Why Teachers Pay Teachers Is Great for Education

I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m exhausted from the conversation. I’m so over the “ethical debate”. If a teacher creates something of value and wants to sell it to another teacher, they should not only be allowed to do so, but also encouraged to do so.

Teachers should not be scolded for making “extra money” by developing great lessons, resources, and guides that improve teaching and learning…they should be applauded. I realize that not every resource sold on TeachersPayTeachers is improving teaching and learning, but in that case they rarely sell.

I think what really irks me is the notion that teachers should not be making “extra” money through their profession. Why not? Are teachers who speak at conferences not allowed to make “extra” money because that would ruin their “ethics”? Are teachers who write books not allowed to accept royalties because that would be “selling out”? Are teachers who do consulting work for the state or other schools supposed to do this for “free” because taking a payment would make them feel wrong?

Many teachers I know have no problem with educators making money from speaking, writing, and consulting. Yet, they feel differently about Teachers Pay Teachers. If you are a teacher, get mad at the companies that charge thousands for canned curriculum resources, not a fellow teacher who put hard work into developing something worth sharing.

I personally just wrote a whole guide on helping teachers who want to tutor. Why? Because tutoring is an amazing way to make extra money in our profession, especially when you are tutoring for yourself and not a company like Kaplan or Huntingdon who takes 75% of your pay. It took me over 80 hours to write, create, and build this guide and video course. Should I just give it away for free?

Teachers Pay Teachers represents a shift in the way we think about education. Technology has made it possible for sites like BetterLesson and ModernLessons to share thousands of teacher resources for free, and I love those sites. Teachers Pay Teachers is different because it is educators supporting other educators for their hard work. Maybe you haven’t noticed…but this type of thing happens in the design community, the programming community, and the business community. In fact, it happens in almost every professional community…except teaching.

Here’s why Teachers Pay Teachers is great:

1. It gives curricular power back to the teachers!

Teachers Pay Teachers is just the start in my opinion. Imagine a teaching profession where all of our curriculum was actually written by teachers (not by a company). And then imagine a profession where those teachers were compensated (like they should be) for their curriculum writing. This is happening now on that site, with teachers like Deanna Jump making over $100,000 in sales per month thanks to all of the units she had personally created.

Best yet, as teachers we are the ones choosing which curriculum plans, unit plans, and resources work for our students. If a resource is selling on Teachers Pay Teachers that means it has been tested, used, and approved by real teachers.

2. It’s the best form of “merit pay” we’ve got.

I’m not a big fan of most of the “merit pay” programs for teachers out there, but this works as a form of merit pay because it pays those teachers who are creating resources of value. I don’t have many items up on TeachersPayTeachers, but when someone buys a Twitter or Pinterest PowerPoint Template I made, and writes how great it worked with their class…I’m excited. I’ve also given these templates away for free at various times on my blog or if you sign up for my email list, because I believe they do have value in the classroom.

When merit pay is solely based on our students’ standardized test performances, then that is what teachers will focus on. This type of “merit pay” is based on creating valuable resources and plans for fellow teachers…I like that idea much better.

3. It’s creating a much needed culture of “teacherpreneurs”.

I’m hoping that more teachers who sell their work on TeachersPayTeachers begin to sell their work on their own websites. TPT still takes a good amount of royalties away from the teachers, and by selling on their own site, they can reclaim the money they deserve.

There are a variety of definitions of “teacherpreneurs” out there right now, but I see it as a word describing teachers who are entrepreneurial in their thinking, planning, creating, and sharing. These teachers often go above and beyond. They speak at conferences. They write blogs and books. They do consulting work. They share and sell best practices and resources. They tutor. They create websites and apps. They fuel change in our practice and lead by “doing”.

Please don’t hate on teachers who are making extra money with their hard work. There is no “scam” taking place here, and most of the teachers who sell resources on TPT have many free items available. More importantly, if we want to keep great teachers and “teacherpreneurs” in our profession, paying for their hard work should be encouraged and applauded, not dismissed and looked down on.


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Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Mike says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Too often we hear teachers complaining about how much money they make when there are lots of options available to bring in some extra income, all while doing what you love. Whether that be through tutoring, speaking, selling advertising space on your blog, selling eBooks or physical books, or even being an affiliate for Amazon, the list can go on for days.

    It’s high time we put the power back in our hands and reached our true potential, and that includes our earning potential. Create good stuff = get paid.

  • I agree with everything you’ve said. I still worry about the legal aspects–whether teachers are selling a work product created while an employee. It would be hard to prove we didn’t–especially if we use the lesson plan at school.

    What are your thoughts on that?

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Good point Jacqui and thank for reading. I would say that this is a real issue we have to look at, but one that may be different in every school/district.

  • Susie says:

    You make many great points. One thing that concerns me, though, is that for some teachers, it seems like selling lessons on TPT or sending people to their ad-supported blogs, etc., has become their primary focus, and their “day job”, teaching students, has taken a back seat.

    I do hope it is the quality lessons that are best sellers, because I’ve seen a lot of simple worksheets go by as well. Teachers are stressed in so many ways that in a pinch some of them will buy the already-created because they don’t have time to develop their own.

    • Kim says:

      Susie, I am a home schooling parent, so I take exception to your comment about teachers allowing TpT creation and blogging to become their primary focus.

      Creating items to use on TpT has helped me become a better teacher. Not only do I create lesson ideas and games that are better suited to each of my children, but I also buy a LOT of things on TpT. There is no curriculum available in the world that suits the needs for each student and product creation helps us to fill in those gaps.

      In home school many of the curriculums available, sadly, are very worksheet/drill based and I have three (four, but the youngest isn’t in school yet) very active children. Prior to creating for TpT we were fighting to make school interesting and it involved a lot of tears and frustration (on both sides!) TpT gave me the inspiration that I could create something that could make a difference for my kids and maybe some other kids as well. The success of my little shop is telling me that other teachers needed that too.

      Maybe you know teachers that I don’t, but I have not met one seller on TpT who is in a classroom or home school setting that has let the product creation become their main focus. More often I see teachers that say “I have a student that needs help in …… so I created this resource for them & then tweaked it to sell it on TpT.”

      • AJ Juliani says:

        Most of the simple worksheets I see on TPT are for free, although some are paid in Unit plans. One of the best parts about TPT is how the community regulates each other. They do a great job of making sure the content stays at a high level.

  • Amy Brown says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing this article. I am a full time teacher of 30 years, and the materials that I have developed during those 30 years are far superior to what I can buy from a publishing company. And if I authored them, why should I not be allowed to sell them? Many outstanding teachers are leaving the professional because they cannot pay their bills on their teaching salary. When I spend time making a product worthy of selling, my students benefit when I teach them using a high quality lesson.

  • I agree! I’m so tired of teachers complaining that everything should be free in one breath, then turning around and complaining that we aren’t respected and paid enough for what we do. How can we gain respect from outsiders when we place zero value on what we do? Conferences aren’t free; books aren’t free. But my presentation and handouts that I spent hours writing and designing should be free? Really?

    I know many teachers who do not write or make their own resources (and that is fine). But don’t expect others to put in hours of work to write them and give them away free.

    Regarding the comment about being “paid” to write curriculum at school, then sell it: I would hope that people know that if they are paid to write something for their job it is owned by the school. However, most schools do not expect teachers to create their own materials (i.e. textbooks, worksheets) and usually provide a budget for purchasing those things. TpT sellers provide the things that teachers have to buy regardless. If a teacher uses it in her own classroom, she just saved the district a few bucks from having to buy something. My district is very supportive of TpT and realizes how much money it has saved them. Hopefully more districts will see the savings power: TpT accepts purchase orders, gives licensing discounts for department and school-wide purchases, and has great sales four times a year. It’s a win-win-win for teachers, districts, AND tax payers!

    Thanks for the thoughtful article, A.J.

  • Jeannie says:

    Absolutely! I couldn’t have said it better if I tried. We love helping and sharing with other teachers. We spend an enormous amount of time, effort, and money creating fantastic teaching materials. It is fair to be paid for that. I not only sell, like most sellers, I am a TpT buyer too. I LOVE that my money goes to another teacher! 🙂

  • Art says:

    Maybe this is the way to go:

    1. Set up a little LLC or sole proprietorship company.
    2. Create everything at home. Use only your own private
    resources, including time, of course.
    3. Sell the stuff you make as your company, not as yourself.

    Could not hurt to keep things separate, I think.

    Or is there a problem with that approach?


  • Momma Mary says:

    I have a different perspective. I’m a parent. The problem I have with TPT is that inept lazy teachers use TPT as a crutch to get by.
    My 5th grader has spent valuable class time on cutesy TPT projects that were a waste of time, below grade level, and not at all within standards (ex: a fill-in the blank “Wanted Best Friend” poster).
    He’s also been assigned as-is TPT projects that had topics/terms that weren’t covered in class or the text book. When I pointed it out, the teacher nixed half of the requirements in the rubric.
    Lazy teachers + TPT = Subpar Education

    • AJ Juliani says:

      There are always going to be a few that ruin something good. Overall my experience has been positive with many TPT products and how teachers use them. Yes, there will inevitably be some that use them for the wrong purposes and create products that have no educational value. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • […] this post, the second question that has popped up during this Workshop adventure is: is a teacher responsible for writing their own curriculum? […]

  • […] A.J. Juliano holds a different opinion. You can view his entire post here. […]

  • […] is a good question. It is a shift in how we consider ourselves as professionals. And it matters to many teachers who may be buying and/or selling teacher-created materials […]

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