5 Tips for Classroom Fundraising When Traditional Routes Aren’t Cutting It

Guest Writer: Anica Oaks

Raising enough funds to bring additional materials and activities to the classroom isn’t always easy, and the traditional routes don’t always work. This is especially true if you’re teaching in a non-“core” curriculum subject like art, theatre, or sports.

Educators, it’s time to think outside of the box. When it comes to classroom fundraising, getting extra creative and utilizing digital resources can make a huge difference in terms of how many donations you pull in. Here are five tips to help you get creative with classroom fundraising.

Kick Off Some Crowdfunding

A lot of teachers are coming to rely on crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and KickStarter for garnering funds. You’ve probably seen friends and family share these kinds of links on their social media pages.

Crowdfunding is a great way to reach people across the world—many people you otherwise wouldn’t reach at all. Crafting a crowdfunding site with a specific (and realistic) goal and time-frame can pull in a lot of attention from a wide array of social media users. This method of teacher funding might be new, but it’s proving to be effective for many teachers in need.

Host a Scavenger Hunt

No matter the grade level, students love to hunt for clues! Make it educational by including aspects of your current curriculum. Allow students to form their own small teams, and each team must pay an entrance fee before the day of the hunt.

Make it a school-wide event and get other teachers in on the action. Bring families in on it, too. You can even set up a donation table to add on to the proceeds from the entrance fees.

Create a Superhero-Themed Event

Superheroes (and super-villains) are totally in right now. If you’re a band or choir teacher, consider putting on a concert in which you play songs from DC and Marvel soundtracks. You can even encourage your students to dress in their favorite character’s attire.

Get some of your school’s best athletes, actors, and even some parents or guardians in on the action by having them dress up as Marvel and DC characters and have a Marvel vs DC “battle.”

Movie Night

This is especially fun for middle and high school students. Pick a Friday night and host a movie marathon. You can host the watch party in your school or even contact your local cinema and see if they’d be willing to sponsor the event. A percentage of the ticket and food sales could go toward your classroom or school’s needs.

Start a “Seed” Money Challenge

Start by giving each student in your class a small amount of money (even $1 will do), and ask them to come up with creative ways to turn it into more than that. Not only can you generate classroom funds this way, but you can get your students thinking with entrepreneurial mindsets.

Getting funds for your classroom doesn’t have to be hard, and it certainly shouldn’t be boring. Invoking your creative side and allowing your students to have some input can really take fundraising to the next level.

      

 

Teachers Pay Teachers Is Not the Problem

 

(A few disclosures: I have a Teachers Pay Teachers account. I think I have two products for sale. Last month, I made 24 cents. So this isn’t something vital to my financial survival. Second, I don’t often buy things from Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ve probably downloaded five or six freebies and purchased two or three products in all my years of teaching. I disclose these things so you know I don’t really have a vested interest in TeachersPayTeachers. But I do have opinions.)

Teachers Pay Teachers is a divisive topic in education. On the one hand, millions of actual teachers use it, not only to find materials to use with students but to make money selling their own content. On the other hand, TpT receives a fair amount of criticism from a second group of teachers and those connected to education who aren’t teaching classrooms full of kids. The following popped up in my Twitter feed a couple of days ago and it represents the general sentiment of many critics:

 

TpT has been on the receiving end of growing criticism like this for the last few years. There are concerns about copyright infringement. Critics contend that the available materials are worksheet heavy (‘worksheets are bad’ being a relatively recent piece of conventional wisdom promulgated by a subset of vocal teachers). Some sellers have been accused of ripping off fellow teachers by copying their freely given content and selling it on TpT. Of course, there are also teachers who don’t like that their fellow educators are engaging in capitalism and hoping to make a buck. (I imagine a Venn diagram of people who feel this way and people who believe teachers should donate hours of their time every week to their employer would only have one circle.)

But perhaps the most persistent criticism, and the one reflected in the tweet above, is that TpT is a terrible source of instructional content. Like Mrs. Boyd, some hold this view with the same certainty that they believe cigarettes are bad for your health and Howard the Duck is a shit movie. The value judgment that wafts off of so many of these folks’ criticisms is that no good teacher would use anything from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Yet many teachers do. Why? For those who believe TpT is a heaping pile of steaming instructional garbage,  the only possible answer is that teachers lack access to quality curricula. And while that may be part of the answer, the more complete answer is that many teachers simply don’t share the opinion that TpT is an educational junkyard. For teachers in actual classrooms, there are a number of reasons why TpT is a valuable resource, and there are other reasons why critics’ disdain of TpT is misguided.

Why Teachers Use Teachers Pay Teachers

They Have No Curricula

Certainly, there are teachers who have no curriculum at all but are still expected to teach the standards. The recent report on Providence schools from Johns Hopkins makes this clear. Researchers wrote:

“Teachers, principals, and even students noted the lack of an established curricula as problematic. When asked about the fact that there were supposed to be just four curricula vetted by the district, we were told about multiple impediments: in one school, the new curriculum materials did not arrive until November and included no appropriate materials for IEP students. In other cases, it was clear that ambivalence about using a particular curriculum started at the top. In one school, the principal told us that the school had purchased Eureka [a math curriculum] but that s/he was “not a fan of programs” and so ‘considers Eureka more of a resource than a curriculum.’ Nevertheless, this principal intended to purchase three new ELA curricula next year.”

The report continues:

“In one school, the principal listed almost 20 different curricula, between math and ELA, that are in use.

“We use what we can find,” said an elementary school teacher in a group interview. Teachers in several schools told the team that they would “trade autonomy for a curriculum.”

This is what teachers do. They use what they can find. And it’s really easy to find things on Teachers Pay Teachers. Something is better than nothing, and TpT offers these teachers what their employers haven’t.

They Have Poor Curricula

Like the content on Teachers Pay Teachers, not all curriculum is created equal. Some of it stinks. And some districts purchase odiferous products. Teachers are the people who have to use the smelly lessons and they quickly learn just how offensive the emissions are. If teachers are stuck with stinky curriculum, they have two options: Keep using something that isn’t working or seek out better resources. That such a high percentage of teachers search for resources on Teachers Pay Teachers says less about these teachers’ unprofessionalism and more about how deficient they find the curricula they’ve been asked to use. If anything, the use of Teachers Pay Teachers indicates teachers’ earnest desire to find resources that engage and educate, not that they’re abdicating their instructional responsibilities. The graphic above could easily be seen as a good thing.

To Break the Monotony

While the above graphic was a lamentation for Mrs. Boyd, she ignored the stat on the top line: 83% of teachers use their district-adopted curriculum. My assumption about the 17% who don’t is that they may not even have a district-adopted curriculum. That means most teachers are willing to use the curriculum provided to them and do so regularly. That many of them also use Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest suggests that they sometimes find those curriculums lacking. How might they lack? In my experience, the programs can get monotonous over the course of a 180-day school year. Also, some lessons are boring. Sometimes, teachers feel the need to change things up and make lessons more engaging.

I teach bar graphs to my third graders. To understand them better, we create them. The way this is done in the Go Math! program is boring and it’s not a skill that students learn with one lesson. So I have a choice: Keep teaching students how to make bar graphs using the district-adopted curriculum, which is unengaging, or come up with something a little more exciting. If I’m feeling creative that day — a likelihood that becomes less and less so with each passing school day — I might come up with an original idea. More often, I google something like “Fun bar graph lesson for third graders.”

Guess which two websites show up at the top of the search results.

To Reteach or Extend

Some programs are good but don’t have enough. I may need to teach students how to create bar graphs three times but the program may only have one lesson and some remediation and enrichment ideas. Sometimes, students just need to do the same thing a few times in slightly different ways. Since my program doesn’t provide these additional opportunities, I have to look elsewhere. Twenty years ago, I would have made a trip down the hall and asked the old veteran in her swivel chair to check her file cabinet. These days, the Internet is faster and its file cabinet is larger.

To Have a Life

Some critics of Teachers Pay Teachers bemoan the fact that teachers aren’t designing their own lessons. They make the specious claim that teachers should be customizing lessons because each class is different and only a teacher who knows her students well can design an optimal lesson for those students’ particular needs. This argument is usually self-serving and detached from reality. People are far more alike than they are different. Third graders sitting in a Montana classroom are not different enough from third graders sitting in a Michigan classroom to justify the creation of customized lessons. Most teachers know this, which is why they’re perfectly fine using lessons created by other people, whether those people work for Pearson or are teachers in a neighboring state.

While I have argued that canned programs and easily available Common Core-aligned lessons have destroyed teacher motivation by removing autonomy from the classroom and robbing teachers of one of the more enjoyable aspects of the job (the creation of materials), I’m also a realist who knows that we would quickly accelerate the pace at which teachers are quitting if we expected them to still create all their own materials with all of the other expectations we’ve placed on them in the last 20 years. Most teachers have zero training in curriculum design, and for the sake of their own energy and mental health, they should take advantage of the fact that there are hundreds of lessons on nearly every topic at the click of a mouse. Chances are strong you’re not going to create the best bar graph lesson on the planet. Hundreds of better ones already exist; teachers should use them and save their time for the ridiculous number of other things they’re expected to do. 

Returning to the bar graph example, once I’ve decided I want to teach students how to make bar graphs in a more engaging way than that offered by my district-adopted curriculum, I now have a second choice:  I can create my own more exciting bar graph lesson or I can save my time for other things, especially since I know full well that there are probably hundreds of more exciting bar graph lessons on the Internet. I might even have an idea. I want students to graph the colors of Skittles in those little fun-size packets you get at Halloween. I could create my own bar graph template thing or I could click a few times, maybe spend a buck, and print out 25 of them in about two minutes. As someone who has to teach reading, writing, science, social studies, and math lessons every day, I can tell you that this is no choice at all. When I google “Skittles bar graph lesson,” guess which website shows up first? Why in the world would I spend my most precious resource making something that already exists and that’s probably better than anything I’m going to design? (And if you think you can make a better lesson than the hundreds already out there, then I invite you to read The IKEA Effect of Lesson Creation.)

Why Teachers Pay Teachers Is Not the Problem

It’s important to remember that Teachers Pay Teachers is a marketplace. As such, it’s no different from a Moroccan bazaar or a supermarket. Just like Amazon and your local Piggly Wiggly, there are some shady players operating within the marketplace and not everything available is of high quality. You can buy fresh fruit or a box of donuts. A good pillow or a flat P.O.S. A standards-aligned, high-engagement lesson on reducing fractions or a fluffy waste of time with lots of cutting and coloring. It’s up to the consumer to find what they need.  Any criticism of Teachers Pay Teachers is almost always a criticism of the buyers and sellers using Teachers Pay Teachers. The solution is not to remove all the junk but to educate consumers on junk’s identifying characteristics.

Some TpT and Pinterest critics lament that teachers are neglecting better resources for the ease of TpT. They point to excellent content on other websites. They share links and try to convince teachers that this site over here has excellent NGSS resources, and they’re free! This blog over here written by this high-performing math teacher is excellent and she shares free resources that align tightly with the standards. The state of Florida has links to standards-aligned content that’s been rated by some other website as high-quality.

But that’s the problem! TpT is like Amazon for many teachers: it’s the first place they check and it often shows up at the top of Google’s search results.

My local hardware store might be selling better nails at a lower price, but I’m still probably going to get my nails from Amazon because it’s faster, I’ve purchased other things from them before and been pleased with the results, and I don’t have to search high and low for the nails.

If there are people out there creating great stuff for teachers, they should be selling or giving away that stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers, just like brick and mortar stores list their products on Amazon. Content creators must go where the customers are, not expect the customers to find them, no matter how good (or inexpensive) their stuff is. That’s why my books are available on Amazon and I don’t sell them out of my garage. If Teachers Pay Teachers is where teachers are going to look for resources, then people who make excellent resources should offer their content there, not try to convince millions of people to visit thirty different websites which are always changing.

Inconsistent Arguments

Finally, every criticism of teachers who use Teachers Pay Teachers runs into a logical consistency problem.

If you think teachers should collaborate with colleagues in their building or via social media and share materials they’ve used successfully with students, then why would you have a problem with Teachers Pay Teachers, where teachers do the exact same thing but on a larger scale? Why would the size of the user pool change the quality of the lesson? Why would the fact that the products cost money negatively affect their quality?

If you believe teachers are, in fact, capable of creating excellent lessons, then why would you assume teachers are not offering excellent lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers?

If you think teachers are only buying garbage from Teachers Pay Teachers, then how can you have any confidence that they will be able to distinguish garbage from high-quality materials outside of Teachers Pay Teachers?

If you believe teachers should create their own lessons instead of downloading them, then why would you have confidence that teachers who can’t recognize quality content on Teachers Pay Teachers would be able to create quality content on their own? That’s like expecting a person who doesn’t know how to assess the quality of a car to be able to build a good one on their own.

 

There are many problems with education today. Too many students receive low-quality instruction. We would be better off if districts ensured their teachers knew the standards, provided those teachers with high-quality, standards-aligned curricula, and trained their teachers in its effective use. But blaming Teachers Pay Teachers for providing a marketplace where well-meaning teachers do what they’ve been doing since the beginning of formal education is directing your ire in the wrong direction. Teachers, almost all of them, want their students to learn and they do what they can to provide the best education within limits that are usually beyond their ability to control. Teachers Pay Teachers does nothing more than provide these teachers with a place to find materials other teachers have used. That some of those materials are good and some are bad doesn’t make Teachers Pay Teachers a problem; it makes it the same as every other marketplace.

 

 

 

Rural Teachers Should Consider Social Work as a Supplemental/Alternate Career Path

A guest post by Frankie Wallace

 

You may have fine-tuned your teaching style over the years, spent countless hours creating your lesson plans, and researched everything there is to know not just about the subjects you teach but how the students themselves learn. And yet, if you’re a teacher — and one working in a rural school in particular — chances are it doesn’t matter how good your track record is, you’re still probably being underpaid. At a certain point, the truth sinks in, it’s hard to make a decent living as a rural teacher. It’s a realization that is all too familiar to rural teachers throughout the United States.

But as you stand there, scratching your head and fighting between the fact that you entered this profession to help children learn and find their potential … but you still need to pay your bills on time, don’t give up. Your case isn’t hopeless. While opportunities for advancement and career success can tend to stall within the rural teaching profession, there is another option that has become more and more appealing in recent years. We’re talking about social work.

Here are some of the reasons struggling rural teachers should consider supplementing their income as a social worker.

The Teacher’s End of the Deal

Let’s first take a look at the personal side of the equation, breaking down some of the pros and cons that affect you, the teacher, when considering the social worker option within your existing career.

 

The Benefits of a Social Work Side Hustle

The first and most obvious answer here is cold, hard cash. While you may pour your heart into your teaching, as we already touched on, at some point you’ve got to pay that mortgage so you don’t become that crazy teacher living out of their car. But there are other reasons besides financial factors at work here.

One easily overlooked benefit is the fact that the two career choices — teaching and social work — tend to work within very similar fields. While one is focused on teaching students, both highlight that innate human desire to come alongside those who are in need and help them through adversity. The complementary nature of both careers makes it much easier to “double up” by becoming certified for both.

Yet another great modern advantage to broadening your career into the realm of social work is that you can get many certifications and even full-fledged degrees online with little difficulty and often at your own pace these days. This doesn’t only make the education and credentials of becoming a social worker more easily accessible, though. It also allows you, if desired, to go the whole nine yards and create an entire alternative career path as a possibility for the future.

The need for social workers isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, it’s projected that the number of workers required may rise a hefty 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. That provides a nice career safety net, freeing up any struggling rural teacher who might otherwise have few other options.

 

How Extra Work Can Push You Too Far

Of course, as any educating veteran will tell you, teaching is anything but a relaxing career choice, with most teachers constantly struggling to keep their heads above the water. After all, the average modern teacher is dealing with a variety of challenges including an increasingly recognized diversity in learning styles within their own classrooms.

That said, you need to make sure to avoid burnout in the quest for supplemental income. After all, it’s estimated that teachers make approximately 1,500 decisions a day. Therefore, it’s important to keep perspective when trying to weigh your options. It’s also helpful to remember that there are ways to avoid that mental and physical burnout such as exercise, yoga, and that age-old favorite, an afternoon cup o’ joe.

The Student’s End of the Deal

While the pros and cons to a teacher of going the social worker route are fairly straightforward, they aren’t the only things to consider. There are far-reaching external impacts that any social worker can make as well, many of which are as profound as any teacher might find themselves producing within the classroom.

 

Why Are Social Workers Needed in Rural Areas in Particular?

It’s a tragic fact that students in rural areas tend to struggle profoundly with both direct issues like substance abuse as well as more indirect (yet still nefarious) elements like low socioeconomic status. While the former can be detrimental to one’s health and even lethal in certain cases, the latter can be just as debilitating in the long term, as the lack of career opportunities that most rural students face can be crippling.

Thus, becoming a social worker in a rural area can allow a teacher to also aid in the battle against things like the ever-worsening opioid crisis as well as get hands-on experience in the struggle for their students to succeed after school hours and outside of the classroom. After all, when it comes to social work, students are just the tip of the iceberg, with rural social workers diving into the heart of one of the U.S.’s most actively struggling demographics. Their service is required not just for schools but for hospitals, nonprofits, and even prisons.

Don’t Give Up!

If you’re a rural teacher, don’t give up hope. The struggle to make ends meet may be very real, but it isn’t one with zero alternatives. Considering social work as a viable supplemental income or even an alternative career path is an excellent option that has become both accessible and needed in the modern era more than ever before.

 

If you liked this article, you may want to consider giving this one on creating inclusive classrooms for students with disabilities a gander, as well.

“Is It Paid?”

A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I received an email from our principal asking who would like to join a new committee that central office had created. It seemed they wanted someone from each grade level. There are three third grade teachers in my building. None of us wanted to do it. One was pursuing her doctorate. I was already piloting a new science program and, being the new guy, had taken one for the team and signed on to attend bi-monthly leadership team meetings. That left the third teacher — let’s call her Joyce — as next man up and she knew it.

I sometimes wonder if anything would ever get done in a school if it weren't for guilt. Click To Tweet

I sometimes wonder if anything would ever get done in a school if it weren’t for guilt. Because guilt was the only reason Joyce even considered accepting this request. She wasn’t interested in the committee’s work and she’d served on district committees in the past whose recommendations had been ignored. Joyce can be a bit disagreeable, though, so she wasn’t just going to roll over. Instead, she replied to the principal with one question.

It’s a question I suspect few professionals outside of education are ever forced to ask or even wonder.

“Is it paid?”

A hush fell over the crowd.

For some reason, this question is considered impertinent in education. They’re the words of a sassy six-year-old talking back to her mother. How dare teachers ask such a thing? Shouldn’t the opportunity to do good by the students of our communities be enough? What are we, greedy opportunists who operate transactionally, only volunteering our time if we can personally benefit? Aren’t we team players? Don’t we want what’s best for kids?

Joyce knew all this. She relayed the story to us with the unmistakable glee of a rebel who’s just defiantly thumbed her nose at Authority and was now waiting to see how Authority would fight back.

Authority replied via email: “I’ll look into it.”

Which meant it wasn’t paid.

In a just world, the question should never need to be asked. Professionals should be paid for their time. Employers should offer to do so. It should be the expectation, not a favor. There should be no need to “look into it” because the answer should be, “Of course it’s paid! Why would you even ask such an outlandish thing?”

The education world is not just. Because if anything, teachers are more entitled to extra pay than other professionals when you consider the fact that teachers’ extra work will never personally benefit them unless they are paid.

Lawyers work crazy hours in the hopes of making partner.

Small business owners burn the midnight oil because they’re investing in something they hope will pay off in the end.

New hires slave away to impress their boss enough to receive a promotion.

There are no promotions in education. Every extra minute of unpaid work that a teacher performs beyond their contract is done solely for the benefit of others. They will personally receive nothing, ever. There is no brighter tomorrow because you sacrificed today. Teachers start over every fall.

Which is why “Is it paid?” should be only a first step. The real question ought to be, “How much does it pay?” And the answer to that question should determine whether or not you’ll take on additional responsibilities. Because there is a cost to doing so. There are no free lunches. Give here and you’ll have less to give over there. Every decision is a trade-off, so the question really becomes, “What are you willing to give up to take on this new task, and how much should you be compensated in order to do so?”

The answer should never be nothing.

We all place a value on our time, but districts force us to place their value on our time. Most offer an hourly stipend that can’t be negotiated by individual teachers asked to do more work. When we’re lucky enough to be offered extra duty pay, it’s a Hobson’s choice — take it or leave it. Most of us take it because we’ve been conditioned to be grateful for anything, even an amount well below what we think our time is worth (and also typically well below the “hourly rate” we earn teaching).

Teachers should demand more. We can’t expect our employers to value our time when we give it away so cheaply.

Districts should pay more. They have in their employ a group of professionals who regularly tell us they are stressed, overworked, and exhausted. People are fleeing the profession and fewer replacements are joining the ranks. It’s exploitative to ask people who are telling you they are overwhelmed to do more and not offer to pay them fairly for it.

Since teachers already have too much to do, district leaders should not ask them to do more unless the time they are asking them to spend on the new work will be of greater value than the time they would have spent on their own work. And if you can’t afford to pay teachers to join your new committee, then you can’t afford to have a new committee.

If the work is important, pay people to do it. If the work is really important, pay them more. And if it’s not that important, then why are you asking your teachers to do it? They already have enough to do.

If the work is important, pay people to do it. If the work is really important, pay them more. And if it's not that important, then why are you asking your teachers to do it? They already have enough to do. Click To Tweet

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Related:

Teachers’ Extra Hours Are Different

How Teachers Can Give Themselves a Raise

American Teachers Should Work Less

Dear Teachers, Please Go Home

 

When Teachers Should Work For Free

Regular readers of this blog know that I believe professionals should be paid for their work. I believe it even more strongly for teachers because unlike their counterparts in business, teachers will never earn a promotion or a pay raise based on their willingness to donate their labor. While others may put in 60 hours of work each week, many of them do so with the belief that they will personally benefit from such a sacrifice at a later date. That’s why I bristle when people who aren’t teachers make the argument that everybody puts in extra hours, so teachers should quit whining. Teachers’ extra hours are different because those hours are almost always given selflessly, which is why asking teachers to donate them is exploitative.

That said, there are times when teachers should be willing to work for free.  Here are four.

To Set Up Their Classrooms

Let me be clear. Teachers should be paid to set up their classrooms. They aren’t doing it for fun, they’re doing it because their work, which is done on behalf of the school district, requires that it be done. The logistics are tricky for the district, though. Should teachers who spend 20 hours Pinterizing their rooms be paid more than minimalists who only spend 3? Might not some teachers, those without kids or who dislike their spouses, perhaps,  just spend eight hours a day for an entire week, tinkering around in their rooms, so they can pile up the dough? It’s easy to see why districts don’t offer an hourly rate to teachers for this work.

Districts could, however, and should, offer a flat-rate. Respectful employers should negotiate a dollar amount to give every teacher, knowing that every teacher will be spending some time setting up their classrooms. They never will because they don’t have to and they know it. They know that no self-respecting teacher is going to show up at the school open house or the first day of class without having most things in place. District leaders also know that they will not be blamed if teachers do exactly that and say, “Well, the district won’t pay me to come in, so I don’t.” That makes the teacher look bad, not the district. If it makes you look bad in front of kids and parents, you will work for free, and so you will continue to do so. It isn’t ideal, but it’s understandable, and there’s probably no fixing this particular practice.

To Make Your Job Easier

As much as I wish it were not true, there is no way to do this job without putting in some time outside of your contractual hours. Having done this for 18 years now, 15 of them at the same grade level and with the same district, I have a ton of advantages that many teachers don’t enjoy. I’m familiar with the curriculum. I have a library of lessons that can be counted on. I’ve found efficiencies through trial and error. I am able to leave school at school almost every night by focusing on what’s most important, constantly asking myself why I am doing what I am doing, utilizing technology, and taking practical steps like getting rid of homework and focusing on written feedback instead of grades in writing (I write about these strategies and others in my book, Leave School At School).

Even so, I still come in 45 minutes to an hour before school every day. There are just too many things to do. Not coming in early would add considerable stress and make the job all but impossible, which is why one of the dumbest things unions do when they are in the middle of contentious contract negotiations is tell their teachers to work to the contract. Teachers hate doing this because it makes their job even harder than it already is. Being unprepared makes everything more stressful.

Work for free when doing so makes your job easier.

To Have a Say

I have served on three interview teams and I wasn’t paid for any of them. These were full days, requiring me to drive 30 minutes each way without any reimbursement and listen to new teacher candidates earnestly share why they would be the best hire. This was time given to my district to help them select the best people to educate the kids in their community.

I have also served on a district committee to evaluate a new reading program, and I know a number of teachers who joined a team of fellow teachers, district leaders, and community members when the district went through restructuring. While all of this work was performed on behalf of their employer, it was all consequential to teachers. I want to have a say in who my colleagues will be, which reading program I’ll be forced to use, and how a transition to a new building will be handled.

Teachers should be willing to work for free to have a say in their work conditions.

To Personally Benefit

Money is not the only form of compensation. Teachers might choose to work for free if they personally benefit in other ways. If you are passionate about something, then working for free won’t bother you because you’re doing something you love and your “pay” is the joy you feel while doing it. I work with a teacher who is passionate about Make a Difference Day. Most years, she spends hours coming up with and implementing ideas to make this day special for the whole school.  She derives immense pleasure from it, more satisfaction than any amount of money would give her (well, maybe not any amount).

I am an unpaid member of the district’s technology team, but that doesn’t mean I’m working for free. First, I like technology and use it a lot in class. It’s made my teaching more efficient, relevant, and fun. So I benefit in those ways. Second, I like knowing and having some influence on what direction the district is heading in with respect to technology and I enjoy bringing staff concerns to the district. Third, I benefit because members of the tech team receive piloted devices and programs. I had one of the first Chromebooks in the district and I have one of a handful of SMART boards in my classroom. I’m being “paid” in other ways, so I’m willing to work for something other than money.

Be Careful

The danger comes when teachers see their entire job this way. When you claim that teaching is your passion, you’ll be willing to take on countless extra duties without pay. If teaching truly is your calling, you’ll feel no resentment over serving on every committee and attending every after-school event. Rather than exhaust and demoralize you, you’ll get a charge out of it.

The problem is this: While you may enjoy donating your time, many of your colleagues do not. And when enough teachers are willing to work for free, working for free becomes an expectation and those who don’t do it suffer unfair reputational harm.  No teacher should feel like they have to work for free. Years of selfless teachers giving away their time has led to a culture of exploitation. Districts don’t even think twice about asking teachers to work for nothing.

So be careful. Although your motives may be pure and you really want to do whatever it takes to help kids, the consequences of working for free can hurt your colleagues and it already has hurt the profession as a whole.

 

Related Articles:

Teachers’ Extra Hours Are Different

American Teachers Should Work Less

Dear Teachers, Please Go Home

 

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