Does it Matter what Teachers Own?
Teachers in public K12 classrooms have some very basic similarities. We create, carry out, and then redo our lesson plans. We use the common arrow in our plan book to indicate the extra effort on the part of all in the classroom to internalize the material that much more. And then we repeat. We were trained to sustain this continual churn in our teacher preparation classes, because this is what teachers have always done.
Right up until the Internet was added in to our cycle. Now teachers add into the mix the exchange between their lesson plans and the Internet. If a teacher is willing to search, there is content to enrich classrooms and lessons. But what if instead of spending time searching for content a teacher prefers to buy the content at a well-known website instead?
Now, it matters what teachers own. Because now there is profit to be made.
What is the Debate?
Employers hire a teacher for a set of skills. They can extrapolate skills from your resume and your references. Employers do not necessarily hire you for the products you may create, but they have a reasonable certainty of the type(s) of content you can create when they hire you. And many employers expect those work products are theirs.
As an educator you own those skills. You paid for your education, you worked in different educational settings. You honed your craft. But if employers provide you the means and you create something in furtherance of a work task, the product is strictly a work product.
Or is it?
Using an employers hardware, software, or time make it a work product. However, it is reasonable to argue if you use your skills outside an employer’s time, on your own hardware and software that product is yours. It becomes even easier to defend as your sole property if you do not use it within your classroom. You could say teachers do not own the products you create for classroom use, but the skills to reproduce a similar product with similar tools.
How to Keep it Legit
Respect the time and resources your district provides and use them as the district intends. Your district likely intends you to create lesson plans for your classroom demographic, using their scope and sequence, their available resources. Your district expects you to complete this task with the resources with which they provide.
In order for you to create something outside of the claim of the district, you would have to create it: outside school time, on your own computer, and with software and/or accounts which do NOT belong to the school. To better your case for your-product-not-theirs: the content could be outside your regular student-audience, outside the curriculum which you are currently teaching, and words and graphics should NOT be used from your daily teaching tasks.
The (NEA) has a suggested stance on lesson plans, but instead of being litigious consider some intentional planning to avoid the question altogether
While online content created may confuse the issue, consider always creating a sharing from a personal (Google)drive to school to create a path of ownership. Seek out parallel, free versions of what you have become familiar with through the classroom and use those to produce anything you attempt to sell. (free, smaller versions yet have same file types)
NEA education states: “…employees should own the copyright to materials that they create in the course of their employment. There should be an appropriate “teacher’s exception” to the “works made for hire” doctrine, pursuant to which works created by education employees in the course of their employment are owned by the employee. This exception should reflect the unique practices and traditions of academia.statement.” But short of hiring a lawyer to enforce the modest amounts you may make selling your creations, why not just work to avoid any misunderstandings?