Teachers have a unique job. They are the educators of our future generations. They shape the minds of the children that will one day have the big ideas that change the world. In a sense, they build our future. It is in their hands, all in the classroom. Teachers have a huge effect on our children, so why are they still under appreciated and underpaid?
Most teachers are not fortunate enough to have all of their classroom materials and resources available to them and bought by the school or the district. Teachers use their own money and their own resources to stock their classrooms and make it a positive environment for facilitating learning. Often, the district does not have adequate funding to provide sufficient materials to teachers. Teachers can claim a small tax break from the amount they spend on supplies for their classroom, but it usually will only cover a small portion of what they spend. The 2013 NSSEA Retail Market Awareness Study found that teachers spend an average of $485 on resources for their classroom, which includes supplies and instruction materials. 10 percent of those surveyed noted that they spent $1000 or more on making their classroom the best learning environment for their students.
In addition to donating their own money for the benefit of education, teachers donate hours of their time outside of classroom time. This extra time is used for any and all kinds of lesson preparation, writing lesson plans, grading and giving feedback on assignments and tests, as well as meeting with students and parents and many other responsibilities. When all of the classes are dismissed, the day isn’t over. There are still stacks of essays to grade and tomorrow’s material to prepare. They spend extra hours at their desks. Teachers take their work home with them, too. There are just a lot of responsibilities, but they care for their students and so they get done.
In the grand scheme of things, America pays their teachers poorly in comparison to other countries. The pay for teachers falls behind that of other professions which may require the same amount of schooling. Bloomberg.com reports that the average salary for teachers in the United States is $47,165 as of 2013. In the same year, Luxembourg teachers were being paid an average salary of $97,808 according to the site.
Although pay is a huge issue in the world of teaching, it is not the reason teachers do what they do. As a hopeful future-teacher, I know I am doing this for the students I teach. I love teaching and love what teaching allows me to do. I have the ability to change the life of a student. I have the ability to help a student learn something. That is powerful and it isn’t about the pay.
However, the compensation for the amount of work and personal resources that go into every day of teaching is not equal, not close. As much as the pay is not the reason that someone may enter the profession of teaching, it may be the reason that they leave the profession of teaching because they can no longer afford to do the thing they love. Just let that sink in.