No One Enters Teaching for the Money and Other Things We Say to Make Ourselves Feel Better
We’ve heard the saying too many times, “No one goes into teaching for the money.” It’s true. Teachers enter the field of education because they have a strong purpose, a desire to help others, to help the community, and to better the future. They see how they can make a difference in the lives of children and they pursue it with a passion. However, just because someone is passionate about their profession doesn’t mean they should not be well-compensated. But, over and over we are told – “well, you didn’t get into it for the money.”
Saying this to a teacher, or even as a teacher, is a passive-aggressive justification for the poor conditions that many teachers endure in order to fulfill their purpose in life.
We have all seen videos, the news articles, the images of teacher picketing, wearing “Red for Ed”, or doing their best to rise up in solidarity for their rights and for the rights of their students, but there is much more to be seen beyond these images. This past week Time Magazine released a cover article titled Exactly How Teachers Came to Be So Underpaid in America by Katie Rielly that caused quite a stir in the education community. The 3 different cover images each depict a solemn veteran teacher with a quote overlaid describing their financial heartache followed by the statement, “I’m a teacher in America”. The article, which you can read in entirety here, goes on to highlight the decline in education funding, the struggles of teachers to make it, and the underlying sexism and bipartisan wars that fuel the funding crisis.
While in general Joy in Teaching tends to take a pretty non-political stance, it really is impossible to never discuss the political side of education. In order to really examine what leading a life in education means sometimes we have to get our hands dirty and dig into the causes of a need for resilience training and support. We hold true to the Joy in Teaching mission to build teacher resiliency, invest in the retention of good teachers, and reclaim the joy in teaching by providing actionable and inspirational resources to educators. With our overarching goal being for education to be an attractive profession wherein educators feel supported and heard. Put simply – #SaveTheTeachers.
I myself often have worked two or more jobs while teaching. In fact, I rarely have worked one job, even while also working through my MA and Ph.D. and having two children. Sometimes those jobs have been “teaching-adjacent” sometimes they haven’t. My first year of teaching my rent was only $375 each month and I still needed to work part-time at a department store to make it. That first year’s salary 17 years ago would now be considered poverty level. Working multiple jobs is commonplace for many, many educators today – out of necessity.
In an occupation which even on its best days doesn’t have enough time to get all the work done, working multiple jobs puts a strain on EVERYTHING. You feel pulled in different directions like you are giving your all but never able to really give enough to any one endeavor. Relationships suffer, self-care suffers, students and schools suffer. Soon doing what you felt passionate for, teaching, looks less and less attractive. Is it no wonder fewer college students are choosing to enter the field of education – leading up to a new, future crisis – in lack of qualified educators? Is it no wonder why teacher attrition rates continue to climb.
Paying teachers low wages impacts the quality of education and quality of educators in our schools
The hardest pill to swallow for educators who find themselves working multiple jobs to make ends meet is the meaning behind the paycheck. It sends a message that is heard loud a clear. A message about worth to teachers and to the community.
As more educators take to the streets, the voting booths, social media, and news there is a glimmer of hope, a potential for change, and a reason to keep fighting for teacher’s rights. And, until real change can occur in the form of quality funding, we will continue to focus on the resilience needed to thrive within today’s world of education. If you are lookin for more resilience training and support check out more articles or the Joy in Teaching books right here.