NEW TEACHER DISCOVERS THAT HE WORKS FOR JUST OVER MINIMUM WAGE
As part of our recent line of stories dealing with the state of education in contemporary America, a reporter from [name of publication deleted for the sake of privacy] traveled to distant Fairfield, CA in order to interview one of the new teachers at Rodriguez High School – one ‘Mr. “Barney” Crayfish’ (Mr. Crayfish has been dubbed “Barney” by his students because he only owns three shirts which are suitable work attire, and two of these shirts are the unfortunate purple of the beloved/hated dinosaur of the popular children’s television show.
When asked why he had chosen the profession, Mr. C replied, “Well, I’ve been in education my whole life. I have an MA from Cal State Sacramento and I spent four years pursuing a PhD at WSU Pullman. Given a choice between returning to my old job as a dishwasher, or taking up teaching, well, working as an educator seemed like a natural decision.”
After a moment’s reflection, however, “Barney” continued by stating that he was no longer sure that he had made the correct choice. “You see, I got my first paycheck today,” he said, “and I was more than a little surprised. When I first started, I was told that I was starting at the far right end of the pay scale. I pretty much capped out the scale, because of my education, and I also have a $1000 dollar annual bonus on top of that, because of my MA. All in all, my salary is around $41,000 a year.”
Glancing around nervously, “Barney” continued, “But it’s really not as good as it sounds. I mean, it’s actually a total crock of shit. After paying into the Fairfield-Suisun Teacher’s Retirement System ($334.90), paying my medical insurance (178.76), Medicare ($47.99), Fed Tax ($411.29) and State Tax ($92.59), tuition fees for required technology classes for “new” teachers [classes that you can’t test out of no matter what your level of technology proficiency], my union dues ($94.98 a month) and my life insurance ($1.00), I’ve figured out that I make just over minimum wage.”
This reporter, somewhat confused by the seemingly outrageous claim, asked Mr. C if he would clarify. The teacher responded somewhat testily with “Look. It’s not exactly rocket science. I work five days a week. Typically I’m up at 5:00 am, and I start throwing together daily vocabulary and grammar exercises, or else grading student papers so that I can update grades once I get to school. Not counting the time I take to shit and shower, I usually put in about an hour and a half of work before I actually get in the car and drive to work. Once I’m at work, around 7:15, there’re roll-sheets to be picked up, copies to be made, transparencies to be washed, daily agenda and learning targets to be chalked up on the whiteboard, and any number of other small duties to be performed before the classroom is physically set up to teach.” “Barney” shrugged at this point, his eyes fluttering closed in what our reporter could only describe as an expression of ‘infinite exhaustion and mild bitterness.’
Urged to go on, “Barney” elaborated. “We’re on the block schedule, so every Tuesday and Thursday I’m supposed to get a long and useful prep period. Of course, I don’t actually get one, because I got my credential out of state, and CA can’t pass up the opportunity to bleed away any time or money I might have by compelling me to take endless ‘courses’ on how to teach. So I spend my valuable prep period with a BTSA instructor who is there to ‘support’ me in my initial teaching efforts.”
When asked what kind of support his BTSA instructor offered, Mr. C laughed, “Oh, she pretty much tells me that I should make time to get some sleep, and that it’s very important that I set aside sufficient time to do my prep work. We usually waste about an hour and a half talking about how what I really need most, as a new teacher, is more –time— to organize, plan and grade. But hey, I’m not going to complain. I mean, at least she’s an adult. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I don’t get a prep period at all. I spend the entire day locked in a room with adolescents. It can be a little draining. After all, even if you like the students it gets old saying, repeatedly, “Ok, since you can’t seem to quiet down, we’ll stay one minute after the bell. [student name] please sit down. [student name] please put away the make-up, you know the rules in this class, and there’s to be no personal grooming when you’re supposed to be working. [student name] I told you not to throw things in this class, here’s your referral, please go to the office.”
This reporter nodded sympathetically at all this, then noted, brightly, that at least teachers got to go home at 3:00, and wasn’t that a pretty nice perk of the job? The remark was met with a stony silence, and the thousand-yard stare that correctional officers get when some clueless civilian suggests that perhaps the inmates would be better behaved if the ‘guards were nicer.’
“I’m betting you don’t actually know any teachers,” Mr. C gritted out. “No one stops working at 3:00. Some people work better at home, at their kitchen table, and some need to stay on campus in order to keep their focus, but no one stops working at 3:00.” “Barney” rolled his head tiredly around his shoulders as if attempting to loosen an inflexible knot, and continued “I’m generally not done until at least 10:00, and even then I’m not really done. I just get to the point where I don’t really give a fuck anymore, and I quit. Stop looking so shocked. I’m a teacher not a goddamn priest. The kiddies are gone, so relax.”
This reporter, a little uncomfortable at how quickly the lovable dinosaur had transformed into a rather snappy purple monster, took a quick step back before bringing the interview back into focus on Mr. C’s original assertion that he was, basically, making minimum wage. “Well think about it.” Mr. C explained, in the same tone of voice one would use when explaining algebra to a cow, “I work essentially 12 to 14 hours a day, four days a week, and a straight eight on Friday. Then I put in, typically, about six hours a day on weekends. Never less than that, and most of the time a bit more. But I’m trying to be reasonable. So let’s just call it six hours. That’s about 70 hours a week. My take home pay is $2200, which is about $550 a week. That comes out to about $8 an hour, which is less than I got paid for trashing out and maintaining apartments at my summer job.”
This reporter was a bit stunned upon checking the math and finding that Barney was, in fact, speaking the truth. He did, however, point out to Mr. C that at least the teacher was getting retirement. Barney shrugged, “Fat lot of good that’ll do. It’s clear I’ll have a heart attack long before I reach retirement. I’m just hoping that the life insurance payout is enough to buy my wife a car. Even if it’s not, though, I can’t wait to be dead. Then, at least, I’ll be able to get some rest. I should have kept working as a dishwasher, or an apartment maintenance man. I could have worked two jobs, for half of what I’m making now, and I would have less stress, more money in my pocket, and more truly free time.
At this point, the stench of bitterness became too intense for this reporter to resist, and he fled, fearing for the sanctity of his idealistic little soul.
Stay tuned for more news in our next installment on Education in America: WHY TEACHERS HAVE TO CALL PARENTS FOR EVERY LITTLE THING, AND WHY LITTLE JOHNNY IS NEVER ACTUALLY PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING THAT HE SAYS OR DOES.