By: Brian Hufford
This is a guest post written by Brian Hufford. Brian is a high school English teacher with over a decade of teaching and coaching experience.
I sat through eight interviews the other day and I realized that we are faced with what has become an ugly epidemic in education. Interviewee after interviewee started their dialogue with the reason they did not start teaching immediately after graduating college. One stated that her favorite teacher told her, “Do not be a teacher--it will break your heart.” Another explained that her father and mother both spent 30 years in the profession and advised her not to go into education.
This epidemic, where teachers and parents push students into different professions speaks more about the teachers’ lack of awareness rather than the profession. When a student says, “I want to be a teacher,” think about how it will potentially change that student’s future and also how it shapes society's view of us. As teachers and parents, we can alter the three main reasons on three main reasons why we tell students to avoid the teaching profession: Lack of pay, lack of communal/societal support, and lack of prestige.
When you break down these reasons to tell a person to avoid teaching as a profession, you should consider this: The average salary of a teacher in Colorado is $51,540. Moreover, a teacher in the profession for 15 years with a master’s degree earns in the range of $70,000-$80,000 in base salary (with no extra-curricular involvement). If money is a driving factor, you should keep in mind that a teacher can make close to $100,000 by year 16. In the Cherry Creek Schools a teacher with a master’s + 75, in year 16 will make a base salary of $86,614. By coaching two sports, a teacher can add over $8,000. Work summer school? Add an additional $3,400. If they started teaching at 23-years-old, at the age of 39, a teacher can be making $98,014. In Colorado, the average employee with 10-19 years of service earns $75,953 (payscale.com). While there are professions that earn more than teaching, this salary along with its benefits enables teachers to have a profitable career.
( please read footnote)
The lack of communal/societal support is a direct reflection of the detrition of the education system. While more has been put on teachers’ plates to outperform and take on additional duties, the community seems to want to do less. One of the best ways to make communal/societal change is through community institutions (schools). The way to do this is not to push the best students and young leaders away from this profession, but to encourage them to become teachers and community leaders. When a school becomes the guiding light in the community, the citizens in that community will support and help teachers achieve greatness.
The last major reason people tell prospective teachers not to go into education is prestige. I say this as humbly as I can; teaching is the most important profession in civilization. Without formal and informal education, without mentors and instructors, we would be lost. Teachers educate the future scientists, doctors, pilots, astronauts, mechanics, construction workers, nurses, marine biologist and any profession you can think of.
Teaching is a misunderstood profession and part of the blame rests on the shoulders of teachers. Next time you tell someone to avoid the teaching profession, think about what you are saying, because teaching is the best profession anyone could have. Reach out and encourage your best students and your kids to become teachers, because there is not a profession in the world that could create the change a teacher can and people should know this.
Footnote: While I make an argument that teachers can make an honest living, I also want to point out two issues with teacher salary. The first is that per education teachers are the second worst paid profession behind social workers, so the fact is teachers are still underpaid and underappreciated. Second is the misconception that teachers are paid year-round even though we only work 184 days. The truth is teachers are paid daily and only paid for the 184 days that they work. They are not paid for the summer even though their salary is stretched out over the course of a year.
English Language Development teacher attempting to bring some truth to the table.
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