To Teach or Not to Teach: Is it Worth the Money?

The voice comes from the center of your chest. “You should become a teacher.” As it settles in, warm and satisfying, a counter-voice calls from the surface of your brain: “Are you sure you want that as a career? I mean, is it worth it?”

For you, this question, with its conflicting answers, hovers, a haunting phantom of past, present and future. To teach or not to teach?

Perhaps most of all, what you are truly asking yourself is, “Will I earn enough money to make teaching worth it?”

No. You won’t.

There is not enough money to make it worth it.

There is not enough money to make it worth it to question a call to report a child’s crisis, not knowing if, when you click to hang up, the trip from CPS will just whip another fist to the kid for opening her mouth at school.

There is not enough money to make it worth taking that accusatory finger to the chest—the media, the parents, the politicians, the writers, the thinkers, the movers, the shakers—wanting better, faster, better, faster. To know the crushing feeling of society shoving you to your knees without a hand to lift you up. A raised bar without a raised budget. Because everyone has had a terrible teacher—a teacher bad enough to shroud the millions of micro-moments that dozens of great ones gave to us from the time we stepped into the classroom.

There is not enough money to make it worth seeing the wolf of a false prophet called “accountability” feasting on profits from texts and tests—weeks of real learning lost in preparation for more weeks of Scantron bubbling just to create bell curves to serve up on news feeds—every school, every child, ranked and filed in homage to King Data.

There is not enough money to make it worth the sideways scoffs about “teacher luxuries,” eternally assuming that those sweet summers are paid, that salaried work is measured in days, not hours, that all jobs are the same. “Because my unrelated job is treated thusly, yours should be too.”

There is not enough money to make it worth spending unmeasurable hours designing a flawless lesson only to see it fail because one student is in no mood, or technology crashed, or it’s Monday, or it’s Friday, or “my parents never had to do this,” or a fight just broke out, or you’ve been told to announce that a classmate has just died—or the other thousands of moments on which every lesson’s success hinges.

There’s not enough money to make it worth feeling like there’s always something that could have been better, that every day you will make countless mistakes, that every class has at least one student who wants you to fail because he hates you just because you are a teacher.

There is not enough money to make teaching worth it.

You may sit on college loan debt, fighting for a livable salary in a society that slashes educational funding. You will question your decision yearly to stay in the fray.

But I hope you teach. I hope you stay. I hope you choose to make the sacrifices daily because teaching is worth something more than money—greater than salaries and steps and raises and 401ks.

Read the rest via WeAreTeachers: To Teach or Not to Teach?

7 Comments Add yours

  1. bethbyrnes says:

    Well, that is the sacrifice every teacher makes. My mother made it for 50 years. You have to love people and children to endure all this. Apparently you do. We should be grateful.

  2. Meg says:

    This is so timely! Today, I watched a student get taken away in handcuffs to be hospitalized because she threatened to harm herself. The amount of hurt, anger and fear she was feeling as she sobbed to me to not make her have to go was heartbreaking.

    I’m on a 50% contract, and all of this went down when I could have been off campus, going home to start my weekend…but I stayed because I care about my kids, and I want them to be healthy and happy. They are worth my time. Absolutely.

  3. I have spent 30 years of encouraging, understanding and working hard to manage 1000s of children, autistic children, children with behaviour problems, learning difficulties, non English speaking children, sick children, injured children, mentally and psychologically abused children. They have increased class sizes, added more teaching hours to my timetable and now my voice has been permanently damaged and I’m tossed aside.
    The students, the families, the breakthroughs I’ve had with children from all over the world, some moderately wealthy, most needy and many struggling with adversity kept me sane.
    But now I am 50+ and I cannot sustain a speaking voice for more than a few minutes at a time. Now what do I do? Is there a role for a voiceless teacher?

  4. melodytiba says:

    This seems to be s valid concern amongst all to most teachers. It all comes down to how much you love and care about what you’re doing.

  5. This is perfect. Thank you so much for so eloquently writing what I have felt for years. This truly resonates with me and I can’t wait to share it with my peers.

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