The following is a submission from an educator as part of the Your Soapbox feature, which explores the experiences of educators in North Carolina through their own words. Check out more first person stories here, or if you are an educator, submit your own.
I have always known that it was my calling to work with kids.
I have always known that it was my calling to work with kids. I knew that I had a love and passion for learning and for teaching, particularly science. What I didn’t know was that the profession that I so longed for was the most undervalued, unappreciated, and severely underpaid professions out there.
This is my 5th year; I started teaching in March of 2009. I LOVE teaching, I LOVE seeing the “lightbulbs” go off in my students, I LOVE that bond that I get with students especially those that come from not so great homes and enjoy the attention and the affirmation that I give them that they CAN and WILL succeed.
There are many perks to being a teacher. Along with those perks are the many drawbacks. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to support myself and my kids on my $30,800/year salary, which I have been stuck at the $30,800 mark my entire career. I qualify for $69 per month in food stamps and my kids qualify for Medicaid. It’s embarrassing. I just want to scream at the top of my lungs to the people that give me “looks” in the checkout line, “I have a degree!! I have a career!!! I’m a teacher!!”
According to the pay scale that was in place when I started teaching, I should be making about $6,000 more than what I do. I didn’t know that the master’s degree that I was planning on getting from ECU would be useless. I didn’t know that tenure would be taken away, which means that if I wasn’t “popular” according to my principal, I could lose my job! The thought of not having a system in place for job security can be quite scary.
I spend at least $300 on classroom supplies out of my own pocket and that’s mostly because I’m a science teacher and like to do inquiry based labs and need supplies to do so.
Oh, and the standardized testing? Ha, what a joke! Yes, let’s try and fit students that come in all shapes and sizes (metaphorically) into a one size box. Sure, that should work out just great (heavy sarcasm). These tests do not measure student learning, all they do is STRESS the students out, period.
So, after thinking long and hard, I have come to the decision that I do NOT want to work in a profession that is controlled by politics and public opinion. I have decided to go back to school for nursing at UNCW and will still work with kids, just in a different manner. Maybe one day I will be able to return to the profession that I love, but that will only be when politicians and the general public decide that education IS important and should be valued and therefore teachers are deemed important and valued.
-Tiffany McEachern, Earth/Environmental Science and Biology Science Teacher at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, NC