It is no secret that teachers in the U.S. are underpaid for one of the hardest jobs available, if not the hardest. I remember telling my peers at UC Berkeley that I would be pursuing a career in teaching after graduation and getting responses like: “really? you sure?” I even got a “you’re too smart for that,” and received suggestions to pursue law school and other careers that are seen as more “prestigious” by many. This mindset is caused by the current state of teacher salaries, the workload that comes with it and the cost of living. It is really hard to survive on a teacher salary alone.
I did not settle for teaching; teaching has become my life and my passion. There is no career out there that is both as challenging and rewarding as being with students for eight plus hours a day. When a student struggles through a challenging topic and succeeds, his energy fuels my desire to keep doing this work. Teaching is not my 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM obligation, teaching is my life. Students deserve teachers with this passion and desire to be in the classroom, not teachers that are there to fill a position and sit on a desk.
However, teacher salaries across the U.S. are baffling and more and more teachers cannot afford to live where they teach. In order to survive financially, many teachers need to become principals or move into other forms of school administration to be able to earn higher salaries and make a fair living.
This is the reality currently facing the United States, and until this reality begins to change and teachers begin receiving the support necessary for their success in the classroom and outside of it, we will continue to have high teacher turnover. The is the same turnover that hurts our students and their academic success. Students have now become used to teachers “leaving” their schools. Teachers who don’t stay at a school for very long has become normalized for our students.
At the end of last school year, students walked around the halls asking, “Are you leaving? Are you coming back next year?” Students are now accustomed to having new teachers every single school year.
As I begin my two year commitment as a TFA Corps Member, I know that I am not using my time in the classroom as a stepping stone for something else. Our students deserve quality and dedicated educators who see them as more than a stepping stone. Real students’ lives are affected by teachers every single day, we cannot continue to see teaching as a stepping stone for something greater. It’s time that we start to value their work and pay them accordingly so that they can continue to grow in the profession.
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