Every teacher has likely been saved, at one time or another, by lesson plans that come from somewhere other than his or her own head —the Internet, a teachers' guide, another teacher. But when the source is a close colleague, things can get dicey. Junior High School Teacher recently blogged about the frustration she felt when another teacher—who had been a student teacher in her own classroom a few years ago—commandeered key parts of a beloved poetry unit (right down to the same poems as examples) to use in her class. Then, when the 7th grade students from that teacher's class got to JHS Teacher's 8th grade class the next year, they complained that they'd already done the unit. JHS poses this very valid question:

How do we go about differentiating between ripping off another teacher's lessons, and sharing our expertise? I know I've used things almost word-for-word I've found on-line or which other teachers have given me. I'm also quite perturbed right now about my poetry unit. Where do you draw the line? Should there be a line?

Sounds like a good issue for teachers to puzzle over during the summer months.


I think that seventh grade teacher ripped you off. Sharing the ideas would have been great but using the same poetry? It's important for kids to get great education, and it is important for us all to share, but that teacher added nothing of her own, she didn't adapt. You have a right to say, I would really appreciate it if you'd use your own materials. I'm flattered that you've copied the idea. I'm even glad because it's a good unit. But please allow me to keep the heart of my unit."

Not being a teacher and totally igornant of such matters, my initial reaction is that I did not realize that lesson plan were so static. I would have imagined that as teachers grow and learn about themselves and their students that lesson plans were evolve and change. Hence the fact that someone else was using a lesson plan from last year would be irrevelant.

We educators have always BBSed begged, barrowed and stole ideas from each other.
All though it would have been nice to know so you didn't repeat the lesson, you should be honored that they thought it was so great.

In teaching we often use material that has been developed by others. Entire text books have been written by other people. A written lesson plan is written for a purpose. It is an aid to the teacher. If it works, it is helpful. The most original idea has probably already been thought of and may even be written down somewhere. Great minds and not so great minds think alike. If one feels guilty about using someone else's lesson plan or curriculum , one should give credit where credit is due. This isn't my idea. I found it on the internet or another teacher gave this lesson to me.
Teaching is a constant search for what works. Using another's lesson plan is not ripping off, it is using a tool that works.

As a new teacher, I have borrowed ideas from other teachers but only with their permission. Teachers share all the time but it simply makes sense to take something and make it your own rather than simply take it verbatim and steal it. If these teachers were in other schools or other school districts, it might not matter but in the same system so that students from one will flow to the other, it just doesn't make any sense.

Lesson plans are not static but neither are they re-invented each and every year. The work that goes into creating an entire unit on Poetry is not something that a teacher can do and re-do each year.

Stealing is never okay. Let's not blame the person who had her ideas and hardwork stolen for being upset about it. All the other person had to do was ASK!

I wouldn't have survived my first years of teaching had it not been for borrowing lesson plans. I usually modified them to suit the needs of my students. At the same time, I am sympathetic to the teacher who created the poetry unit because once you've got a solid lesson or unit plan in hand, you want to be able to use it each year. The 7th grade teacher should've thought of that -- not so much from an "it belongs to her" perspective, but more so from the perspective of simple courtesy.

That said, I'm wondering if the 8th grade teacher can capitalize on the foundation the 7th graders got from experiencing her lesson plan and build on that by taking her original poetry plan to a new level somehow.

I teach 7th grade literature in a small district and we share lessons and/or ideas all the time. However, if I am borrowing from another teacher - even if it is a book (like spelling words) I make sure to not repeat what they are doing with it unless we are the same grade level. The worst thing for a teacher is to have an entire class tell you they already did this. And for it to be exact is horrible. There needs to be some common curtosy applied it looks like. I tend to tweak my lesson plans each year so they are never the same (otherwise I would get very bored).

Dragon Page With Class

I have run into something very similar. A 6th grade teacher explained how she taught " Casey at the Bat" in her classes. My thinking was WHY? it is in the 8th grade text with emphasis on what needs to be learned then. she really spoiled it for the kids and the teachers. Kids will complain they've done it already and the key literary components that are geared for that grade will be overlooked. The kicker was that the 6th grade teacher had to have "found"and created a lesson when there was a huge book of work she would not have time to cover right there for her to use. The 7th grade and 8th grade teachers will expect certain skills to be covered that have not.

This was quite a read. I visited the author's blog for the full version, and after reading through the comments their, posted my own.

Seeing the comments here, though, makes me wonder if this blogboard isn't doing something quite similar to jhsteacher's colleague. I can't help but feel all the comments above this one belong on her blog, as they're essentially feedback on her article; essentially her feedback.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have encountered her article if it weren't for this site and I'm grateful. I mean to be more contemplative than critical here. I merely think that, well, we have some more thinking to do when it comes to an increasingly networked model of digital publishing.

Keep up the good work!

Line 2:
There, rather. Forgive me.

Of course, we all look around for more interesting ways of doing something. Even before the internet, we went to conferences with lesson exchanges. Teachers, by virtue of our nurturing natures, like to share ideas that will help others.
I think the problem is more of a scope and sequence problem. English teachers have been reluctant to insist that certain skills and literature must be taught in specific grades, and then expect it to be so. I should be able to assume that all 10th graders read Julius Caesar, for example. Then when I teach Hamlet in 12th grade, I don't have to reteach iambic pentameter, the Shakespearian theater, etc. I also should be able to assume that a 6th grade teacher won't teach Julius Caesar.
If we could count on a few classics being taught in each grade, we would still have enough flexibility to add new literature that stands outside the required readings.
While we still might step on each others' toes with the flexible part of our curriculum, I think the incidents would be reduced.

My sister has had this problem with her history/art projects. A particular 2nd grade teacher repeatedly uses projects created by my sister for students my sister would have in the 3rd grade. There's no way to be secretive with large projects!

I'm happy to teach 9th grade: Eighth grade is so "far away."

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