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Selling is fine... so is sharing

I sometimes come across language teachers who object to buying teacher-produced resources on platforms such as TES. They believe that teachers should be freely sharing their work, not profiting from it. TES for a number of years was a place where you could share resources for nothing, but a while ago they decided to make some money for themselves and for teachers by giving the option to sell worksheets, PowerPoints and so on. TES continues to share free resources. Is selling resources something teachers should welcome or disparage?

To my mind making and selling resources, whether you are a practising teacher or a retired one like me, is just one form of publishing. If you write a textbook, you get a percentage from the publisher. No one finds this odd (apart perhaps from the low percentage you get - about 10% - you don’t get rich on writing language teaching books or textbooks). If you write a resource for TES or Teachers Pay Teachers (popular in the USA) you also get your percentage, but it’s far more generous - up to 70% on TES.

Now, if you work in a school, you need to check out who owns anything you write before you publish via TES (TES doesn’t own it, by the way). Notwithstanding that and other copyright issues, it’s entirely up to you if you want to reap some financial benefit from your work. No teacher should feel guilty about doing that. And yet teachers are often reluctant to sell because they are frequently not the entrepreneurial type and believe they should be freely helping their colleagues. That’s good too. It’s what I did before I retired from the classroom.

Let’s not forget too that teachers are not highly paid compared to many. They may actually need to supplement their income. They do so by giving private tuition, why not by marketing their resources?

Then of course you have those like myself who no longer teach in classrooms but who enjoy writing and helping teachers. Frankly I would be a bit bonkers to do it for nothing!

If I have an issue with TES it’s that you get a good enough preview to judge the quality of a resource (and purchaser reviews are not that numerous). There is clearly some overpriced material on there of dubious quality, not to mention examples of resources copied from elsewhere then uploaded as if they had been written by the uploader. It seems hard to believe people would do that, but they do. I would also imagine there is some blatant infringing of copyright with regard to picture use.

As regards the publishing of books, I can tell you that self-publishing, e.g. via Createspace (Amazon) which we used for The Language Teacher Toolkit is more lucrative than going through a publisher (40% versus about 7-10%). If you are well established on social media, self-publishing is easy to recommend - not only does it mean you are better rewarded, but also you can get the job done more quickly. You are the best publicist for what you write. You lose the services of editors and proof-readers, but this is not a problem if you can get help with this anyway.

In sum I see no reason to be judgmental about teachers who gain financial reward for their work. When there are so many freely shared resources out there, generally speaking, writers need to ensure their resources are of high quality and teachers who purchase need to be fussy, rejecting anything which is of poor value or doubtful quality.


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