there isn’t a line between free time and the employer’s time.

ETA: MandaJO, I agree with you. The act of teaching, which is what it sounds like you emphasize, is a skill in and of itself. But apparently some people do see a market for lesson plans. And for less effective, average and beginning teachers, maybe the good ones do make a difference. Which could be determined by providing different types to a largish random sample.

I’m an ex-college prof and have had to sign some pretty bad IP contracts in my time. They hold all the power and what is morally right or some such doesn’t matter.

My 2 cents:

  1. If it’s part of your job description, it’s theirs. I.e., if your job description says you are to develop lesson plans, then you’re out of luck.

  2. If you do it on their time. Hard to determine in such cases but I’d say if you do it at the school, it’s theirs.

  3. If you use their resources. E.g., if you work from home on something but connect into the work computer system then they have a partial claim. Let the lawyers turn it into a financial hole. For a computer person like myself, I’ve alway been careful to never use a school’s system for my personal projects. Which means using a home PC vs. a supercomputer. Oh well.

As for other teachers wanting lesson plans. Oh yes they do. Once Upon A Time, I taught a summer session on using this brand new thing called The Web to high school teachers. We had a fancy browser called Lynx. I pointed them to some sites that had plans, labs, etc. They went nuts and started printing everything they could get their hands on. (Which raises the point: if there was free stuff way back then, there should be a lot more free stuff now.)

I think of teaching more as craft than art: it’s about skill and technique as much as intuition and creation. See, I think it’s actively counter productive to load new teachers down with lesson plans–though, as ftg points out, they will flock to them if given half a chance–but it sends a “less effective, average, [or] beginning” teacher in exactly the wrong direction. People who want to learn to be chefs collect recipes like mad, but a roomful or cookbooks won’t teach you to prepare a meal. In fact, the weakest cooks are the ones that keep on gathering and trying recipes for years and decades without ever learning technique. When teachers are looking for lesson plans, they need someone to help them better their understanding, not get bogged down in “so do I hand out the M&M’s before or after I assign them the pipe cleaners?”

So… teaching is like Zen?

Knowing that the teachers usually do these things off hours I don’t see this as something a district has any right to. I guess the judges will tell them in the future when the cases show up in court. I have to say this is pretty much the opposite of pay teachers for initiative and effective teaching as is being touted by the White House at this time. More money for teacher initiative. Right.:rolleyes:

Just because your contract says so, doesn’t mean it is. You can put anything in a contract, but it doesn’t mean the clause is enforceable.

Things like “non-compete” agreements are routinely thrown out in court for various reasons, of course sometimes those clauses are indeed valid.

Developing a lesson plans seems to be quite a valid clause, while writing a book and publishing it would not be, regardless of subject of said book.

I find the ironic thing is one of teachings greatest comlaints is children copy the Wikipedia with a simple cut and paste or buy a paper online. This is similar to teachers, who are paid to develop their own lesson plans buying one instead.

That certainly isn’t true. You can spend money on a lesson plan all you want, but it’s not something you can just “turn in” and have done with it. A good teacher takes a ready-made lesson plan and changes it to fit their own methods and students. That’s how teachers get better - by sharing ideas and implementing them according to their needs. You can’t just copy a lesson plan word for word and expect it to work.

I agree with Mandy JO for the most part - in that most teachers who can understand a good lesson plan don’t really need one - but I do think such lesson plans can help newbie teachers with less experience.