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I Kind of Am In It For the Money...

This is a bit of a rant, so be forewarned...
I will not use making a difference in children's lives as an excuse to accept low wages.

I am growing weary of seeing cutesy teachery sayings all over the internet that try to convince me my low pay for long hours is worth it.
You know, because of the kids.

We expect teachers to reach unattainable goals with inadequate resources.
The miracle is this: they often do.

I am a Teacher. Instead of Making Money, I Decided to Make A Difference

Teaching: We are not in it for the income, we are in it for the Outcome.

Well, I gotta tell ya - I kinda am in it for the income.

I don't mean rock star money.

I mean a well educated professional with a ridiculous level of responsibility money.
I mean expected to keep children safe and possibly give up my own safety to do so money.

I'm not asking for much.  I have as much education as an attorney and at least as much responsibility.
I'm not even asking for that much money.

I'm just asking to make a living wage so I don't have to rob Peter to pay Paul every month.
Just normal living expenses, nothing extravagant.  You know, just food, shelter, basic clothing, possibly a little ice cream now and again.

And don't make me feel guilty when you do give me a raise and make it look like I'm stealing candy from a baby!
Don't tell me I shouldn't ask for more, because, really, it's for the children.

Why do folks find it so reprehensible to pay teachers an adequate wage?

Is it because there are so many of us?  If so many people are able to do it, it must not be that special?

Is it because everyone has been to school and it looks easy so it must be easy?

Is it because we put up with it and continue to work crazy long hours and do loads of extra work without demanding compensation?

Is it because simply screaming to the rooftops that we value children in our society doesn't really make it true?

Now, don't get me wrong - I do love my kids!  I take them home in my heart and in my head every single night.  They make me laugh and cringe and wonder and weep.  Helping kids learn is tons of fun and I will continue to teach because it is my career, my calling, my niche.
I love my job.
And my second job, which supplements the first job.

So, I will not accept that working 60+ hours while being paid for 40 is the expectation and an obligation. 

I won't be pinning the cute little sign that tells the world I don't value my job enough not to expect to be properly compensated for it.

I will not revel in the fact that I can work miracles with inadequate resources.

I will not use making a difference in children's lives as an excuse to accept low wages.

Because it is about the children.  Do we not value them enough to also value those who guide them, teach them, keep them safe?

Screaming to the rooftops that we value children in our society doesn't really make it true.
Sometimes you have to prove it.


  1. Appreciate your rant, and I agree! As a single-mom teaching in a "poverty-stricken" district, I am constantly reminded to remember to consider these students' lives when designing plans (ie, not too much homework, parent involvement, etc), and Im always thinking, "you know, Im not too far from the poverty line myself!"
    IMHO, one of the reasons teachers aren't shown their monetary worth is because of the lack of/weakness in/restrictions on power of teachers' unions. Just consider professional athletes and their unions!! We NEED to get strong, loud people to fight for us...but we rarely even speak up for ourselves (& those "cute" little sayings...even though I'll admit to pinning and saying many of them myself...don't help matters!)

  2. You're so right! When I was growing up in Mississippi, I quickly decided there was no way I would be a teacher because they are one of the poorest paid groups in the country (I think they flip flop between 49 and 50, but I don't remember with who). After moving to Georgia and learning I could actually live off the salary (albeit, nothing fancy), I was finally able to step into my God-given role as a teacher.
    My husband and I are both teachers now, and the income is fine since we both have our masters', but we will never be "sitting pretty". I see all these teachers buying loads of things for their classroom and think, "I guess your husband has a nice job because I can't afford that." We don't spoil ourselves much at all because we can't afford to. So often we're living paycheck to paycheck, and I hope to get out of debt soon so things will be more comfortable. But it will take a long time at this rate...

    Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late
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  3. Wonderful post :) As teachers, we can either pass along the idea that we can be paid less because teaching is a noble profession (which makes zero sense), or we can support each other in validating our profession as a valuable contribution. I love your view on what it really means when we say it is for the children. Preach on!

  4. You're so right !! We have bills and families to raise just like everyone else.

  5. Teaching is respected as a "nice" and "sweet" profession- but not as an intellectual or challenging one (even though it is, every day). We're seen as people who get paid to hang out with cute kids and fingerpaint and sing all day (especially in elementary) and besides, they think we're probably really in it for getting out at 3:30 and having summer breaks.

    We are expected to be martyrs for our kids, because, come on, we "have it made." People think our profession is easy, fun, and a break from 40-hour-weeks (even though anyone who's lived with a teacher- at least a decent one- clearly knows that's far from true). And therefore, if we have the nerve to care about our own kids as much or more than we do the kids we serve, we must not really care about those kids at all.

    I love teaching. And yes, I'm here because I love it- but I also love reading books, playing with puppies, and eating ice cream and no one pays me to do those things, so they're not my profession. I work this particular job because it's fulfilling, but no matter how fulfilling it is, I also have to make some money to support myself and my family- our security, our home, and our happiness. Quite frankly, I DO work my tail off at a demanding and difficult job, despite what people think, and it's ridiculous for people who don't get that to act like I'm greedy for wanting my pay to reflect the work I do, the influence I have, and the education and expertise I hold in this field. I love the kids I teach, but I need to support my own family, too- and that shouldn't be seen as unreasonable.

  6. A colleague and I were having this same conversation last week. I teach in Ontario, and I am paid well, and have a great pension to look forward to. In our province, people tend to apologize to others for what we have. I'm done with it. I've worked hard for the wage I bring home, and have paid my hard-earned money into the pension fund I'll receive when I retire. I'm not sorry for having it... I'm sorry that other people who work equally hard in my province don't also receive the same from their employers. Time to change things!!

    Mrs. Beattie's Classroom

  7. Teaching children is undervalued. Teaching younger children even more undervalued. Teaching poor, young children is most undervalued. The fact that most K-12 teachers are women undervalues it more. (I'm in this category as a K-1st teacher at an urban public school with 100% free lunch.) I am highly educated, intellectual, creative, dedicated, generous and responsible together with most of the my colleagues. It is cruelly foolish that we are being held hostage by puffed-up politicians and greedy educorp profiteers. Until people care about their children's truth more than they care about men who lie for a living, teachers, students and schools will continue to be under seige.

  8. Good point... but I was kinda hoping it would be an "I'm in it for the money b/c I can't afford to quit and do something else" rant. I think I need to write one of those. After 25 years, I'm tired of it. Don't get me wrong. I still love my kids. I love my coworkers, I love my school....but I'm tired of the parents and society making me put up with their disrespectful 6 year olds, not letting me discipline them, expecting me to give them smiley faces every single day no matter what they do, yelling at me (yes, yelling at ME) b/c their child left homework in their folder and didn't turn it in, or didn't put a name on it, blaming me for their kid not being on reading level when they don't turn in homework, don't read with them at home, don't even sign the take home folder every night.... my patience with the ADULTS is running thin...but I need the salary, I need the insurance for my family, I'm too close to retirement and I'm too old to be marketable anywhere else.

  9. I loved this and I love all the comments, because every last one of them is true!!!!! We are being tested to death and held accountable for the results of these tests through value added measures that are plain wrong, using standards not written by teachers, and being held at the mercy of billionaires who are behind all the current education policy out there. We are expected to do so much but then they don't pay us enough to do the job. There are finally people standing up, look at New York for examples. And I am fed up with the low pay, the lack of respect, and the joy that had been sucked out of a job that I love. But I am not sitting down and taking it either. I joined the BAT group online (Badass Teachers Association) and have gotten active in my union, which is only as strong as it's members. Today, I am going down to our state legislature, along with many other teachers, to talk to my representatives about a bill that will tie the new tests to our evaluations. If you're not happy, write to your representatives, talk to your union people, and do something about it, because it all makes a difference!!


  10. I am so glad to know that I am not the only one feeling this way! Thank you!!!!!

  11. Yes! This! A million times over. My day (with kids) ends at 2:20. I try very hard to be leaving the parking lot by 3 with no grading left to do coming home with me. When I am asked to provide "enrichment" and "help" after school, my first question is, "what is my compensation?" If there is none, my answer is, "when it's important enough to fund, I will gladly offer my services."

  12. Great post! Doctors are a "noble" profession too and look at what they get paid.

  13. You are completely correct, Robin. It's called "Work to Rule." That only means doing what the contract says -- just like every other profession does. Sure, once in a while it's ok to give a little bit more. But, as teachers, we give HOURS on a daily basis more. And society has come to expect this as normative.
    It's NOT!
    We've been taken advantage of for far too long.
    If we want to be treated as professionals, we must ACT as such. And that means we do not give away our labor. No other professional does.
    Neither can we.

  14. I think its has to do with the face that majority of teachers are female. Women have trouble advocating/negotiating for themselves and often are expected to pull extra weight and given extra duties with out any added compensation.

  15. There is another slice to this discussion. If we are professionals and want to be treated as professionals we must accept the fact that salaried professionals work until the job is done. I did as a consulting geologist. My brother does as an engineer. You work until the job is done. Sure, you don't give your effort away for free, but you do need to work as long as it takes to complete your work.

    Teachers very often comment about how many "extra" hours they have to work beyond the scheduled work day. This argument falls flat with me and (I'd bet) most salaried professionals. It was tough back 15 years ago when I was working 60 hours a week to bill 40 hours to my clients. I complained to my wife and friends, but those friends who were lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, etc simply commiserated because that was their life too.

    We teachers could advance our case better when confronted by someone who insist we work limited hours by arguing back that we work until our job is done like everyone else does. Period. Nothing else. We might also add that we work the hours our employers tell us to do, work the days that we are told to work, and take off the days our employers tell us to take off. Frame it such that our jobs are more similar than dissimilar to other professional careers, rather than the conventional response of "I bring my work home every night and don't get to bed until after 11 and then have to get up again at 5 am."

    Yeah. Just like I did for twenty years as a consulting geologist. So what?

    I comment a lot on education issues, especially in my home town paper. I've made some real progress with some people I've engaged with using this point of view and argument. I love teaching and despite the big cut in pay I took when switching careers, I'm lucky enough to work where I'm compensated well enough to support my family. We need to take hold of the conversation better than we have in the past. My suggestions have helped me in that effort. Please consider my experience if you find yourself in a conversation with someone who sees our jobs as easy and no more than glorified babysitting.

    1. I tend to agree with you, to some extent. Many professionals work beyond their hours. Welcome to USA, Inc. where workers are expected to feel thankful they are even employed, instead of the employer being supported by all of those valuable employees.

      The biggest problem, IMO, isn't that teachers work to get the job done, as you say, it's that "the job" continues to have more and more piled onto it. Then teachers are expected to feel privileged for getting a 1.5% raise. But, no one mentions that the health insurance deductible went up to $1500 per family member, and the state takes 3% of your salary to fund your retirement. That's the problem. Teachers have been getting the job done and continue to get even more done for less. If education were treated as something invaluable such as legal advice or health care, maybe people would be more willing to pay teachers. Not likely with John Q Republican and Jane C Democrat sitting back making sure that never happens.

  16. As a single Mom and a teacher who is sitting here taking a break on my Summer break from prepping , trying to figure out how to pay the bills ... You could not have hit the nail on the head!!! I agree with you and everyone else's comments!! I work in a non union state to which makes it even harder.... I do hope you all have a great school year :-)

  17. What about politicians. They should be paid less and be feel a sense of pride (meaning less money) for having the privilege to serve their community (us) and to help improve the living conditions of others. This is what teachers do everyday. We are blamed if we leave teaching (which I did to financially support my family) because it must of been because of the kids. It is because of the kids that I stayed so long (7 years at first year teacher pay with a Bachelor's plus 1 course shy of a Master's degree) I left because I could NOT AFFORD to continue supporting my family financially as at a first year teachers pay.

  18. So tired of hearing this. If you are that unhappy with the pay, do something else! Just be prepared to actually work full time including all summer and all holidays. Be prepared to have no pension and low grade health insurance. Maybe then you will appreciate being paid a full time salary for part time work.

  19. You work part time for a full time salary. If it's that bad, do something else. Join the rest of us who work ling hours year round for less pay and no pension.

    1. I work for a salary based on the hours that I teach. I have a high level of education, an immense level of responsibility, and a pay grade far below other professions with similar levels of education and expectations.
      It IS that bad and teachers ARE leaving to do something else. There is a huge teacher shortage in our country that is growing worse by the day. So you got your wish. Feel better?

  20. The solution is simple really as this is are problem of your (collectively) own making. All teachers just refuse to work unpaid overtime (or pay one cent out of your own pocket for supplies). The only reason it is expected is because everyone does it. The failure of teachers unions to organize that kind of organized resistance is incomprehensible to me.

  21. Nikki,
    This is so awesome I cam across this. I met you at Shrinemont earlier this year for the middle school retreat! We talked about teaching. You had a really cool idea using matts from the dollar store for something. I can't even remember what for now. I was mad at myself for not writing it down. Really enjoyed your article.

    1. Yes - Shrine Mont - my Happy place:) I have no idea what I was saying about mats from the dollar store! If you remember - let me know, we can reconvene and compare notes next time we run into each other up there. I can't wait to get back on the mountain!

  22. Nikki,
    This is so awesome I cam across this. I met you at Shrinemont earlier this year for the middle school retreat! We talked about teaching. You had a really cool idea using matts from the dollar store for something. I can't even remember what for now. I was mad at myself for not writing it down. Really enjoyed your article.

  23. The teacher haters need to be told that in the real world its a suply and demand problem. When you have bad teaching its only because the wage drove the food teachers out. If teachers were getting paid so well there would be no teacher shortage in the USA

  24. I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote and most of the comments. The sad reality is our country doesn’t value women and children enough to invest in education. Teacher Ms H