The first step to creating an education system full of the best teachers we can find is to pay them in line with their importance to their communities. We pay orthodontists an average of $350,000, and no one would say that their impact on the lives of kids is greater than a teacher's. But it seems difficult for everyone, from parents to politicians, to shake free of a tradition in which teaching was seen as something of a volunteer project for women whose husbands brought home the real money. Today's teachers need to, but very often can't, support a family on their salaries.
With information like this, why do so many of us still say that we'd like to be teachers? The jobs don't pay well, the papers are full of articles about teachers being abused, and the bureaucracy is unbelievable within most school systems. What are we thinking?
Summer vacation. I've got four teachers in my family, and that is a prime motivator for all, whether they admit it or not. Also, I think they find children less frustrating to work with than adults.
Not that they aren't dedicated -- they all are, and my aunt remains the best teacher I ever had, a feeling that was shared from a range of my friends from advanced degree holders to high school dropouts -- and not that the job shouldn't command a higher salary, but those are their motivators...
Slappy Doo Hoo
Thu 24 Jun, 2004 07:11 pm
I don't buy the whole thing with "Orthodontists earn an average of $350K," and compare it to a teacher's salary. The difference is, a dentist is individually bringing in a huge amount of revenue, and is getting a piece of it(they also go through a much tougher education process, generally). A teacher gets paid on the town's budget. Sad, maybe. But a teacher's pay generally goes up every year, they get all the benefits, and summers off. A teacher that's been doing it for a long time makes a good chunk more than $30-40k, at least around here. My girlfriend is starting full time this fall, she's pretty young, and she'll be starting in the mid $30's, and that's 45 minutes west of Boston. Boston starts in the $40's. That's on par with an entry level business job...but with three months less work. Not too bad.
Also, a higher educated teacher makes more...PHD for example, you can teach at a university and make a lot more than $30K.
Besides, who doesn't bitch about their pay???
Thu 24 Jun, 2004 07:12 pm
I would like to be a teacher, and that article has no effect on me. I would rather have a job I enjoy. The other jobs they name which pull in about as much as teachers should be paid even more, because it is such tedious work.
Thu 24 Jun, 2004 07:20 pm
Summer's off aren't really an option here, as they have to keep taking courses for some time to maintain their licensing.
When I worked for a long-term disability carrier, the largest proportion of the claimants on psych claims were teachers and professors. A lot of them claimed to be off as a result of bureacracy-related demands. I could never really tease out if you had to be crazy to be a teacher (which some of them claimed) or if being a teacher made you crazy. I guess I kinda figure if the odds of the jobs making you nuts are that high you should get some kind of recompense for that.
The point about the orthodontist etc, Slappy (and i think you already know this), is that teachers are offering more of value to the community - so shouldn't that be reflected. Which in itself is an odd point - as teachers at private schools make significantly less than public school teachers.
Thu 24 Jun, 2004 07:29 pm
An orthodontist also pays several other people out of that $350K/year. How many other full time employees do teachers pay for out of what they get paid?
The other numbers are a some slight of hand too. Why do they use average teacher salaries from some of the lowest cost of living areas in the country and then point to one dockworker and one clerk's salary in S.F? (One of the highest cost of living areas in the country.) I'd wager the average dockworker in S.F doesn't make $115K/year.
For a little more realistsic look at numbers:
These numbers are all averages for San Diego County, CA:
High School Teacher $55,097
Biological Scientists $52,300 Elementary-school Teacher: $51,015
Management Analyst $50,797 Postsecondary Math Teacher: $49,426
Registered Nurse: $46,481
When you adjust the salaries for the teachers to account for the fewer numbers of days they work each year their salaries are inflated to $65,768 for High-school-teachers and $60,972 for elementary-school teachers.
I'm not saying teachers are the best paid people in the world (they aren't!) but they aren't hurting in comparison either.
I have an enormous amount of respect for teachers. (Good for your girlfriend, Slappy.) I could not STAND the bureacratic idiocy, and much prefer to be on the policy side of things.
Thu 24 Jun, 2004 08:02 pm
our dentist (about 45 years of age) and our family physician (about 48 years of age) are brothers. they are both very good in their profession, and we are very satisfied with them. the dentist has his office in an old, historic limestone mansion. he probably has a good-sized mortgage on the property, but it's his ! it's a beautifully restored and decorated building.i should also mention that he works only four days a week. the physician has a rented office in a medical building; furniture a little frayed. the dentist told us (he really likes to chat while doing his work), that if only he had studied harder - just like his brother - he perhaps could have become a physician also. he admires his physician-brother very much. to make our physician happy (we thought !) , we told him what his dentist-brother told us. "well", our physician said, "i think i'll have to have a talk with that young brother of mine. he doesn't seem to realize how lucky he is !". (seems that our physician was trying to tell us that dentist-brother was doing better - financially anyhow - than he was). we did NOT relate the answer back to our dentist ! hbg ... open wide ! ... old insurance joke : "see that fellow over there ? he is all bent over. wonder what's wrong with him ?" ... "oh, he's been digging for gold all his life". ... "oh ? what's his profession ?" ... "he's a dentist , didn't you know ?". ... (have NO intention of telling this story to our dentist !)
Thu 24 Jun, 2004 09:55 pm
Let me preface my comments by saying that I sincerely have the utmost respect for teachers who do their job well, and have the patience for teaching, the love for children--even the unruly ones, and their desire to affect the future generations! I don't understand how you can stand it, so more power to you. I have had many great teachers who have impacted my life in wonderful ways.
Now, my comments:
The "underpaid teacher" arguement is a sore spot with me! Funny how they claim to be so bright (thus employed as teachers) yet can't figure out the basic economics of the situation.
First of all, making $45K a year is middle income. Nothing wrong with that.
Then, (as mentioned above), if you analyze that pay to the actual time worked (9 months a year), it's $5 G's a month. Annualized, that's $60K a year; far above median income.
Not to mention that Public teachers have retirement options not available to the general public.
Also, there are other opportunities to make other income--for example, I have a friend, (a public high school teacher) who had an option to write curricula over the summer for the upcoming year. The pay was something like $2500.
He completed the job in one week, working only part time.
He also gets to go to conventions and buy school stuff for educational purposes. He was the first person I knew to have a pocket GPS--cost a couple grand back then, and the State paid for it.
As an Industrial Tech teacher, he also has modern metals, woods, and auto repair shops at his disposal 24/7.
His school also builds one house each year as part of a Construction Trades class. The teachers in the school get first refusal on buying the house at near-construction-cost. This makes for a bargain house since the students were the labor force.
That means if one buys such a house, one might have an instantaneous 33+% return on investment in value alone. Even more if the home is sold in a later year or rented out.
Many teachers, my friend included, work an extra job or run their own businesses with their spare summer months.
Tell me--in what other career can you get fulltime pay, plus get 90 consecutive days off to work another job or business (while your first job maintains your benefits to boot)?
In what other career can you take an extended summer vacation without worry of getting fired or replaced in your absence?
I haven't even touched on the economics of this arguement.
Here is how the economy works. For a business to thrive, it must generate a profit. Employees & customers are the way profits are generated.
For example, GM hires people to manufacture cars, parts, etc. and also people to keep the manufacturing running smoothly and profitably.
They sell the cars to dealerships for a profit.
The dealership hires salesmen and other staff to sell the cars, or make the showroom look nice to enhance car sales.
Who makes more, the salesmen or the guy who cleans the showroom and washes the dust off the cars?
The salesmen, of course. The reason is, the salesmen are directly responsible for generating revenue for the company. No matter how clean the cars and showroom are, no sales are made without a salesman.
If a salesman wants to earn a larger income, he simply sells more cars.
So, you have teachers providing the service of teaching. This is provided to the customers (the general public) at no charge (paid for by society's contribution of course).
With no source of revenue, the teachers pay is limited by the laws of economics and the generosity of the taxpayers--that is, their willingness to pay the tax burden. These are market forces.
The problem with the industry of public schools is that there is no way to increase revenue by teaching.
However, in the case of a University, which does earn revenues from its customers, revenues can be increased by offering more classes, raising prices, etc.
The teachers at universities (esp. private ones) often make more money than those in public schools.
Boil all this down to the simple fact that people tend to earn what they are worth in the market. The guy washing cars simply isn't in a position that's worth anything close to $45,000. A good salesman is worth well over $100,000.
Finally, everyone has been told their entire lives that "teachers don't make a good living."
So then WHY, oh WHY do teachers complain about the fact that they supposedly don't make a decent living? Is this some kind of surprise or something? And these are the people teaching our children?!!!?
If you, as a teacher, don't find your pay rewarding enough, then please quit. The pupils will thank you for giving them the opportunity to learn from a more effective teacher who loves his/her job.
Fri 25 Jun, 2004 06:32 am
I am a chemist in industry; my wife (before we were married) was a chemist teaching high school chemistry. Our pay levels can't be directly compared, because our levels of education are different (Ph.D. vs Master's), but her salary at the time was not unreasonable for someone with her qualifications. However, the "three months off" theory has no bearing on how much she actually had to work. Besides her hours at school, she spent 4 - 5 hours each evening grading and doing lesson plans; while my average work week was ~45 hours, hers was typically 70+ hours. The school year where she taught lasted until late June; so her summer vacation was really only 2 months. Of that 2 months, she could only really afford to take about 1 month off completely without needing to start preparing for the next school year. So, extrapolating teachers' salaries as though they only worked 9 months (disregarding "overtime" during the 9 months) is discrediting the teachers. It's a pretty common misconception--"teachers only work 8 a.m - 3:30 p.m. at school and everything else is free time."
Maybe the job would have been less demanding after she'd been in it for a number of years--after the first 3 years, she didn't stick around to find out. We both work in industry now.
Fri 25 Jun, 2004 07:29 am
I'm thinking of becoming a teacher.
Fri 25 Jun, 2004 07:36 am
Great question ehBeth! I would have gone into teaching had it not been for the low salaries. If my husband's one salary alone was enough money to support us, I would still today consider going into teaching. I love children and love the thought of teaching them. Also the vacation being more in line with my own children would be a bonus. I actually took a course in high school to help prepare and introduce high school students to teaching. You spent three days a week tutoring an elementary student and the other two days preparing a curriculum. I excelled it and loved it. But thought about going to college for four years - the time and cost, and only getting a salary that I could get without a college education.
Sat 26 Jun, 2004 11:12 pm
I decided to become a teacher because I come alive with kids in a way that I didn't experience in other jobs. after 21 years of teaching, summers off mostly except when going to graduate school or attending workshops, I'd say it has been a career well-spent. the salary isn't too bad with graduate degrees to boost the pay level, (mine will be $70,000 next year), and a good pension to look forward to when I retire at an age when most people are still looking at many more years of full-time work. (I'll retire at 55 then go into some other line of work)
The school year is quite intense, despite what people think about our hours. there's a lot that goes into teaching that happens before and after the kids go home. the greatest thing about it is that you work with the children who are for the most part full of potential, grateful for the devotion that a good teacher can offer. and truly influenced in ways that last a lifetime. Can't find that in any other job that I can think of that pays more than what we earn.
Mon 6 Sep, 2004 08:04 pm
I am a retired public school teacher who has gone back to work in a private school. At one time, I worked out my salary in terms of hours. In the nine months of the school year, I worked 2000+ hours. That is the same as I worked in an automotive factory for 40 hours a week for 50 weeks.
In the summers, I spent two weeks with the family on vacation then the rest of the time getting ready for school by seminars, workshops, and changing my academic cirriculum. Many times I had to take summer employment in order to cover bills, or to insure Christmas. Taxes and the 10% the state took for retirement cut about 34% off the top.
I couldn't pay my health insurance in retirement so I interviewed for a small private college that was going to pay me almost $1500 for two classes. Instead I found employment at a high school that pays less than half of what I earned at the public school with 28 years experience and a Masters degree. The work load, since I was teaching 5 new classes, was about 70 hours a week until I got it figured out, and got it down to 55 to 60.
I would say that if you like kids, are willing to make your life one of satisfaction and based on personal relationships, teaching is good, based on the school district. You have to watch your money, and work hard for it, and put up with a somtimes overwhelming paper chase and back watching.
I loved it, still do, and plan to continue.
Mon 6 Sep, 2004 08:06 pm
Good for you, mont. I have a nagging sense of guilt for not going into teaching (M.Ed), but the within-the-school-system teaching experiences I had drove me absolutely batty.
Mon 6 Sep, 2004 08:34 pm
I've often thought that teaching people who want to be there and want to learn would be the best job in the world.
The only teaching experience I've had was two years of 7th grade Sunday School, quite a few years ago. None of the kids wanted to be there. Let's just say it wasn't a positive experience.
Mon 6 Sep, 2004 10:10 pm
I have been considering teaching for my entire adult life. I am still thinking it'd be the best way for me to find employment after I am done with this schtick I'm doing now. The major thing holding me back is the systemic bullhoocky that Sozobe mentioned above.
Mon 6 Sep, 2004 11:14 pm
I used to think that teachers got all the free time the students have... but now I know that's not true at all. Full-Time Teachers need to prepare the classes, tutor students out of class, grade and on vacations they have to hand out extraordinary tests and prepare for the next semester (or at least that's what happens here)
I think here in Mexico the teacher wage is significally lower (vs. other jobs in the country) than in the United States... but I figure that if the salaries were high, more people would just teach for the money and teching is a very humane job... it could be damaging in the long run.
Tue 7 Sep, 2004 08:03 pm
Dream2020 will be retiring from teaching at 55 and I'll just be starting.
Tue 7 Sep, 2004 08:55 pm
Nothing to add, but always glad to see Jesusgirl drop in. Thought you were happy in some sort of medical field, Jg.