posted: Dec. 26, 2008 @ 5:44p
For the past two years around this time, I started a thread where people could describe all of the ups and downs of their careers, including their level of compensation. I find these threads particularly informative and interesting. The 2006 thread became quite lengthy and a lot of people contributed a lot of great information about their careers. The 2007 thread got off to a strong start, then fizzled out kind of quickly. Still, there were a decent number of posts and information in that thread.
So, I'll give it another shot. If the thread continues to be informative and successful, I'll start a new thread annually. If not, well, people will have the past threads for reference.
Please let's try to keep this a positive, informative thread, and let's not get into any arguments about how one's career/education/compensation makes him/her superior/inferior to other people. Contribute as much or as little information as you're comfortable sharing, but please be honest so that this may serve as a truly informative thread for people mulling their career options.
So, now that the ground rules have been set, how'd your job go this year? Did things go well or not so well? How well were you compensated for 2008? Did the poor economy have a serious effect on your career? Maybe each person can give a brief description of themselves, their job, their education levels, and their salaries, present and maybe even projected salaries for the future. As always, since I'm starting the thread, I have to bite first:
Occupation: Urban Educator (My fancy title for a teacher in a city of low socioeconomic standing)
Education: M.A., plus some additional credits
2008 Salary: $74,000 (70K Base + $4K for extra activities and a bit of summer work.) This figure was a little lower than I expected. We don't have a contract right now, so base salaries have been frozen since September. In addition, I got screwed out of some extra duties that I did last year. (I was told no teachers would get extra school duties, then a few days later a whole bunch of other teachers were given extra duties. It wasn't hard feelings against me, just poor planning and the other people happening to be in the right place at the right time.) I earned $66,000 in 2007, and $60,000 in 2006.
Future Salary Projection: Tough to say for this year. Our contract negotiations are going poorly. If we settle this year, I should make around 80K base for the 2009 calendar year, plus retro pay (a few thousand). If I can get some summer work and extra duties during the next school year, I could add on another 2-3K. I expect to make about $100K within the next 4 years.
Benefits: Full medical, modest dental, generous sick and personal time, a decent pension plan, tremendous job security once you achieve tenure (but virtually none before that, and even with tenure, you can still have the daylights menaced out of you. Also keep in mind that not all states offer tenure, in which case you can pretty much be fired at will no matter how much time you have in a particular district.) I learned first-hand about the importance of these benefits this year when I was out with a long-term illness for several weeks. Because I had many sick days accumulated, I got full pay for my time out (thank goodness).
What's the job like?
Very difficult. Tremendously long hours, almost no down time during the school day (I don't take lunch very often),lots of work at home, deplorable working conditions, with some classrooms reaching temperatures of 90+ degrees and others below freezing. Prepare to adopt some small scurrying pets who have made your classroom their home in older buildings in urban districts. You will also most likely need to spend a decent amount of money on supplies for students because your school won't provide them, even though they insist on your using them. Very little respect and support from most supervisors, parents, and students. I do it for the good kids and because I love teaching.
Would you recommend the career to others?
It's getting harder and harder to recommend teaching as a career, especially in an ubran district. Each year more and more demands are placed on you, while more resources are taken away from you. There are plenty of people who are ready to tell you you're a horrible teacher, but these same people won't tell you why you're a horrible teacher or how you can improve. My current principal has been good to me, but I've been in a situation with a principal who always told me what a horrible teacher I was but refused to tell me what I was doing wrong or how I could make improvements.
Some components of our curriculum have reached new levels of madness (and I didn't think that was possible). Our literacy program this year, for example, requires students to be in differentiated groups. And within those groups, activities have to be further differentiated for students according to ther testing strengths and weaknesses. Oh, and you have to design the center activities.
The students have to do these activities independently, but of course, most (especially the younger students) can't. The facts that we have many students who are unable to read at grade level (or at all) and who have never learned to work cooperatively with other students doesn't seem to matter to the powers that be.
So chaos ensues, with kids in groups playing around and arguing. Meanwhile, you can't help them or discipline them, because at the same time, you have to meet with another group and assess their reading. This is not a once in a while thing. This is daily. And there's no other time in the day to help the students learn how to work successfully in groups. Then you have to display work from every subject in your room, with descriptions, evaluations, and state standards. You have to make giant charts for all the skills you're teaching and display them too. And you can't make charts or grade papers during the day (unless it's during a prep or a lunch period, and even both of these periods combined don't provide nearly enough time to do all this stuff).
I also teach computers. We moved to a new building, with new computers. But I haven't been allowed to use the new computers yet. So I've had to teach computers in the classrooms with worksheets. Construction on the building was not complete, but we were forced to have school there, because there was nowhere else for us to go. Meanwhile, we've had rooms leak, the heat break down, and tons of other problems. And we can't even get into classrooms because we haven't gotten keys yet. Every time we need to get into a room, we have to hunt down a custodian (in an 80,000 sq. ft. school).
If you do decide to become a teacher in NJ, you will be paid well compared to teachers in most other parts of the country. There is, however, an astonishingly wide gap between affluent and needy districts in NJ. NJ's suburbs are some of the most beautiful in the country, and NJ's inner cities are some of the toughest in the country. You will earn every dime of the money you make, especially in an urban district. (See above.)
I struggle every day with whether I should start to look for other opportunities. I want to stay to help the truly deserving kids, but the annual increases in the level of nonsense (very little of it having to do with the kids) are making the decision tougher and tougher, despite the good pay.
Every year I begin by saying, "It can't be any crazier than last year. " And every year, it gets crazier. Oh well, hopefully in another 20 years, I can retire!