Three Ways to Support an Underpaid and Overworked Teacher
- Pressure is mounting on teachers today.
- There are several ways you can support teachers in today’s climate.
- If you are a teacher or know a teacher that needs financial, emotional, or mental support, keep reading to find out how you can help them.
Since 1999, the inflation-adjusted average salary of teachers has actually decreased. This does not consider the massive inflation we see in 2022. But beyond that, teachers are expected to do more work with fewer resources on top of stagnant wages.
It can be tempting to use worn-out platitudes to justify this, but the reality is that educators are reaching a breaking point. With teacher shortages already plaguing the education system, something has to change and fast. Keep reading to find out how you can help a teacher in your community.
Why are Teachers Underpaid?
From an outside perspective, teaching might sound like a cozy job. There are perks to being a teacher, like having benefits including a retirement plan, various insurance plans such as medical, dental, and eye, and paid summers. Although some teachers have great benefits, it doesn’t exclude the fact that they desperately need help.
Some teachers are struggling with obtaining benefits from their school district. When I spoke to a Texas teacher about the current issues that teachers are facing, he said to me, “I was told constantly when I was training to become a teacher, ‘Well, at least you have good benefits.’ But teacher benefits are getting worse.”
For example, health insurance is no longer paid for entirely by school districts, pensions are slowly being gutted with each year because they are unsustainable, and the 403b retirement plan is, in some cases, known as a notoriously poor investment vehicle for the teaching profession.
So while low teacher salaries are often excused because of the benefits, the reality is that those benefits may slowly become non-existent.
Why are Teachers Overworked?
A common misconception is that teachers have paid time off during the summer. While it is true that teachers receive a paycheck during the summer in most cases, that is from stretching 9 months of paychecks over a 12-month period.
Teachers are only paid for their contract hours which are the 180-ish days they work in a year for about 8 hours a day. But, no teacher works only 8 hours a day for 9 months. Some estimates put the number of hours a teacher works at 42 hours a week if stretched out over the entire year.
Teachers often come to work an hour early and leave 1-2 hours late. Teachers often work on weekends, including grading work, lesson planning, and attending professional development events, usually on their own dime.
Additionally, teacher expectations have also been rising. Teachers are expected to do much more with very little help from administrators and even the parents of the students:
- Handle student’s social-emotional development
- Make all lessons compliant with multiple redundant laws
- Continually learn new technologies and implement them in the classroom
- Balance in-person and virtual students
- Collaborate with other teachers during personal preparation time
- Maintain higher test scores just to keep their job
With mounting pressure and stagnant pay, teacher burnout is getting worse.
As pressure to perform increases and pay continues to flatline, the incentive to stay in education plummets. This leads to higher teacher burnout rates and an even worse teacher shortage problem.
State and local policies need to be implemented to financially support the teachers in our communities. However, until that happens, parents and community members can help too.
Three Ways You Can Support a Teacher
Vote to Pay Teachers More
This sounds obvious, but it can be hard to swallow tax increases. Schools have been operating on crazy budget balancing acts to stay afloat. Voting to help increase school funding will directly impact a teacher.
A teacher feels like they can accomplish anything when parents back them up. The teacher-parent relationship is a powerful one and shouldn’t be underestimated.
People don’t realize this, but teachers have little to no budget to provide classroom supplies and materials. What is provided often runs out, and when there is a budget, the process of getting supplies can take weeks or even months to complete.
So when a teacher needs supplies now because they’ve given away thousands of supplies like pencils and notebooks in the first four months of school, the cost of paying for supplies typically comes directly out of their pocket.
Many students don’t bring any of those supplies usually because their family cannot afford to, or a student may lose the supplies. So if you are in a position to afford additional school supplies, consider purchasing more than the minimum to support your teachers. If your school doesn’t need more supplies, consider gifting supplies to a nearby school in need or running a supplies drive.
Anything you can give to properly equip teachers for the school year, so they don’t have to spend their already meager salary on their classroom, will make a huge difference.
Volunteer at Your Child’s School
Schools used to have parent-volunteers all the time, but slowly that has dwindled. Volunteering at your child’s school can help if you have more time than money. Offer to run a station for a teacher or be an extra set of eyes during lab day in a science class.
Physically having another adult in the room can make a world of difference in how a classroom runs, and many teachers would be extremely grateful.
The Money Wrap-Up
The teaching profession is not getting any easier, and financial constraints are causing millions of teachers to leave the classroom. But parents and other friends of education can make a huge difference by supporting teachers and sympathizing with the struggles they have every day. Whether it's financial, emotional, mental, or physical support, you can make a world of difference in a teacher's life.