The Teacher-Salary Dilemma

My mother is also a teacher. She has taught a combination of Kindergarten and First grade for over 30 years. And she loves it. Every single day, every year, she is thrilled to go to work. She knew when she was six years old that she wanted to be a teacher; she loves telling the story of how she would collect the neighborhood kids and force them to sit in her “classroom”. (She is much gentler with her actual students, thankfully.)

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What if I don’t want to teach forever? Does that make me any less of a teacher? Is the guilt I feel over this valid, or do I need to let it go?

I’m going to be blunt: the minimal paychecks make it hard for me to look at this profession long term. I don’t want to depend on my partner to support our family. I don’t want to check my bank account each month feeling that ache of financial strain. I want to be independent and comfortable. Sometimes, sitting with friends or chatting with roommates, salaries are brought up and I’m left feeling inadequate.

Everyone likes to remind me what a noble profession teaching is. When I meet new people and they ask what I do for a living, they always respond to my profession with awe and appreciative exclamations. “Wow, I could never,’ or “Those students are so lucky to have you.”

I like to believe that I value fulfillment and happiness over having a full bank account, but that doesn’t make it any easier. How am I supposed to fully and wholly support our youth when I barely make my rent checks? (Okay, maybe not barely, but you get my point.) If teaching salaries were as competitive as those in tech, I assure you our educational systems would improve.

With all of that being said, this year I’m working on being grateful for a profession that I love, rather than wish for more. It’s not always the easiest, but I’ve realized that if I start my weeks with gratitude, it brings me a lot of perspective.

So, I name five things I’m thankful for: my family’s health, a partner that I love dearly, the opportunity to change youth’s lives for the better, the opportunity to continue my education, and living with friends nearby.  And 99% of the time afterwards, the lack of income doesn’t seem so bad…

Here’s to doing my very best to remember the importance of fulfillment, and not comparing my salary to those around me. My work is important. My work is valued. My work makes a difference. Here’s to remembering that…

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