Globe Careers readers wrote to us in droves after we ran a story on teachers’ salaries. A lot of people talked about how much they love the job, though they often cited the challenges of the role.
Many teachers stressed the amount of work there is to do when class is over and emphasized that new teachers need to better recognize this. You don’t always get great kids, and dealing with troublemakers can be frustrating. Parents aren’t always on your side either, some said.
More than a few teachers expressed how gratifying it is to connect with a student or making a breakthrough with a student who’s having trouble. But teachers lamented that people always criticize them for how much they get paid or for having more time off in the summer.
The current downside is the difficulty of getting a job right now, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia. Many teachers said they expect they will never get to a full salary because they’re on contract all the time. Others who obtained their bachelor of education but can’t find a job have simply left the field to find employment elsewhere.
Here are some of the best comments posted on the website in response to the article.
Ups and downs
LionelTrain, a high school teacher, wrote about his experiences.
The upside: “The rewards are fantastic. Once in a while you really sense that you’ve made a positive difference in a kid’s life. Sometimes the parents will tell you; sometimes the kid tells you; sometimes they even come back after a few years and tell you.”
The downside: “Some kids are really hard to deal with and there isn’t much you can do. The occasional parent is nuts, but most are fine. The job is very political; you learn to keep your head down, ignore the junk Mother Ministry spews and do what’s right for the kids. They’ll change their minds in five years anyway. A bad vice-principal or principal can really get on your nerves, but again, you can largely ignore them.
“The job can be emotionally exhausting in ways people outside of schools can’t even imagine. You’re ‘on’ all the time, can count on a few confrontations every week with kids, and when a kid crashes out, it’s rough. A student of mine made three suicide attempts last year. That really takes it out of you. You’ll be well paid, but don’t go into it for that reason. You’ll make more in a lot of other professions. In spite of the list of drawbacks I gave, the job is also a helluva lot of fun! When a good class discussion gets going, I can’t believe I’m getting paid!”
TDot wrote that the hours spent outside the class include “prepping material, designing activities, meeting in teams, assessing student work for ‘next steps,’ documenting and evaluating progress, reporting that evaluation in conferences or written format, consulting with guidance departments or administrators for solutions to challenging scenarios.
- You need to be able to manage many tasks and the stress associated with them, TDot says: “A typical scenario might be: On Friday you are faced with three sets of essays (75 papers) to read and assess so that students get timely feedback, but you also have a new unit to introduce in two weeks, a meeting with colleagues to finalize a summative activity for the current unit, and your soccer team has two scheduled after-school practices. Don’t forget you also are teaching classes every day. The reality is that considerable work is done in time outside the classroom hours. That generally means early morning, at the end of the school day or at home.”
- “If you have a strong work ethic and can sustain the energy and enthusiasm essential for working successfully with young people and colleagues while meeting the demands of an environment that is constantly in flux, then teaching will be rewarding.”
- “Good teachers will tell you that there is no lesson, no unit, no program that can not be improved. There is always a better idea, a more creative approach, another strategy to use. Are you prepared to do that?”
Rick in Calgary said he taught for 20 years and he is now in private education consulting. “During the school year, it literally owns you. Marking, planning, meetings, progress reports, more marking, and more marking, extra-curricular, tutorials, and more marking. You will be frustrated, though, if you are the majority who are good teachers who are committed to kids both in and out of the classroom while constantly being jerked around with government funding, the massive bureaucracies and useless spending that goes on inside school boards, and with the minority of your colleagues who are not as committed and who cannot be dealt with or removed. But a smile from a kid makes it all worth it.”
- Rick in Calgary said the remuneration can be good if you can get a permanent contract. The highest salary (after about 10 years of service) is more than $90,000 annually. And the benefits and vacation are good.
- Lamb306 found it amusing. “Bahahaha! Salary indeed! You will work on contracts for the rest of your life. That’s all there is now for teachers. I am a teacher, but there is no future in it. If you don’t love it for the sake of teaching, and if you don’t want to be poor all your life, find something else.”
Teacher2012 said the profession “is a calling. It is a journey. Not everyone is cut out for it. If you want a career in teaching you must be open to and embrace life-long learning. As an elementary school teacher, the responsibilities of educating our young people are ever daunting. The whole child and its many layers.”
- “This is the advice that I would share: I love children and I love to be in their presence in an ever constant exchange that is indicative of the process of teaching. Politics and many other hiccups can often be a turn off and can actually be downright frustrating. However, people who are passionate about what they do rise above despite the challenges which surface in the profession. There is ‘joy’ in the journey.”
- “If at the end of a tough and challenging day when all is said and done and the kids have been dismissed and gone home, if, at that point, as you walk the stairs and hallways of the school, if you can still say in your exhaustive state, ‘I love my job and can’t think of anything else I would rather do’ then that's all the affirmation I need to stay in this business.”