Business colleges routinely brag about what attractive jobs their graduate are likely to get. But we in education colleges rarely do the same. If we make an appeal to prospective teachers at all it is usually akin to an appeal to enter the priesthood. You’ll make the world a better place, we say. We almost never say, “And you’ll do well for yourself while doing well for others.” Just look at the marketing — even the title — of Teach for America.
But the reality is that teaching is a pretty good gig. Yes, the work can be draining, but the hours are great and you get regular breaks throughout the year, including a long one over the summer. The annual pay is OK, but when you consider it on an hourly or weekly basis, you’ll get paid more than the average white collar or professional specialty and technical worker (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In addition, during a period of almost 10% unemployment you’ll sure appreciate the high job security. And let’s not forget the benefits, including solid health-care and an extremely generous retirement package that will let you retire in your mid-50s with about 60% of your peak salary guaranteed for the remainder of your life and adjusted for inflation. It would take a fortune in a 401k or 403b to produce that kind of pension benefit.
People shouldn’t complain about what a good gig teaching is; people should seek to become teachers and get it themselves. That’s the sensible advice that a Madison, WI teacher gave:
As someone who has been teaching for 18 years, Brand is familiar with the resentment and jealousy that her summer break elicits from those outside the profession. “It’s definitely a perk of the job,” she says, noting that people who covet her summers off could be teachers if they so choose. “I just say, ‘Well, you could go back to school and be a teacher yourself. It’s got its trade-offs.'”
If only we told prospective teachers about how attractive the job could be, we’d almost certainly draw more of them, including more of our best and brightest. Why should all those kids go to business school when they could be preparing to be teachers?
The problem is that people fear that advertising the pecuniary benefits of teaching would undermine the appropriate motivation for teachers. Balderdash! Do you think the brilliant heart surgeon is undermined in her motivation by the attractive pay?
And teacher unions cultivate a false sense of poverty among teachers in order to keep them and the general public mobilized for the next demand for increased pay or benefits. Let them try. We should launch our own campaign in ed schools of telling the world about how rewarding, both personally and financially, teaching can be.
(edited for typos)