Change of Scene

Change of Scene

As a teacher, having got the t-shirt is it not time to get out altogether?

For many, the call to teach comes from an early age. Some are smitten by the charm and warmth that they received from their earlier mentors; others develop so much of a passion for a subject that they feel driven to resonate with future generations. And then, there are those who fall in or evolve into, the profession. For most of these teachers, pay and benefits at first are a tertiary thought. The desire to make an impact comes foremost. 

Reality Comes Knocking

But then come the bills: those challenges that never registered in our carefree student days. Confronted with rent, insurance, utilities and transport, making ends meet on a teacher’s salary in most parts of the country, if not the world, requires either living off of inherited wealth or an understanding and better, financially off, spouse.

Despite most governments making overtures as to how they care about education and our future, it seems much of that is aimed at what is in the curriculum, the subjects that should be considered taboo, the books that fill the library, or whether teachers should be armed or protected by armed guards. Sadly, the financial challenges of teaching are akin to the troubles in a far-off land. A problem for sure, but not one that anybody locally can address.

And while it should be obvious that we need to teach our future generations of professionals, for the most part, what it seems we need to be doing is facing the reality of what our society actually values. And, given the evidence, it is not teachers.

Rather than fostering a rosy idea of how good it is to be a teacher, we should be specifically counselling any and all that teaching is not a good choice. That is, (based upon a survey by the Brookings Institution) unless you are planning to teach outside of the United States, Norway, Chile, or Hungary. But even some of the countries on their list are actually not so well paid as noted by the Cato Institute which debunked the thought that Finland pays their teachers as well as they do their doctors.

Many teachers realize, after not so long, that teaching is a sure route to a small apartment living just above the poverty line. Some try to augment their income by tutoring, working summers, or taking extracurricular work. Others, usually not that teaching math, pin their hopes on winning the lottery.

Teachers Have What It Takes

However, what teachers should realize is that having been in a classroom they possess several skills that employers crave. Teaching is a proving ground of sorts. Think about the nature of the job: deliver material to clients who, for the most part, do not want to absorb it, and be harassed incessantly 5 days a week for most of a year. You only do such if you truly feel you have a mission and that mission is fostering. Having such thick skin, despite a customer’s unwillingness to buy is pure gold. This is what companies need.

Change of ScenePhoto by Seema Miah on Unsplash

Fostering must be one of the core attributes that draw people to teaching. An article explored and compared the many skills, qualities, talents and interests to those areas of study and professions from which they would be the most fulfilled. And for those interested in fostering, teaching is not the only option. 

In fact, there are scores of professions that teachers can easily move into, and for which, having served a couple of years as a teacher make them more than moderately qualified. Take business coaching and team-building. In this regard, the students actually want to participate, and by being out of their normal environment, they are keen to both enjoy and absorb the lessons being taught.

Nursing is another profession, though not superbly paid, at least has the option of collective bargaining. There are also positions in social work, museum educators, promoting educational materials and platforms, educational administration, and coaching. 

Thinking about changing careers from teaching to something else is not news. Many sites, like Lensa, talk about the many jobs out there for former teachers. 

You Cannot Fight City Hall

What stops most of us from jumping ship is how comfortable we are with what we know. But it must be the same feeling for the frog in the pot as the water goes from an agreeable room temperature to boiling. There has to come a time when one takes stock of the situation and realizes, one cannot fight city hall.

And it is city hall (the state or county) that is calling the shots here. We do not have true market forces at work, but rather what economists would label as market forces distorted by legislation. Legislatures have drafted laws making it difficult for teachers to strike. Without an avenue to demand better wages nor recognition by society of the damage such policies do, it is inevitable that reality eventually sinks in and teachers have to move on to something else that will pay their bills, and if they are self-aware, satisfy their need to be fostering.

Finally, there is the guilt. Abandoning students fostered for years feels wrong. But teachers need to ask themselves, if the system itself has abandoned you then why are you trying to save a sinking ship? Do not be the last person on the boat waving at the lifeboats, put on a lifejacket and join the rest of the passengers.

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