Commercializing the Classroom: Is Putting Ads on a Teacher's Website Ethical?

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Like many teachers, I have been busily investigating best practices for reaching my students and preparing them to be literate citizens in the digital age. One of the many tactics I've implemented in my classroom is a teacher website whereby students and parents can subscribe to receive assignment updates, class announcements, and downloadable classroom handouts.

In order to make the website function in the best way for students, and in order to include plugins allowing me to build interactivity into the site, I purchased my own domain and chose to self-host it through a hosting company using personal money.

My intent was to include only educational material on the site, offering students and parents links to writing and grammar resources, blog posts detailing assignment information and reminders, and access to important handouts. The more I thought about how much of my own money I spend on class resources, however, the more I contemplated including advertisements on the site to recoup some of the money I've spent, not only on this particular website, but on classroom materials in general, from paper and pencils to tissues.


Credit Image: breity on Flickr

Deep in my soul, I knew this crossed some sort of ethical boundary. Still, I couldn't help but wonder: Why shouldn't teachers be able to do this? Students are inundated with ads on a daily basis - on billboards, the radio, television, and social networking sites. After all, we live in a consumerist, commercial society. What's one more ad on a site they visit a few times a week? Would they even notice it on there? And why shouldn't I be able to earn revenue from something I've poured my own time and money into anyway?

I'm not alone in spending my own money to provide students with materials they cannot afford and to improve the learning tools to which they have access. According to CNN Money , "...97% of teachers frequently dip into their own pockets to purchase necessary classroom supplies ... " and the teachers who do spend " ... $350 on average from their own income on school supplies and instructional materials."

Three-hundred-fifty dollars. That's incredible for educators whose salaries, benefits, and school funding are rapidly decreasing while high-stakes learning expectations are increasing.

It seems only fair that, like thousands of companies and institutions across the country do, teachers should be able to use advertising as a way to supplement the cost of learning materials their school budgets don't cover.

I haven't included these advertisements on my teacher website just yet. But I have to admit, I'm edging ever closer to doing so, and as all the reasons why I should do it become apparent, I find myself searching harder for reasons why I shouldn't.

Hibah Yousuf, "The teacher who spends $1000 on her kids," CNN Money


Full-time teacher, mommy, and snark. I have humor in my handbag. And tampons.


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