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How Freelancing is Changing the Teaching Profession

Charles Silberman

Teachers work hard, often coming in early and leaving late to plan their lessons and finish all the tasks required of them. Even though teachers have built-in planning breaks, there never seems to be enough time in the day for their other responsibilities: Meetings with support staff, planning meetings with administration and grade-level chairs, grading, professional development, training, parent conferences, and tutoring students.

According to a new report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, within the teaching profession, teachers work 10 hours and 40 minutes a day on average, which is a 53-hour work week. Teachers work about three hours over the average workday and 15 hours over the normal work week. In the 15 years I’ve been a teacher, I have seen responsibilities grossly out of proportion to the allotted time to achieve them.    

The good news is that times have changed. Technology now offers teachers opportunities to become more efficient. Aside from advances like websites that offer premade resources and smartboards that make teaching more interactive, teachers now have the Gig Economy to help support their efforts. Fiverr is one example of a Gig Economy company that can help teachers. With a marketplace of freelancers offering services ranging from PowerPoint design to lesson plan creation, the platform offers a solution for teachers to outsource many of their tasks. These services can help change the way teaching profession, and below are some examples of how they can do that. 

Classroom Design  

Designing a classroom is a time-consuming task at the start of a school year. Hanging bulletin boards and posters requires planning and time that could be outsourced. By hiring a freelancer as a virtual assistant (VA), teachers can explain their visions and needs and have that VA create the materials so teachers simply have to print, laminate, and hang.

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Teaching Material

From finding worksheets to creating presentations, preparing teaching materials is an involved process. While standards govern what is taught, they do not always govern how it’s taught. Teachers can hire freelancers to create custom crossword puzzles, animated videos, PowerPoint presentations, coloring sheets, short stories, handouts, handbooks, sample projects, and games. The amount of sheer creativity and possibility that freelancers offer teachers to aid in sourcing and creating material cannot be overestimated.

Organization

Teachers have multiple organization systems between keeping track of grades, grading papers, creating lesson plans, and storing student information. The task of even creating these systems can be a time burner. A freelancer can help teachers by creating spreadsheets to capture grades, databases to capture student antidotes, or systems to manage their classrooms.

Lesson Planning 

Some freelancers specialize in writing lesson plans for specific subjects, while others offer lesson plans aligned to the common core. Imagine a teacher who knows he or she will be out for a few days. Rather than spending time making substitute plans, that teacher could work with freelancers to come up with appropriate lessons to provide the substitute well before the day arrives, focusing his or her attention on other matters that creep up before an absence.

Communication

Teachers must communicate with parents over the phone, through letters, flyers, and online. Each document must be proofed to ensure it goes home perfectly. In some cases, the material must be translated to another language. Freelancers can design eye-catching flyers, write captivating letters, build engaging websites, and translate documents. Teachers can have dynamic material that stands out instead of getting passed over in the folder of papers that go home at the end of the day.

Second-Language Learners 

Many teachers across the U.S. have students who are learning English for the first time. While the ESOL team works with students to learn English, they can fall behind. Through the Gig Economy, teachers can hire someone to translate worksheets for students, come up with a list of common phrases the teacher or students can use as a cheat sheet to understand each other, or create other material in the student's first language. This kind of service is invaluable in helping students stay ahead of their workloads.

Clerical 

Teachers have a lot of clerical work to do. From grading papers to writing reports, there is no shortage of secretarial type work to be done. A virtual assistant freelancer or freelance editor is something that can be used to assist in these processes. Teachers can use such services to ensure reports and other materials that will pass in front of students, administrators or parents are edited to be error free. They can use a virtual assistant to help with other clerical responsibilities, such as creating a fillable form to reuse throughout the course of a school year.

The Gig Economy is powerful. It can be used to outsource both mundane and repetitive tasks, as well as more involved and meaningful projects. In doing so, teachers act as any business would by using freelancers to replace or build parts of their organization to save time and money. By democratizing their classroom responsibilities, teachers could arguably get back the extra time they spend working. Cost should be no barrier, as services like these can often be written off during tax season and freelancers on platforms like Fiverr start as low as $5, which is no more than a school lunch. The valuable time the teacher would get back to focus on teaching and the exemplary product they would get in return for the investment are currencies that would benefit the students. A one-time cost can turn into a lifetime of savings, and it can impact the way teachers teach.