My Teacher Salary and My Teacher Summer Vacation

I tend to get myself a little too involved with educational politics–to the point that I don’t sleep at night because I am so worked up. And, with my sarcastic personality and dry sense of humor, sometimes I don’t always say what I truly believe. I created a couple of enemies these last couple weeks (and am risking creating a few more with this post) over comments I sarcastically made about teacher’s salary. So, in an effort to reveal ‘the true me’ (all sarcasm stripped), here is what I really think about my teacher’s salary:

Considering what I do and the things I don’t have to do, it’s really not that bad (or, at least for a single person, that is).

I signed my first teaching contract for $34,200, which is $34,200 more than I ever made before. I felt like I was going to be rolling in the dough–I could finally afford to buy that new Prada purse I had been eying, that new candy apple red Mercedes, look into purchasing my own house, start throwing elaborate Gatsby-esque parties….until I actually got my first pay check, of which a third of it went to taxes anyways.

But here is what I get to do all day: sit and socialize with my students and my colleagues, do extra nerdy things, such as read books, research, write papers. I can sit if my feet get tired, I can stand if I get tired of sitting. I can show a movie if I am feeling low on energy. I can eat a snack if I get hungry (although that DOES have to be preplanned and brought from home).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I completely and 100% agree that teachers should make more money. We educate our future. We serve as parents, protectors, disciplinarians, mentors, editors. We sacrifice our professional reputation when parents attack us, and our integrity when we are asked by administration to give students certain grades. Forget that college education, because non-educators always know how to do our jobs better.

However, we live in a capitalist society that rewards people who can make more money for the company, so the bigger boss in turn makes more money. In other professions, you get rewarded for managing more projects, finding errors in calculations, producing more efficient ad trafficking–things that can make a company more money. My capital just happens to be my lesson plans and my students’ knowledge, things that definitely cannot have a monetary value ascribed to and do not necessarily have a monetary return for the school.

And, as for any job, there are always tradeoffs. I may not make a large, heaping sum, and may not be eligible to purchase a new 90 inch flat screen t.v. with my bonus check, but I also work a consistent job; my schedule is the same every week and I have the opportunity to have my entire weekend off. (I coach, but if I didn’t) I get off at 3:15. I don’t get stuck in traffic, never have to pay for parking, have control over my entire workspace.

I always try to be unbiased and look at things from other perspectives. I will admit, some teachers do have an entitled attitude and believe they are the best thing since sliced bread. But, we live in a society where government jobs are completely dependent to the economic well being of the state. I look at other government jobs–firefighters, police men, those in the military–who can fall under the same pay scale as a teacher. However, as a teacher, I have a pretty cushy job. I have air conditioning. I spout off ideas all day. I have a custodian who will move the filing cabinets and a janitor who is supposed to clean the bathrooms. I have someone who can fix my technology when it breaks. I don’t have to answer late night phone calls and I don’t have to sacrifice my family or my body to fight in a war zone. I don’t have to work 24-36 hour shifts. Compared to other professions, it really is not a bad gig. And, as a teacher, I get so “much time off”.

First, let me explain to you why teachers get the summer off: We need it. My entire workday is stimulating; I have to orchestrate many different things at once. Even showing a movie is stressful, because I have to make sure the kids in the dark corner aren’t fondling each other. My ego and self image needs some time to heal after the string of wrathful parent and student e-mails I get over the course of the year. Despite the many times I contracted some infectious disease from a student who coughed all over my desk, I never took a day off. Taking a sick day means I have to wake up, write sub plans, feel bad that I am putting extra work on my colleagues, and then feel anxious all day that my students are behaving; it’s easier to just suffer and go into school.

Here is what I will be spending my “time off” doing: the first week will be spent catching up on some social activities that I neglected during the school year. Then, I will be taking grad classes to enhance my knowledge and instruction (that I don’t have time to take during the school year, because of coaching, grading papers, parent/teacher conferences, etc.). I will gather resources (read books/short stories/articles, watch movies/video clips, look at art) that I can use in my instruction. I will be building my pom team (choreographing dances, designing costumes, going to pom camp, making the calendar, organizing fundraisers, etc.) so that I am not overwhelmed when August comes. I will make my doctor/dentist, oil changes, plumbers, financial adviser appointments, etc. that I don’t have time for during the school year, because I can’t just leave and take a half day like most professions. I will catch up with my friends, re-kindle our bonds, visit my family. I will work my second job at the golf course to offset my teacher salary. I will attend a few extra training sessions and spend some time reflecting on how I can be a better teacher. And, before school starts, I will check my rosters, research my new students, meet with other teachers to plan our curriculum. So, yes, I do get to stay up late and wake up early. I do get to build my own schedule and have as little/as much responsibility as I want. But, my “time off” is not necessarily time off.

Moral of this post is: Yes, I agree that teachers should make more money, but we don’t live in a society where this necessarily fits the economic structure, plus my job gives me so many other rewards in so many other ways, that I understand completely understand why my salary pays me almost enough to afford to live (oh wait, I promised no sarcasm…)

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