Did you know that the average yearly salary for secondary education teachers is only $50,000 to $60,000? Many teachers earn even less than that.
It’s no wonder that so many teachers think that they are underpaid!
We need to convince our politicians to increase teacher salaries. Otherwise, great teachers could quit public education, leading to a teacher shortage and poor student performance.
Here are 12 reasons why it is urgent to give teachers higher pay!
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1. Teachers Are Quitting
Almost everyone knows that teachers don’t get paid enough. If you say you’re studying to be a teacher, people will joke about how poor you’ll be. The truth is that it’s almost impossible to support a family on a teacher salary alone.
Recent statistics show that 1 in 4 teachers consider quitting their job. The reasons cited are stress, low pay, and lack of recognition. The worse thing is that teachers who consider quitting are those who have many other opportunities. Not retaining these high-achieving teachers could lead to a decline in student performance!
2. Some Teachers Need Second Jobs to Pay the Bills
Teachers don’t make enough to support a family alone. Oftentimes, a spouse needs to be working a full-time job to help make ends meet. In the worst-case scenario, teachers will have to work a second job. It is a shame that some of them need to hold a second job: Teachers should be able to focus on improving their classes!
Another problem is that some school districts do not have a 12-month pay structure. Meaning that teachers are paid only for 10 months a year. Teachers who don’t get paid for the summer usually need to find a summer job to make ends meet. A second job is often the go-to for the summer and sometimes for the school year to make a couple of extra dollars.
3. Unsafe Working Conditions
When you think about teaching, you might imagine preparing an amazing lesson in a beautiful classroom with sweet students. This can be the case for some teachers, but wherever you teach, there are a couple of looming dangers.
The first thing to keep in mind is the fights. These can happen inside or outside the classroom. As a teacher, it is your job to help make sure these don’t happen and to stop them if they break out. If two students are fighting in the middle of your hallway, be prepared to call security and go break it up as best you can. In some cases, anger may be directed at you, and you might have to dodge a chair or some school supplies.
Another danger to consider is school shootings. As a teacher, you are signing up to protect your students in the case of a shooter. Some teachers are asked to risk their lives for their students and teach everyone how to act in that scenario.
Teachers put up with way too many dangers to get paid as little as they do.
4. They Are Only Paid for Set Hours
Teachers are paid from the beginning of the school day to the end of it with little leeway. This is about 8-11 hours a day, depending on how long they have been working at the school and how long the school day is. Only about half of teachers get paid for after-school clubs and activities, and the pay is usually a set amount. That drama teacher who stays after school with 40 students until 8 or 9 pm probably didn’t get paid much for that (if at all). In many cases, the extra payment is only enough to pay for the activity itself.
5. They Oversee After School Activities
Teachers can often be found at the school a couple of hours after the school day has ended. They can be found grading papers, attending meetings, doing lesson plans, tutoring students, and leading extracurricular activities. As said above, teachers don’t typically get paid during this time. They may get paid if the club is super popular or if they are tutoring someone around the testing season. But let’s think about all the hours they put into these activities.
Sports programs and the arts often have teachers staying after school late into the evening. When they’re doing rehearsals or coaching games, this takes a lot of unpaid time and energy. This can be an extra 2-5+ hours spent after school, and they might only get paid for half (or less) of it.
Then we have the teachers staying for an extra hour or two for a club that the teacher alone sponsors without any help from the school. We also have teachers who spend time tutoring their students for an extra hour or two to help them succeed. Finally, we have the wonderful staff meetings that take place after school that often go unpaid.
It is very important to note that almost all after-school activities are for the students. These supervising teachers are working extra hours to help them succeed in their classes or to participate in activities that they enjoy. A lot of what teachers do is for the students’ benefit to help them succeed or become better. We should show our appreciation for what these teachers do by paying them for these extra hours.
6. Not Enough Hours in a Day to Finish the Work
Go ahead and ask your teacher what they do during their lunch period. They’ll tell you that sometimes they are helping students or letting them redo tests. Other times they are catching up on grading or preparing for their next class. The point is that eating is sometimes their last priority. Why do they use their lunchtime to do everything but eat?
They get paid for a set number of hours during the day, most of which is taken up with teaching. But they still have papers to grade, classes to plan, powerpoints to make, etc. If they are going to teach, they must be prepared, and that often takes up time during lunch or after school. Think about all the big projects and assignments you did in school. They were meant to teach you, but your teacher spent a lot of unpaid hours creating those assignments and then grading them.
The following experience is from a former student:
“During my time in high school, my teachers did a walk-out. They only worked for the hours they were paid and left once their hours were over. No grades were put in that week, tutoring was no longer offered, and clubs were put on hold. It was crazy to see how much they did during non-working hours and how little they could do with the hours they were actually paid for.”Anonymous
7. Teachers May Teach Extra Classes
Teachers often can’t just do one thing either. For instance, a teacher who majored in Music Education and taught a class about orchestra might also have to teach a computer class. People who studied English Education now might take classes to help special education students (SPED) because they may have been assigned to a couple of SPED classes.
There aren’t enough teachers and some schools will turn a teacher’s planning period into another class for them to teach. Unfortunately, teachers often have to pay for extra classes they take to be prepared to teach new topics or SPED students. They should get paid for those extra hours spent preparing to teach new classes.
8. They Are Not Paid for Work Done at Home
Most people work their nine to five jobs and then get to go home, relax, work on home projects, spend time with their family, etc. As a teacher, this isn’t always the case. Teachers often bring their work home with them. They’ll finish grading papers or work on lesson plans for the next couple of days. This cuts into time they could relax or spend time with their family.
Teachers often talk about spending their weekends catching up on grading as well. Some of these teachers already spend time after school grading papers, only to get home and do more work without pay. They deserve to at least get paid for those extra hours spent at school working on assignments.
9. Communities Cause Pay Disparity
The school is typically funded by the community and local government. In some cases, the federal government will step in to help a bit more. However, depending on the community you live in, you might get paid more or less. Poorer communities often have teachers who are paid less and have little funding for after-school activities or school supplies.
One student shares her experience: “I lived in two different communities in high school. One was lower-middle-class, with some lower-class and homeless classmates. The school was small and didn’t have supplies for certain projects. The other was an upper-middle-class community, and I was shocked to see the almost new-looking classrooms, freshly bought music and scripts, and a renovation of the cafeteria to make it more modern.”
She explained that, despite the differences in both environments, teachers did the same amount of work and put in the same amount of effort for the students. In the lower-middle-class environment, teachers paid for their supplies with their own money. In the upper-middle-class environment, the school paid for the supplies and the teachers were paid more.
10. Teachers Can Also Be Caregivers
Teachers do more than just teach, prepare, grade, etc. In some cases, they are the second set of parents to children or a role model for those who are missing one in their lives. Great teachers are ones that students can trust and talk to when they need help. They aren’t stealing the parental role, but they are helping as another parent or filling in if necessary.
Another student explained that he had one teacher that would sometimes take time to just talk with students. The class would be spent going over what the class as a whole needed to improve on or just teaching some other life lessons. This teacher would often allow students to talk with him about issues in their lives so he could offer advice. He, and some other teachers, inspired this student to become a person who cares about education and other people.
11. Teachers Pay out of Pocket for Supplies
It is not uncommon for theatre teachers to spend an extra $100 or more on plays with their own money when their schools can’t provide it. Elementary teachers create school supply shopping lists for their students to make sure there are enough supplies for everyone.
Teacher shopping lists are the new way for teachers to get supplies for their classrooms because the school can’t pay them. Some teachers have to replace supplies mid-year with their own money. Teachers should be paid more, or at the very least, they should not have to worry about paying for extra supplies with their own funds.
12. Teachers Must Master Technology
Many students hate when their school would decide to switch between learning apps like Google Classroom or Canvas. It can be so confusing for students to have to learn something new once they got a hang of the old system. But teachers have to deal with that switch within days. They must learn it quickly and know how to use it effectively because it will be the basis for their classroom.
Teachers deserve so much more for all the extra effort they put in.
The Bottom Line
The teaching profession is complicated and teacher pay should reflect those difficulties.
School districts should follow the examples of universities and colleges. The retention of teaching talents is greater in the higher education system because professors earn about $100,000 per year.
If we do not support public education, this could lead to a teacher shortage and poor student performance. Many public school teachers suffer from financial anxiety. We need to advocate for higher pay for teachers and better education for our children.