Teachers Pay Teachers lets educators reassert their professionalism—and earn big bucks.

Reason Foundation's picture
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version

from the August/September 2014 issue

When Paul Edelman was working as a middle school teacher in New York City during the early '00s, his school gave him none of the lesson plans, handouts, and workbooks necessary for running a classroom. "When school ended at 3 p.m., it was really just the beginning of my workday," says Edelman. He says his first year was "brutal," and his second and third years were only marginally better.

Edelman's experience is hardly unique; many young teachers burn out in part because their schools expect them to generate all of their own materials. "I cried every night," says former teacher Amy Berner. "Every night you sit down and think, 'I am completely unprepared for tomorrow.'"

Out of such pain came an idea: "What if we could create a vast repository of resources that already worked for other teachers," he asks, "juiced with free market forces?"

In 2006, Edelman started Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for educators to sell digital copies of their classroom materials to each other for small amounts of money. "It's booming," says Berner, the company's head of community and editorial. Gross sales ballooned from $900,000 in 2010 to $44 million in 2013, and so far teachers have earned nearly $48 million on the site. There are more than one million products to choose from, including lesson plans, worksheets, flash cards, PowerPoint presentations, games, quizzes, graphic organizers, bulletin board ideas, and parent guides. And the materials are built by real teachers, so they tend to be perfectly tailored to classroom use.

Edelman says that requiring educators to produce their own classroom materials has its benefits. "I like that teachers in the U.S. have the freedom to create and teach the way they teach best," he says. Despite feeling overworked and underprepared, Edelman says that he was still grateful as a teacher not to have "a nationalized and controlled curriculum," as many other countries do. Teachers Pay Teachers offers the best of both worlds because educators don't have to spend all their free time generating materials from scratch, but they still get to pick what's best for their students—and can tailor the material however they see fit.

For teachers, whose compensation generally reflects not their talent and drive but the number of years they've served in the classroom, Teachers Pay Teachers brings a refreshing dose of market incentives. More than 1,300 teachers have earned at least $5,000 selling their materials through the company, and 164 have earned more than $50,000.

The site's breakout star and top seller is a kindergarten teacher in Macon, Georgia, named Deanna Jump. By selling activities and lesson plans, such as Guided Reading 101: Printables, Strategies and Word Work ($8) and Insects Math and Literacy Fun ($6.80), along with 145 other products, Jump has earned more than $2 million on Teachers Pay Teachers. With her wholesome good looks and exceptional talent as a teacher and curriculum author, Jump makes for an ideal public face. And she hasn't changed with her newfound wealth: Jump still teaches, and the first thing she did after the money started rolling in was purchase a handicap-accessible van for her quadriplegic brother.

At a time when teachers are being judged by central bureaucracies based on how their students perform on high-stakes tests, and union contracts enforce absurd work rules and lockstep pay increases, Teachers Pay Teachers offers educators the dignity of being treated like professionals. "It's like, 'I'm actually being respected for the expert that I am,'" says Berner. "Calling it a revolution in education I don't think is overstating it."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||#

    And yet when I sold my classwork to fellow students they and I were treated like criminals.

    log in or register to reply

  • UnCivilServant||#

    Why would anyone buy your work? Were they doing too well?

    log in or register to reply

  • Certified Public Asskicker||#

    I always thought Fist slept his way to the top.

    log in or register to reply

  • Swiss Servator, Alles Klar||#

    Huh. I figured it was via blackmail.

    log in or register to reply

  • Certified Public Asskicker||#

    Oh, blackmail. I heard black fishnets.

    log in or register to reply

  • BakedPenguin||#

    Those two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

    log in or register to reply

  • Pope Jimbo||#

    No, Fist's obsession with always being first ruined his career as a male escort.

    log in or register to reply

  • Rich||#

    Ouch.

    log in or register to reply

  • ||#

    Educrats are feverishly working on ways to shut this down.

    log in or register to reply

  • Brian D||#

    This must be frustrating as hell to them. On the one hand, teachers should be paid, like, a gazillion dollars a year because they're heroes and some junk. On the other hand, getting that money from some kind of free market is just anathema. Where's the coercion, man? The sweet, sweet coercion?

    log in or register to reply

  • ||#

    Also, we run the risk of letting teachers make money on merit, and we can't have that.

    log in or register to reply

  • Doghouse Reilly||#

    I'm new here, so maybe I've missed the proggie counter-argument, but what would anyone stand to gain by shutting this site down and/or regulating it out of existence? Seems like a win for everyone - teachers, kids, parents, etc.

    log in or register to reply

  • Rich||#

    what would anyone stand to gain by shutting this site down

    Ima say "justice". "Fairness", at least.

    log in or register to reply

  • Agammamon||#

    It undermines the excuse that teacher's need a lot of money because they have to put in so many hours 'after work' grading tests and making lesson plans.

    log in or register to reply

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||#

    Generally, the NEA is supportive. So much so that they are lobbying to change collective bargaining agreements to provide legal protection to teachers who sell their works (some districts are claiming the rights to the work).

    log in or register to reply

  • Marshall Gill||#

    some districts are claiming the rights to the work

    Don't most "teachers" receive an paid hour every day for "lesson planning"? If they developed their work while being paid by the district, shouldn't the district own it?

    log in or register to reply

  • Rasilio||#

    These materials should be distributed to the teachers by the schools for free, they should not have to pay for the curriculum material.

    If different teachers are using different materials how can we ensure that all students are being taught to the same standard.

    These works are works for hire and belong to the schools, individuals should not b e making a profit off of them.

    Shall I go on?

    log in or register to reply

  • Bill||#

    Indeed, this cries out for regulations. To help the childrunz!

    log in or register to reply

  • Charles Easterly||#

    What a refreshing article.

    log in or register to reply

  • Rich||#

    "What if we could create a vast repository of resources that already worked for other teachers"

    Common Core, DUH!

    log in or register to reply

  • Agammamon||#

    He says his first year was "brutal," and his second and third years were only marginally better.

    The first year aligns with what a teacher friend of mine says about his first year - developing the lesson plan starting at 3 months before the school year started, constantly revising it because of changing requirements and then have to constantly change it again once he got into the class and realized his students were dumber than he planned for.

    That's along with making the mistake of being *nice* at the start of the year - then he spent most of the rest of the year trying to get control of the kids.

    HIs second year was been much easier though - plan's mostly done, just needs some tweaking and he was an authoritarian arsehole right from the beginning. Once the kids accepted his authority he was able to lighten up later in the year.

    He figures his third year and on should be cakewalks.

    log in or register to reply

Leave a Comment

You must have an account and be logged in to comment.
Click here to register, or here to login if you already have an account
News Source : Teachers Pay Teachers lets educators reassert their professionalism—and earn big bucks.
Copy this html code to your website/blog to embed this press release.