Teachers in Arizona have recently organized to make a statement on the topic of low teacher salary; and they are walking out in protest. Kudos to my Arizona brethren and sistren, because your efforts are going to push our career higher! I am not a public school teacher, and I don’t live in Arizona. But I dedicate this post to all of the Arizona teachers who protested anyway, because the truth being brought to light through your activism is one that America has tried to push to the back burner forever.
Teaching children as a career is so ridiculously undervalued in America that nannies and garbage people get paid more than we do. So why would anyone in their right mind choose a career teaching children, knowing fully well that we will literally struggle just to survive? In conjunction with the “Red for Ed” teacher walk outs happening, I wanted to share my truth on the topic of teacher salary and pay. I have been a teacher for a decade and counting, and have been supporting myself independently for said decade and counting without any help from family or a partner.
If you or anyone you know is deciding they want to make a career out of being a Montessori educator who actually works with the children in the classroom, the decision also needs to be made about the level of commitment you have to surviving on a lowly teacher’s salary. And a certain level of commitment must be made to not being respected in society for what you do, and to being disregarded as a legitimate professional no matter what degrees you hold.
Here are some insights and experiences from my decade plus teaching career to help you decide if this career path is the right financial vehicle for you, and about some hits I never saw coming. Because I once heard it’s the hits you don’t see coming that are the ones that can knock you down. And I want to help other teachers anticipate what’s coming. If only you got to just teach the kids, somehow get paid a survivable amount with full benefits, and call it good, right?
When I started out working as a preschool teacher, I worked full time at a home-based daycare making $10 an hour in a beach town a couple hours away from San Francisco. And somehow, I completely survived. I rented a room in shared housing in order to afford the rent; and at the time my student loan debt was minimal. The one caveat what that I basically had to use my credit card for all emergencies that I couldn’t afford. But again, I was 110% financially independent and stable.
What I didn’t know then that I know now is that all teachers moonlight in some other side hustle if you want to avoid racking up credit card debt behind expensive emergencies, and not live in abject poverty. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that every state in America has income limits, which you should look up to confirm whether you are living a “very low income” life, which I was, without realizing it. But God is good; and I lived well.
Side hustles I have seen other teachers do successfully are:
- date night nannying for rich people (this was one of my favorite ways to make decent side cash because the kids would be asleep and I was chilling out doing whatever I wanted)
- Work at a fun cafe somewhere. Also one of my favorite side jobs in the past. I like fun, social, mindless work where I rack up tips. Restaurant jobs never worked for me because the hustle and bustle was a bit too much, but a cafe was just right. One of my other teacher friends still does this and still loves it. Her cafe is part restaurant so she gets to pour wine and enjoy free meals on the house.
- start some sort of internet-based side hustle.
- go find a brewery where you can pour beer if that environment appeals to you.
- clean vacation homes or clean places at night. I even heard of teachers who ended up making so much money cleaning houses that they abandoned the teaching for full time house cleaning because it made more money.
- teaching english to children in China over the internet. But do beware that the time zone requirements to your schedule can be rough.
For other side hustle ideas to supplement your teacher’s income, visit sidehustleschool.com or listen to the side hustle school podcast on iTunes.