Featured Thread: Amplify
Danielle Codey is a high school English teacher in New Jersey. We will be focusing on her, and her experiences, for the next few weeks on the site.
If you are interested in sharing your story on the site, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
This is unfortunately not always the case on forums where anonymity can produce more calloused reactions. When teachers try to explain the difficulties unique to their job in these contexts, the more common response is an eye-roll or a snarky comment on a message board.
Despite this, it is becoming more and more crucial that those outside the profession talk with teachers. Ask us questions about what we do, what our workload is, what degree of professional freedom we have. I guarantee that the answers will surprise anyone that is looking to find out more.
As teachers, we also need to do a better job of explaining these real issues in ways that allow people to better understand us.
With that in mind, we are launching a new hashtag this week, #Talk2Teachers.
We hope that the conversation that occurs at this tag will foster a further understanding of what it is exactly that we do, and how others can help us get there. Hopefully, the people that begin to use it will enter into the conversation with the goal of learning, and listening.
Just like Danielle’s story helped to educate a friend about what things are like out there right now, we hope #Talk2Teachers will bridge the gap between the perception of teachers, and the realities of a profession at risk of being pushed past the brink.
What You’ve Earned
Blog, Teacher Stories
It continues to become more and more crucial that those outside the profession talk with teachers. Ask us questions about what we do, what our workload is, what degree of professional freedom we have. I guarantee that the answers will surprise anyone that is looking to find out more.
I don’t know what she expected me to say
It was an innocent question, “How much do you make?” And trust me, this was a close friend, we were talking money earlier, so I wasn’t thrown by her query.
I answered honestly. She spit out her drink.
“WHAT? How old are you?”
“How long have you been teaching?”
“And you have a masters?”
I could tell she felt bad. She regretted asking. I regretted answering. I don’t know exactly what she expected me to say.
I knew I didn’t make a ton of money, but I never thought of myself as underpaid until my friend (27) had her jaw on the floor after hearing my salary. I was embarrassed. She works from home often, makes 20k more than I do, and has yearly bonuses. But like everyone says, “you don’t get into teaching for the money.” That statement cuts so deep. I didn’t become a teacher to earn a high salary, but the fact that this is the justification for the lack of economic advancement in the profession is insulting and quite honestly, problematic. If we want to attract highly qualified teachers, we have to pay them more. It’s only a matter of time before college grads realize, “gee I can make a LOT more in other fields and be infinitely more respected. Why would I teach?”
There is always a justification
Forget the logistics, forget the numbers. It’s easy to research what teachers make. What makes it disheartening is that there is ALWAYS a justification. “Well, you have tenure, so you have job security.” “Your health benefits are great.” “You have summers off.” All of those facets are positive, I agree. But as an assiduous person, I would trade tenure and my summers off for a higher salary. Many teachers would. Why can’t a noble public profession pay well?
Getting into the ins and outs of how teaching can/should and cannot/should not mimic private industry is beyond the scope of this piece. What’s relevant is that so often money is equated with power, and teachers are powerless in a society that is so highly dependent on them. There is very little a teacher can do WITHIN THE SCOPE of teaching to earn more money. Becoming more educated earns you a bit more, but not enough to put you in a different category of earning. Most teachers coach, tutor, or work a second job. Again, these are all earnings outside of the classroom. The time and effort a teacher puts into these outside activities could be valuable to the students in front of him or her. However, if there is no way to earn more by dedicating time to one’s students, some may choose to spend their time elsewhere. Who could blame them?
Professional development is often hailed as a way to expand your mind as an educator, but again, does not earn you more dollars. In my experience, those who want to make more money leave teaching. They move on to become administrators or abandon the profession altogether. At times, it seems that teaching is merely a stepping stone for some. It is seen as a way into the education field, until one can move up the administrative ladder or until a better opportunity presents itself.
When I was younger, teaching was presented to me as career worth seeking. When I talk to my students and younger friends today, they don’t see it as such. Either I was blinded by optimism, or the profession has truly changed. It is not on the top of desired professions for most ambitious young people. In many areas, there are growing shortages. A teaching shortage is dangerous; it can lead to crowded classrooms, non-certified teachers, and students who no longer see school as a place to learn. Despite that, maybe a shortage would generate discussion around why no one wants to teach. Until we figure out a way to pay teachers more or provide opportunities for economic growth within the classroom, it will remain a profession that lacks respect and power in today’s America.