So, I’m turning 30 this week. My 20’s were great, but I’m glad to have worked out a lot of the existential turmoil that went with them and move into something that feels more like full-fledged adulthood! So yeah, I’m thinking about a family, a house, and all those cliches of grownup life that require some long term planning.
Oh, and I almost forgot–a career.
How exactly does one go about planning a career in teaching? I mean, I know people who went into teaching knowing they would eventually make a move into administration or policy or academia. I know others who made those same moves, not because they always wanted to, but due to the financial pressures of starting a family…or turning 30…
If I want to remain a practicing teacher, what’s out there for me? What could I be doing 10 years from now, at 40, having completed my 15th year in the classroom? That’s a long time! I can say, at least, that I’d be a pretty fantastic teacher by then. But where would I be in my career? I can look at the current salary scale and plan, at year 15, to make $79,531annually. That might not sound too bad, especially to people living outside NYC. It IS a living wage, which is more than many people have. But in NYC, that’s still qualifies as low income, by many definitions.
I can invest in another master’s degree or 30 credits in anything I want, and get an extra $5,895 each year, earning $85,426 for my 15 years of experience, bachelor and two master’s degrees. A principal with a few years of teaching experience and a masters in administration earns $110,000 in the first year (probably not enough for the work they do either, but it’s a huge jump I could make in a few years if I wanted to. I see why so many teachers do it.) Assuming I want to stay in classroom teaching, those 30 credits could cost $30,000, taking me another 6 years just to break even on the investment, not to mention the time and energy it would take to teach full time, raise my own children, and take courses.
Then there’s the question of what courses to take and for what purpose. Courses that would help me be a better teacher? Courses about writing, to help me be a better writer? Leadership? But I don’t want to be a principal, so are there 30 credits that would be relevant to teacher leadership? I’m interested in becoming better at all of those things, but what’s really in it for me long term? Can I plan to be a teacher leader in the future, when there are no such positions in the salary scale now? How much time/money do I want to invest in being a writer when writing will always be like a second job, competing with the time and energy I have for my students, and eventually, my own kids?
I meander about in my thinking, but the truth is, I know what I really want–and I’d like it sooner than later. I want the opportunity to take on a hybrid role, where I would teach half a load and use the other half of my schedule for teacher leadership roles. These roles could vary depending on the needs of my school and/or whomever is paying me. They could include developing curriculum materials for my school, mentoring teachers, or creating partnerships between my school and other organizations. I could also participate in policy work outside my school and/or be a freelance writer, where only half of my salary would be paid by a school.
The possibilities are endless, yet very specific to the needs of my students, school, and profession, and the skills and passions I’m able to bring to these contexts. Alternative job descriptions can be designed to fit these needs and new pay scales can reward the skills. See Teacher Solutions Pay for Performance Report for more detail on innovative teacher salary scales–and it’s designed entirely by teachers.
The beauty of a hybrid role is that I would always maintain a classroom teaching practice. Teaching is the soul of my work in education. If I lose that, I think I’d feel disconnected from my purpose and passion. At least in my own mind, my work would lose relevance.
The problem with wanting a position that doesn’t exist is that you can’t really plan for it. And that makes me a little less sure of my future than I’d like to be at 30. But hey, just because you can’t plan for it, doesn’t mean you can’t go for it. I’ll be looking for ways, and taking suggestions! (Note: any advice on this matter will be considered an excellent birthday present.)