02 June 2011

Summer Jobs, and their necessity

I'm coming to you tonight via the miracle of the Internet from beautiful Lakeshore, California. You may be wonder what I'm doing at basically the edge of the civilized world. The answer is one that many public school teachers in this country would give. It's my summer job.

I know that you think summer jobs are something for teenagers. You envision bad uniforms, misspelled nametags, hairnets, and minimum wage. However, in America, a surprising number of teachers take up summer employment to help pay the bills. I (and most teachers) get paid during the summer. However, that pay is generally low enough that teachers feel the need to find further employment.

I should be clear at this point. A lot of my co-workers do not take summer jobs. They relax with their families, work on advanced degrees. That disclaimer provided, I'm on to the meat of my argument.

I believe I was talking about the need of teachers to work summer jobs. We work mostly in fields that are different from what we teach. My high school US history teacher painted houses. I work in operations at a summer camp. A guy I used to work with was a raft guide every summer.

Why do we do this? Well, part of it is money. Last year, I made (before taxes) about $42,000. That's really not that much, especially if you own a house or have children (or both). It gets worse if your spouse teaches as well. I'm not trying to say that teachers are below the poverty line, but they are certainly paid less than many other professionals. (As an example, Taco Bell managers make more on average than teachers.) I've said it before, but I'm going to keep saying it: the way teachers are paid shows the real value that society puts on them.

But I think there's a second reason teachers work during the summer. They are hard workers by nature. Even those that don't find a second job are generally bettering themselves through education or travel. It goes against the nature of teachers to just sit around for 2 months. They're hard workers, and they aren't going to watch Jerry Springer and Law and Order reruns for 8 weeks. (and yes, FoxNews commentators, I'm looking at you).

I don't want you to think that I don't like my summer job. In fact, I love it. I would work it even if I didn't need the money. But the fact that I do need the money is a sad commentary on the value Americans put on the job that teachers do. 

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