I fell in love with teaching sometime around my mid 20s. I had made some good investments after being laid off from my corporate job and had some free time to do anything I wanted, so I decided to volunteer as a writing coach in a high school classroom.
It didn’t hit me until the next year. I didn’t have time to volunteer and I was genuinely upset. It was then I decided to get into a teaching program, because you know the saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I knew teachers didn’t make a lot of money, but I wasn’t doing it for the money. I wanted to teach because I loved it.
I’ve been teaching for five years now. Between being an adjunct college instructor and high school English teacher I’ve learned one thing for sure: If you want to teach, you must, absolutely must have another form of income. If that’s a possibility, and you have heart for the job, there’s really nothing better. There aren’t many people who can say they truly love what they do, and even less that can say their job touches lives on a daily basis. But to be in this teaching game, you have to love it. Because once you’re in, the situation gets bleak. Hella bleak.
1. Teachers simply do not make enough money to survive. Now some of you might be saying, “I thought teachers don’t teach for the money,” and we don’t. But basic survival is a necessity no matter which way you cut it. Think about it: you need at least a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential to qualify, of which most teachers go above and beyond with master’s degrees and professional development classes. Yet, teachers make between $40-60k a year depending on where they are teaching, and how long they’ve been teaching. You can work retail with no degrees for the same amount.
In California, that salary doesn’t even qualify you for a one bedroom apartment, let alone allow you to save to buy a house, or fix your car. Most teachers have a second job. Ok great. So you’re on your feet all day working with kids just to go work some more after school which means less prep, less R&R, more stress, and overall unhealthy lifestyle. This boils over into your classroom whether you want it to or not. But don’t worry, in 20 years you’ll be at $80-100k a year and be able to afford that one bedroom apartment you worked your whole adult life to afford! Congrats on your long awaited financial stability ::eye roll:: A person shouldn’t have to sacrifice his/her life to be a teacher. If education is so important, then why aren’t we doing something for the people who are providing it?
2. The majority of schools do not supply the necessary materials for students to succeed. That means out of a teacher’s poverty wages, he/she must purchase paper, pencils, tape, folders, notebooks, and anything else needed to make the school year go by smoothly. Going into my second year of teaching high school I’ve had to purchase:
— lined paper
— staples and stapler
— desk organizing material
— my own copy paper for printing worksheets (this was the best, lemme tell ya)
— a projector
— books (entire class sets, not just one or two)
— class decor
— hole punchers
— monthly fee for a hot spot on my phone to show supplemental videos
— adapter to use my computer
— colored pencils
— arts & crafts supplies
— pens and pencils
And that’s just for starters. At least colleges supplied me with whiteboard markers and paper! Ever walk into a classroom and it’s so unorganized you’re not sure how the teacher manages a group of kids in that hot mess? Yea, because organizing resources cost money! Some districts are better or worse than others, but throughout America this setup is all pretty much the same.
3. More times than not, you’re treated like crap. This isn’t always the case. Lots of teachers find work homes where they fit in and are supported by their surrounding peers. But the majority of the time, the administrative staff gives NO fucks about you and it’s everyone out for themselves. I’ll never forget the one district I worked in where the office woman in charge of restocking the printer paper reprimanded me for using too much. She was never very helpful to begin with and certainly didn’t like me after that. How dare I make worksheets for students.
And if a kid decides he or she doesn’t like you and takes revenge for whatever it is the kid thinks you did, forget it. Every year some poor shlub just trying to make a living gets booted out on admin leave because some jerk kid wanted to get out of a test or something. Where’s your work pals then? Steering clear from you. In the teacher world, you’re guilty before found innocent. And if the union isn’t pulling their fees out of your pitiful paycheck then you can probably just kiss that job goodbye.
Despite all of it, teachers stick around. Fewer and fewer each year, but the ones with financial support are able to stay. It’s the students who keep us going, who light our lives with gratitude even after they leave and grow into adults. When you’re a teacher at heart, there’s no other job like this one. I have to say that despite what I’ve seen and experienced, I still go to work happy and come home happy 95% of the time.
But I have other sources of income. If you want to survive in the teacher game you’ll need it too, or be happy living broke as a joke. Like college dorm years living with five roommates splitting the rent and still can’t afford to fix your car broke. It’s impossible to be financially stable in a teaching career in California.
Our politicians don’t seem to care that teachers are becoming scarcer throughout the US because of this. Between low pay, low school budgets, and shabby treatment, it’s not surprising people would rather tend bar. There are many who can say they don’t need this job, but who can say America doesn’t need teachers?
Check out more of my thoughts on education in America here
Are you a teacher in the US? Comment with what state you’re in and what it’s like being a teacher there below.