Confession: I am a Poor, Tired Teacher

#poorteachertired

Hello all and thanks for a moment of your time. I have debated for the past 5 years trying a Gofundme campaign. I finally got the courage to step out of my comfort zone and try! Please, if you have any negativity about my request or position.. I ask you to please just pass this on by and practice kindness. 

First of all, I am a very positive person so I will start with the positives first. Obviously, I am still in the profession so the positives out way the hardships at this point. 

Here are some reasons why I love being a teacher:

1- My students are the most amazing people I know.

2- I get to learn from my students.

3- I love finding what works. It’s like being a detective.

4- I get to set a foundation of love and safety in student lives that they may not have experienced ever before.

5- Constant opportunities to practice patience (Lord knows I need it)

6- Superpower problem-solving skills

7- Helping parents navigate the system

8- Plenty of Surprises

9- Personally Fulfilling

10- Advocating for what is right for each student

11- Hilarious stories

12- Community and professional connections 

13- Practice and become an expert at multitasking

14- Your students will be the future of this country. You have a big part of that success. 

15- Lifelong connections and influence. 

*The list could go on but I will stop there for now. 

Here is a little insight into my experience riding the beautiful chaotic struggle bus of a 21st century teacher:

Even though I was warned, scorned and basically threatened not to go into education, my heart knew it was my passion from a young age.  I was well aware that I would make peanuts (pennies) and I would end up with a massive amount of student loan debt…. However, nothing could deter me from my passion. I spent the long required 3 years of classes and 2 years of student teaching (5 years all together, I did NOT take even 1 EXTRA credit 😂🤣) getting my special education degree from GVSU. I was among the few lucky grads that landed my first teaching job right after graduation. To my surprise I was hired as a general education teacher 2nd grade. Some of my graduating teacher friends moved to Arizona and North Carolina for the promise of immediate hire there. Some teacher friends took substitute or paraprofessional jobs while trying to get a teaching position, some found a job after a while, and some never found a teaching position and went into a completely different field.

In the state of Michigan I am certified to teach general education K-6 and special education K- age 26 (transition age students). I made sure I was highly qualified to teach a wide range of students making me a great candidate for many teaching positions. I would not allow myself to fail. This was my destiny; “Miss Bre” Or “Miss Woolley” for those really classy moments. 

Here we go! My greatest adventure: what was suppose to be the greatest time of my life; Working in my dream career, making money hired with a big girl teaching job… my own classroom. Let’s just say reality was rough.

Here is a list of the most difficult aspects of my experience in this profession: I make less than I could live off of, no pension, unbelievable standards to uphold/reach inside and outside of the classroom, 31 students packed inside my classroom, parents trying to be sneaky videotaping you/coworkers in various public places/happy hour/lunch time, parent teacher conferences leading to parents harassing (yes also sexual harassment) and aggressive threats=parent is no longer allowed alone in room with teacher, parent asking teacher why you aren’t doing your job and failing student by not teaching correctly or spending enough time with them 1 on 1, parents allowing their child to yell at teacher during conference, parents disrespectfully talking about teacher or school at home=no respect of teacher or school, being threatened to be sued/reported to a news station/administration every week of a 180 week calendar, having parents call you or email you daily-multiple times and then report you to your administrator for lack of communication … 😑🙄 but the original complaint that individual was contacting you about was that their student reported that you as a teacher aren’t teaching them anything during school hours (listen parents we won’t believe everything students say about home if you don’t believe everything they say about home.. deal? Because we hear some wild stories), having to teach 3 math lessons in 1 day because there are more math lesson then there are days of school in a year, kids can’t be kids on recess, mental health for teachers and students (in my opinion) is lacking or non-existent, if teachers give 112.5% it isn’t enough, bathroom break? What’s that.. teacher bladder status achieved, social life=nope, OCD/control issues/perfectionist/anxiety=full force, losing your self identity and becoming a “teacher” in every moment of your life, ummm who’s Bre again?

Whew…. the list goes on, it is bizarre but the point is, it is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. The only things that has helped me survive this far? My co-workers, social worker, mentors/co-teachers, secretaries, those parents who are absolutely amazing, family, my pup/ traveling/friends who understood why you didn’t text back, sleep, food, doctors, therapists, counseling, credit cards 😳, sunshine, almost dying* and my students*. SIDE NOTE: Let me make this loud and clear, it is not a district problem. What we have here it is a society problem, a 21st century problem, a parenting epidemic problem.  A problem with our country not valuing our education and educators. Do I know how to solve it? Or why it became a problem? Or when it became a problem? Nope.. I just know it is a huge problem we need to face TOGETHER. 

Here are some Facts vs Fiction from an NEA article posted in 2018. 

“Despite the fact that school districts nationwide are confronting significant teacher shortages, some administrators and legislators still disregard the role professional compensation plays in recruitment and retention, and minimize the complexities of teaching. In fact, according to the Learning Policy Institute, almost 20% of teachers leave the profession because of low pay.1 Here are facts you can use to counter some of the falsehoods about teacher compensation.

Fiction: Teachers earn as much as comparable professionals for the amount of work they do.

Fact: According to the most recent version of NEA’s Rankings and Estimates, the national average teacher salary is $59,660.2 However, teachers’ economic position has worsened over time. Inflation has eroded most of teachers’ salary increases: Over the past decade, the average classroom teacher salary has increased 15.2% but after adjusting for inflation, the average salary has actually decreased by $1,823 or 3.0%.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) notes that comparable professionals with similar education earn higher salaries. Nationally, teachers earn 19% less than similarly skilled and educated professionals. This “teaching penalty” has increased significantly in the past 20 years – from approximately 2% in 1994 to 19% in 2017.3

Fiction: Teachers are well paid because they have summers off.

Fact: Students have summers off. Teachers spend summers working second jobs, teaching summer school and taking classes for certification renewal or to advance their careers. Teachers are only paid for the days they are contracted to work.

Most full-time employees in the private sector receive training on company time at company expense. Teachers seeking to advance must earn higher degrees or certifications on their own time.

In addition, the previously cited EPI data compares salaries on a weekly basis, so the false argument about summers off does not change the fact that teachers are underpaid in comparison to other professionals.

Fiction: Teachers only work 6-7 hours per day.

Fact: Teachers work longer than the contracted workday

While seven hours is the contracted workday, teachers must do significant amounts of work such as grading papers and revising lesson plans on their own time, after school, and on weekends. As classes become larger and school districts change curriculums, this becomes more arduous. Teachers are often not compensated for before or after school bus duty and other similar responsibilities. Stipends for coaching or advising clubs are modest at best.

Fiction: Teaching is easy so anyone can do it.

Fact: Teachers, like many professionals including accountants and engineers, are trained, certified professionals. They have college degrees plus teaching credentials. Many have advanced degrees and have completed extensive coursework in learning theory and educational practice. For most, teaching is a calling. However, the intrinsic rewards of an educational career should not be used as a rationale for low salaries.

Because of low pay, new teachers often cannot pay off their student loans or buy homes in the communities where they teach. Teachers and other certified educators often work two or three jobs to make ends meet. The stress and exhaustion can become unbearable – forcing people out of their vocation. In addition, harsh evaluation policies, worsening working conditions, and lack of professional support are pushing more teachers out of the profession.

If school districts want their students to have the most professional teachers, they must pay a professional salary.”

My Personal/Professional Hardship:

Average starting salary for 1st year teacher in Michigan 2014 (when I started teaching) was about $36,000 (I made less than that when I left my first position 3 years later). An approximate average salary for all career fields requiring a Bachelor’s degree is around $50,000. Most teacher student loan debt is averaging $30,000+. There is requirements to continue college education courses in teaching in order to keep your teaching license on top of the requirements for continuous professional development and training. I am proud to that in the past 5 years of teaching, I have upward of 500+hours of professional development from after school and summer hours helping me gain knowledge as a professional and become a better educator. The average amount of money a teacher spends on their classroom is $479 yearly (that is a low number for most of us). This is not counting the countless hours I (and many others) have spent writing grants, contacting/using various companies/websites/promotions/events for supplies/additional services and supports/monies in order to provide students with the most beneficial learning experience at school.

I now hold a position with the ISD (it’s like the major leagues for educators) as a Special education teacher for high school students with severe and cognitive disabilities. I absolutely love my students but I can tell you that this selfless-less profession causes quick burn out. Myself and my co-workers are spit on, hit, kicked, or bitten daily. I will do my very best trying to hang on for another 4 years to make it to my 10 year teaching anniversary. At 10 years, through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (if it is still active) my government loans will be forgiven in full. That is $30,000! What a life changing opportunity. I will be dancing, rejoicing and celebrating that day. However, to pay for my college tuition I also had to take out Private loans. These loans now total (as interest is building) around $69,000. My student loan payments reach around $800 monthly and drain my already small paycheck/salary.

Wrap up:

I am making this campaign as a cry for help. I work 2 side jobs tutoring English and scoring/rating the writing section of the TOEFL on the weekends. My school already goes extended year- no summers off. I pray daily that a solution for this massive debt is possible. In the year 2037, I will have paid my last Private Loan Payment. I ask for understanding and love. I wonder if the burden of my school debt was decreased, if burn out would be possible to escape? Again, thank you for your time and your consideration. I wouldn’t change a thing about my past or my career choice. I love my students and community more than words can say. Above all else, money aside, I will leave this world with a positive imprint, filled with love and gratitude. #poorteachertired

3 comments

  1. Everyone applauded eduction and degrees
    But it all comes with a price…

    And you are doing such a great job with your students..

    But with all this loan hanging over your head..

    I know it must be totally impossible to stay focus and give your all..

    But don’t give up..
    You are working in your passion..

    And I do hope this GoFundMe campaign help some..

    I can’t get to it though

    So please post the link again..

    And keep on being the best teacher 👩‍🏫 you know how

    Liked by 1 person

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