Thursday, November 19, 2009

Selling classroom materials

Interesting followup to a Times article about teachers selling classroom materials.

I fall squarely on the side of the capitalist teachers. As long as they're not violating their contracts, I don't think they have any moral obligation to go unpaid for their work.

I have written curriculum for pay before, and I consider it to be owned by whoever paid for it - be it via contract for an outside group or through a summer curriculum development grant at my school. Curriculum I develop on my own for use in my classes is a different story.

I can see an argument that developing curriculum is a part of a teachers' job, akin to being in the classroom teaching and assessing student work. In my case, my administration has made it clear that they don't really care if I change the curriculum; if I want to do so, it's on me to do it on my own time. Work I do on my own time appears to be my own, not of shared ownership with my employer. This is complex and revolves around a reasonable workday, summers off, and all kinds of "what is a teachers' own time?" questions. Hopefully few reasonable people truly believe that every moment of a teacher's life from September to June is owned by the school.

Like copyright protection, if capitalism is leading to improved curriculum, then that's good. If making money on it is motivational and teachers refuse to write new curriculum and stick with the crummy old thing just because it's easy, that's not good for the students.

I should note here that while I have substantially revised my curriculum this year, I have no plans to sell it. I simply think it's acceptable for teachers to do so.