Education in America

I am NOT overpaid!

Recently, while procrastinating on the internets (my favorite pastime), I ran across this piece of satirical math and it got me thinking about teachers’ salaries.  The author suggests that by paying them as babysitters, teachers would in fact earn more money than they do now.  This fascinated me because of how often we teachers are treated as little more than babysitters by lawmakers, families, and administration.

Teachers are big news right now, particularly due to the protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana. CNN recently ran a piece about why teachers are so upset; they are underappreciated and have been for many years, and now states want to evaluate and even fire teachers based on invalid test scores.

Teachers are professionals (like doctors and lawyers) and in order to teach, one needs education and training.  Teachers are required to attend continuing education classes and are strongly encouraged to seek out master’s degrees.  Yet, with all this specialized training and education, the average teacher’s salary in the United States is about $42,000 (according to– although a quick Google search brings up different numbers).  The average family practice doctor makes $204,000 (according to  While the nature of these two jobs is different, the amount of training and life long education is often comparable.

So why are teachers not treated as the professionals they are, or paid accordingly?  The short answer is that teaching is considered a women’s job and as such, does not demand the same respect that other professions do.  As I mentioned earlier, many people think teachers are just glorified caretakers.  If you are interested in this theory, I highly recommend 14kgold’s impassioned plea for support of teachers’ unions because teaching is essentially a feminist issue.

This said, what really gets to me is when people say that teachers are overpaid.  “What? Why? I can’t even! How are they overpaid?” you ask.  Because:

1) They only work 6 hours a day! This is not true.  I regularly get to work at 7 a.m. (school starts at 8:30) and stay at least until 4:30 p.m. (school gets out at 2:30), at which time I bring work home because, contrary to what people believe, the limited plan time that I get during the school week is not enough to actually plan my lessons and take care of the classroom.  Furthermore, I regularly work through my 45 minutes of lunch.

Additionally, teachers are required to take continuing education courses outside of working hours; I take graduate courses two nights a week.  And, about those continuing education courses … while at one time they were often paid for by the school district, because of the economy most teachers are now required to pay for them themselves.

2) Teachers get summers off! This is partly true.  Most teachers I know either teach summer school in order to make ends meet, or they take classes.  In my experience, the teachers who truly have free summers are the teachers who have a significant other who supplements the income.

3) Why should we pay teachers more when their students are failing? Ugh, really?  Failing?  Based on what?  Based on the invalid test scores that were never meant to be used to evaluate teachers?  Obviously, this argument makes me the most angry.  People seem to think that the only teachers that “deserve” to earn a reasonable amount of money are those whose students can pass a standardized test.  Research shows that white, middle class  students do best on standardized tests, so any teacher who wants to earn a decent living would want to teach in a school that serves that population, leaving the poorest, most needy schools without good teachers.

There is a whole lot more that can be written on the issue, but I need to get back to my lesson planning, IEPs, graduate coursework, and students’ assessments now.  So I leave you, fellow Persephoneers, with a plea to help educate others about educational issues and to support your local teachers’ union!

image credit readjusting expectations on tumblr

8 replies on “I am NOT overpaid!”

My parents were both teachers (now retired), and I can assure you, they were NOT overpaid. They were barely paid. My mom sent us off to summer camp every year just so she could take the required continuing education courses she needed, because camp was cheaper than any other form of childcare. Money was TIGHT growing up. My childhood was not deprived, by any means, but I learned early on that money was not an unlimited resource, and that it needed to be spent wisely. Not to mention, my parents brought home work every single day, graded papers all weekend, and my dad (who was a very popular teacher) got phone calls and did a huge amount of interacting with students on his “off”time.

I could never teach, but I have huge respect for those, and for those who do it well, because it’s hard, it’s often thankless, and you have to deal with people perpetuating incorrect stereotypes about your job and your work ethic. And please don’t get me started on the decline of respect shown by both students and parents toward teachers. It’s awful.

My parents are both retired teachers, and my brother is also a teacher and football coach. They work HARD. My mom just retired last year. She taught special needs students for 32 years. She worked on projects, grades, lesson plans, etc at home all the time. She was required to take several certification classes during her “free” summers, and she also earned her Master’s degree. Her school district went bankrupt and for over 2 years teachers were forced to buy their own pens, pencils, staples, paper clips- you name it. She was more of a parent to some of these kids than their own parents. When she retired she got no party, no fanfare, just paperwork for her pension and a MUG filled with Tootsie Rolls. I shit you not, the mug said “Thanks for the ROLL you played in your students lives.”  Yes, you read that correctly. Spelling and grammatical errors aside, what a disrespectful way to treat someone who has worked her ass off for 3 decades. Oh I could go on and on. My dad and brother worked in different cities, so their experience wasn’t as bad. I admit I’ll occasionally joke with them about their 2 week winter breaks and the summers they don’t work as much as I do. However, I still feel guilty that I have less education than my family members yet I make more than twice their salaries. It’s just not right.

Yes, yes, yes. My dad has taught high school math for 30 years, and I find it spectacularly depressing how many people believe that #1 and 2 are true. He spends a good amount of his evenings and one day of the weekend grading and doing lesson plans (he often teaches a variety of classes, from remedial algebra to AP Calculus, so you’ve obviously got to have different plans for each class), and in the summers he used to do computer repair work for the school district. There’s so much more to being a teacher than just being in the classroom during the school day, and I wish more people understood that.

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