Featured Thread: Amplify

We will seek to amplify our message, our goal of bringing the professionalization of teachers to more and more people. We will amplify our product line, rolling out 3 new free tools this year. And finally, we will amplify the voices of everyday teachers.

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.
#Amplify

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Danielle Codey

High School English Teacher | New Jersey
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What You’ve Earned

Guest Post by Danielle Codey

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.

How much do you make?

*********

😯

 

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?”
“31.”

“How long have you been teaching?”

“7 years.”

“And you have a masters?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

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?

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.

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.

What do you think?

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