Teach100 Mentor: How Do Teachers Feel About Compensation?

Teacher compensation is a divisive subject. On the one hand, everyone agrees that the work of teachers is incredibly important. On the other hand, a shroud of mystery is pulled over the process of teaching and learning, and people who have never taught themselves are confused about the work. What are teachers really doing all day? Why should their work days end at three when 9-5ers remain chained to their desks? I wish I could have a 2-month paid vacation! (Okay that’s more of a statement we can all relate to than a question).

The issue is nuanced, and the factors are many. Taxpayers who may not understand how much work and education goes into teaching are reluctant to invest more of their hard
earned dollars in in increasing teacher salaries — especially when teacher assessments seem murky at best, and tenured teachers have seemingly unfair amounts of protection from losing their jobs (sometimes despite iffy performance).

But these seemingly “cushy” pay schedules may not even suit the profession, argue many, who believe teaching is work that should be rewarded on a merit-based system, not a basic “time-in, wage up” system. Teachers are too educated and ambitious for this type of system, some think, and should be rewarded with higher salaries when they show effectiveness and innovation in their classrooms.

We asked a few teachers from the Teach100 how they feel about teacher pay. Here’s what they had to say:

Are teachers fairly compensated for their work or do you feel like they deserve more?

“No, teachers are not fairly compensated because… the job calls for us to go above and beyond and we spend a lot of our own time and money to make sure all of our students have what they need.” —Starr Sackstein, Work in Progress

“No, teachers are not fairly compensated because… Teaching is an incredibly emotional and spiritually wrenching vocation. Huge amounts of undocumented and remunerated time is spent on preparing for, thinking about and assessing learning. Because teachers are, by nature, self-sacrificing beings, we do what we do despite what we are paid, whereas in any other profession, people would either run away from the career, or cause a massive scene to get paid more fairly.” Sean Hampton-Cole, Ideas Out There

"No, teachers are not fairly compensated because...doing our job well requires far more than 40 hours a week or 10 months a year. Given that fact, our pay is far from competitive.” —Paul Cancellieri, Scripted Spontaneity

“No, teachers are not fairly compensated because...I have not had more than a couple hundred dollar increase in years, yet pay more for insurance and retirement. New teachers make just over $30K, with little hope of appropriate wage increases.” —Marcia, Learning in Bliss

“No, teachers are not fairly compensated because...the work teachers do is vital to society and without education where would we be?” —Christopher J. Nesi, House of #EdTech

“No, teachers are not fairly compensated because...The teaching assignments are more complex, requiring more certification and resources provided by the teacher, and should be compensated more. A Special Education position, by definition, is specialized beyond the General Education areas and compensation should reflect that. Teachers are not compensated enough for their level of education, expertise, and responsibilities in general.” Melanie Link Taylor, MzTeachuh

Are you satisfied with this system of compensation? What would you do differently?

“No, the system is broken and needs to value all efforts and time teachers dedicate to their students.” —Todd Bloch, Sweat to Inspire

“The salary is much better than when I started, but I wish there were more opportunities for compensation based on the extras we do; like curriculum planning for example.” —Starr Sackstein, Work in Progress

“I would make salaries dependent in some way on student appraisals. I know you may get some vindictive appraisals, and some kids may see it as a way to try and be funny, but these could be compensated for. Eliminate the three best and the three worst survey results, and you would get a pretty fair reflection of how students feel about their teacher. Which in turn would reflect how much teachers care for their students, how well they prepare for lessons, how fairly they treat students and so on.” —Sean Hampton-Cole, Ideas Out There

“No, I am not satisfied. I continue to seek improvement, but when I have the inclusion students that do not make annual growth projections, I am considered effective, not highly effective because of high reliance on student growth. I differentiate, but cannot make up a two year or more deficit in one year. Other teachers at my grade level have only at and above grade level students, making it easy for them to meet growth projections. They are considered highly effective, using materials I develop. I think we should allow for other standards of measure than just standardized testing. Individual students make growth on their goals, and should be credited with such growth.” —Marcia, Learning in Bliss

“No.  We should be compensated based on our performance, but not measured with low-quality standardized tests.  Rather we should use holistic, growth-based assessments of teacher quality.” —Paul Cancellieri, Scripted Spontaneity

“The system is fine, I just wish there was more money paid to teachers.” Christopher J. Nesi, House of #EdTech

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