Dave: Sure many other working class heroes are working the same hours, yet how many other occupations ask you to babysit thirty kids every hour? What do you think the home life for these kids is like? Utopia? Big fat house on the hill? Guess again. Many of our kids are malnourished, neglected, abused physically and mentally, and see school as their only “safe” place. And what do you think our role to them is? Certainly not just a teacher…we’re far more than that! We’re counselors, life coaches, and mentors. At other jobs, if you need a break, have to go to the bathroom, get up and cruise around, need to get away for a moment just to breath…you can do it, not in teaching. Kids need to be supervised every second of the day. Burnout???? Hmmm…this day and age American youth are programmed by their parents and society to accept no responsibility for their education. If things go wrong, it’s the school and teacher’s fault.
Nick: Good teachers certainly accept a lot of responsibility, and where many hats. The hope, as well as the effort to make school better is alive and well. You are an example, as a charter school teacher, of someone who left a traditional model, and gambled on something different. Teaching is a profession of resilience and compassion. Can we hold on to the excellent, and if not excellent, then coachable teachers? Do you feel a teacher’s salary is sustainable?
Dave: I think the current model for teacher salaries is a joke. Many of us are highly educated, beyond a bachelor’s degree, and are asked to work hard and accept less. The current thought in my community is, “If you don’t like the salary leave, there’s a line behind you waiting for your job.” I realize that working and being employed is awesome and I am grateful every day for this opportunity. I also know this mentality is self-defeatist for a school district. Let’s talk about salary schedules for a moment. A 1st year teacher graduating from college and entering our school district will make $30,000 their first year and then get salary steps of $750/yr after that if they do not further their education. Average home price in my community…$305,000. Factor in cost of living and you get the point. Not sustainable. Even if you get an advanced degree, the cost of repaying the loan vs salary increase makes you question whether it’s worth it. Let’s look at other countries. Many countries around the world value the teaching profession and pay accordingly. Here in America, the phrase, “Those that can do, do, those that can’t teach,” is exemplary of what the nation as a whole thinks about teachers and the teaching profession. Sure you meet with parents and they’ll thank you and tell you what a great job you’re doing. Wonderful. Yet when it comes time for states to identify the salary issue it never changes. What would a fortune 500 corporation do to attract the best? Pay lofty salaries.
Nick: There’s no doubt that the salary playing field for educators has not evened out along with other jobs. However, especially among teachers in America, it seems that innovative ways to make extra money must be alive and well in the off-season. I’d like to continue our conversation later by discussing how you make extra money.
Nicholas Philliou, 7th grade humanities teacher in Durango, Colorado