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The Entrepreneurial Teacher

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It is no secret that teachers in general are underpaid. In fact, many teachers leave the profession because they do not make enough money. According to a 2006 study done by The National Education Association, 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years partially due to low pay. With school budgets shrinking and teachers starting to shell out their own hard-earned money for school supplies, are there other solutions to help keep teachers’ bank accounts afloat?

Last month the New York Times ran an article about teachers selling lesson plans online for profit. The teachers interviewed reported using the money for varied costs such as mortgage payments, credit card bills, home renovation, travel, nice dinners, and most notably—books and classroom supplies.


Joseph MacDonald, a professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University, said the online selling cheapens what teachers do and undermines efforts to build sites where educators freely exchange ideas and lesson plans. Adding to this, he said that the online selling is ultimately destructive to the profession.


I spoke with Danny Kofke, a special education teacher in Georgia and author of How to Survive (and perhaps thrive) on a Teacher’s Salary, who has a different opinion: “If a good teacher can find a way to make more money and, thus not have to get out of the profession, I think it is great,” says Danny.


I couldn’t agree more.


Teaching is one of the most important professions around. Imagine if every child you know hated going to school, saw no point to learning, and sat in front of the TV watching “reality” shows as an alternative to studying or showing up at school. What would the future of our country look like then?


The crisis is clear, but what about the solution?


“Finally teachers—consistently underpaid and overworked—have found an entrepreneurial way to get paid for the inspirational work they create through hours and hours of unpaid overtime, while at the same time helping their fellow teachers perhaps have that night or weekend off. Brilliant!” said Heidi Waterfield, Ed.M., a former teacher and current educational consultant in the San Francisco Bay area, in an email interview.


It may be an imperfect solution, but we need more money for our teachers—and this may be a way to do it. If teachers can’t earn enough money from straight-up teaching, creating a profitable business from their teaching expertise sounds like a good way to go right now.


What other solutions should we consider?

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