Why Teachers Pay Teachers Is Bad: A Comprehensive Analysis

Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) is an online marketplace where educators can buy and sell original teaching materials and lesson plans. At first glance, it seems like a great resource for busy teachers. However, if you dig deeper, there are some significant drawbacks to using TPT that you should consider.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: TPT encourages teachers to profit from work they’re already paid to do, creates inequality in resources across schools, and facilitates plagiarism and copyright infringement.

There are better collaborative platforms that allow free sharing of materials.

In this comprehensive 3000 word guide, we will analyze the pros and cons of Teachers Pay Teachers in detail, including perspectives from teachers, potential legal issues, effects on resource equity, and alternative approaches to collaboration and sharing teaching materials.

Background and Overview of Teachers Pay Teachers

History and growth of TPT

Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) was founded in 2006 by Paul Edelman and Michael Ciullo, two former public school teachers who saw a need for an online marketplace where educators could buy and sell original classroom materials. The platform started small but grew quickly as word spread among teachers.

By 2010, TPT was processing $1 million per month in sales. The company has expanded significantly since then – as of 2022, TPT has over 7 million users and sees more than $300 million in annual transactions!

A few key factors have driven TPT’s rapid growth over the past 15+ years:

  • Word-of-mouth marketing among teachers – educators tell each other about great resources on TPT
  • Rise of the gig economy – teachers are increasingly supplementing their income via online platforms
  • Need for customized materials – many teachers want resources tailored to their specific curriculum and students
  • Desire to save time – TPT provides ready-made materials so teachers don’t have to create everything from scratch

While some criticize TPT for commercializing classroom materials, the site’s popularity speaks to its ability to meet a real need for educators. For many teachers, the platform allows them to exchange ideas and earn extra income doing what they love.

How TPT works – process for buyers and sellers

For buyers:

  1. Browse materials by grade level, subject, resource type, price, seller rating, etc.
  2. Purchase and download resources (individual worksheets, lesson plans, activities, etc.) instantly
  3. Provide a rating and feedback for the seller
  4. Access purchased resources at any time from their TPT account

For sellers:

  1. Create an educator account
  2. Upload original classroom materials, like worksheet templates, interactive notebooks, assessments
  3. Add resource details like title, description, applicable grades/subjects, preview images
  4. Set a price for each resource (TPT takes a commission of 40% on sales)
  5. Buyers purchase and download resources, leaving feedback
  6. Sellers get paid monthly through direct deposit

This marketplace model allows teachers to easily find and access a huge range of customizable materials relevant to their classrooms. It provides supplemental income to teacher-creators.

Popularity and user statistics

Here are some key stats showing TPT’s immense popularity:

  • Over 7 million active teacher accounts
  • Used by over 75% of all K-12 teachers in the U.S. (around 3 million teachers)
  • Over 730,000 resources available from over 1 million seller accounts
  • An average of 27 products are sold every minute on TPT
  • Total sales exceeded $300 million in 2021

Teachers Pay Teachers has clearly become a go-to hub for educators to find resources, exchange ideas, and earn extra income. The site’s massive user base and rapid growth reflect how well it meets teachers’ needs in the digital age by providing a centralized marketplace for educator-created materials.

Perspectives on TPT from Teachers

Positive viewpoints – extra income, creative outlet, community

Many teachers find Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) to be a valuable platform that offers several benefits. Firstly, it provides an opportunity for teachers to earn extra income by sharing their educational resources with a wider audience.

This additional income can help alleviate some of the financial burdens that teachers often face.

Moreover, TPT allows teachers to showcase their creativity and innovation by creating and selling their own materials. This serves as a creative outlet for educators to express their unique teaching styles and approaches.

It also encourages teachers to constantly develop and improve their instructional materials.

Additionally, TPT fosters a sense of community among teachers. It provides a platform for educators to connect, collaborate, and support one another. Teachers can share ideas, exchange feedback, and learn from each other’s experiences.

This sense of camaraderie can be incredibly valuable, especially in a profession that can sometimes feel isolating.

Criticisms – double-dipping, incentivizes bad practices

Despite the positive aspects, there are valid criticisms of TPT as well. One common criticism is that it allows teachers to “double-dip” by profiting from resources they create using school resources and time.

Some argue that teachers should focus solely on their teaching responsibilities and not engage in commercial activities.

Another concern is that TPT may incentivize the creation and sale of lower-quality materials. As teachers strive to earn extra income, there is a possibility that the focus on monetary gain may overshadow the educational value of the resources.

This could potentially lead to the proliferation of subpar materials that do not adequately support student learning.

Anecdotes and experiences

Teachers have shared various anecdotes and experiences regarding their use of TPT. Some have expressed gratitude for the platform, as it has allowed them to supplement their curriculum with engaging and high-quality resources created by fellow educators.

Others have highlighted the sense of fulfillment they experience when their resources are positively received and utilized by teachers around the world.

However, there have also been instances where teachers have encountered challenges with TPT. Some have found it difficult to navigate the vast amount of resources available, making it challenging to find the most appropriate materials for their specific needs.

Others have expressed frustration with the pricing structure, feeling that some resources are overpriced or that the cost of accessing quality materials adds an additional burden to their already limited budgets.

The Problem of Inequitable Resource Access

One of the key issues with the Teachers Pay Teachers platform is the problem of inequitable resource access. This means that not all teachers have equal opportunities to access high-quality teaching materials and resources. Let’s explore some of the ways this problem manifests:

Widens gap between well-funded and poorly-funded schools

The reliance on paid resources on Teachers Pay Teachers can widen the gap between well-funded and poorly-funded schools. Teachers in schools with limited budgets may struggle to afford the premium resources, while teachers in well-funded schools have the means to purchase them.

This exacerbates educational inequality, as students in well-funded schools have access to a wider range of resources, giving them an advantage over their peers in less well-funded schools.

Disadvantages new, overwhelmed, and less tech-savvy teachers

Teachers Pay Teachers can also put new, overwhelmed, and less tech-savvy teachers at a disadvantage. These teachers may not have the time, energy, or technical skills to sift through the vast amount of resources available on the platform.

As a result, they may miss out on valuable teaching materials that could enhance their classroom instruction. This further widens the gap between experienced teachers who are familiar with the platform and their less tech-savvy counterparts.

Can exclude students from lower-income families

Another concerning aspect of Teachers Pay Teachers is the potential exclusion of students from lower-income families. Many of the resources on the platform come at a cost, and not all families can afford to purchase them.

This means that students from lower-income backgrounds may be at a disadvantage, as they don’t have access to the same resources as their more affluent peers. This further perpetuates the opportunity gap in education and hinders the goal of providing equal educational opportunities for all students.

It is important to address these issues to ensure that all teachers and students have equal access to high-quality educational resources. While Teachers Pay Teachers offers a platform for teachers to share and sell their materials, it is crucial to consider the potential consequences of relying solely on this platform for teaching resources.

Plagiarism, Copyright Infringement, and Questionable Practices

Limited protections against copying others’ work

One of the major concerns with the Teachers Pay Teachers platform is the lack of sufficient protections against plagiarism and copying others’ work. While the platform encourages educators to create and share their resources, it also opens the door for unethical practices.

Without proper safeguards, it becomes easier for unscrupulous individuals to pass off someone else’s work as their own, depriving original creators of credit and compensation.

This issue is further compounded by the fact that Teachers Pay Teachers does not have a robust system in place to verify the authenticity of the resources uploaded. While they do have a reporting mechanism for copyright infringement, it is often difficult to enforce and may not provide adequate solutions for creators whose work has been stolen.

Copyright issues around monetizing classroom materials

Another area of concern is the potential copyright infringement that arises when teachers monetize classroom materials on Teachers Pay Teachers. While educators are allowed to sell their resources on the platform, they must ensure that they have the necessary permission to do so.

This becomes particularly challenging when it comes to using copyrighted materials, such as images, excerpts from books, or other proprietary content.

Teachers often find themselves in a legal gray area when it comes to determining what can and cannot be monetized. As a result, they may unknowingly infringe upon copyright laws, exposing themselves to potential legal consequences.

It is crucial for educators to thoroughly research and understand the copyright implications before selling any materials on the platform.

Quality control problems with misleading previews or mistakes

While Teachers Pay Teachers offers a preview feature for resources, it is not foolproof. Some sellers may provide misleading previews that do not accurately represent the quality or content of their resources.

This can lead to disappointment and frustration for teachers who purchase these materials, expecting a certain level of quality.

In addition to misleading previews, there is also the issue of mistakes in the resources themselves. With thousands of resources being uploaded to the platform, it becomes challenging to ensure that each one is error-free.

While Teachers Pay Teachers encourages buyers to leave feedback and reviews, this does not prevent teachers from purchasing resources that contain mistakes or inaccuracies.

Better Alternatives for Teacher Collaboration

Free platforms like BetterLesson, ShareMyLesson

When it comes to teacher collaboration, there are several alternatives to Teachers Pay Teachers that offer free resources and a supportive community. Platforms like BetterLesson and ShareMyLesson provide educators with a wide range of lesson plans, worksheets, and teaching materials shared by fellow teachers.

These platforms also offer forums and discussion boards where teachers can ask questions, share ideas, and engage in meaningful conversations with their peers. By utilizing these free platforms, teachers can access a wealth of resources and tap into the collective wisdom of a diverse community of educators.

Open-source curricula like EngageNY

Another excellent alternative to Teachers Pay Teachers is open-source curricula, such as EngageNY. Open-source curricula are freely available and can be used, modified, and shared by teachers without any restrictions.

EngageNY, for example, offers a comprehensive collection of curriculum materials aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Teachers can access lesson plans, assessments, and other resources that have been developed and vetted by educational experts.

By using open-source curricula, teachers can save time and effort by leveraging existing resources and adapting them to meet the specific needs of their students.

School and district partnerships for sharing

In addition to online platforms and open-source curricula, many schools and districts have established partnerships and networks for sharing educational resources. These partnerships allow teachers to collaborate and share materials within their own school or district, fostering a sense of community and collaboration.

Teachers can participate in professional development workshops, attend conferences, and engage in collaborative projects with their colleagues. By tapping into these local networks, teachers can access a wealth of resources and expertise tailored to their specific context and student population.


While Teachers Pay Teachers provides a popular marketplace for buying and selling teaching materials, there are significant ethical, legal, and equity concerns with its practices. Relying on TPT can exacerbate resource inequality, encourage copyright infringement, and incentivize teachers to profit from their existing work.

Instead of using TPT, teachers should consider free collaboration platforms, open-source curricula, and partnerships within their schools or districts to share materials. With better collaboration and resource-sharing models, we can ensure all students have access to quality educational materials, regardless of their school’s budget.

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