Isn’t it strange how quickly we forget things these days?
I don’t only mean car keys or appointment times. I’m talking about the events that have profound impact on our way of life.
Take, for example, the Occupy protests. Remember those? When thousands of middle class workers descended upon the financial centers of London, New York and other major cities all over the world to protest the inequities of our economic systems.
Back in 2011, these events rocked news headlines around the western world. It looked as though the “little people” (like you and I) were finally going to get the changes to our system that have been badly needed for some time.
But now…what’s happened? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time remembering even when exactly those protests took place. The “99%” rhetoric certainly worked its way into our popular vocabulary, but we haven’t yet seen much in the way of changes.
Why not? Because fixing a broken national system is a terribly big job.
It doesn’t mean those protests did no good–in fact, they likely did a lot of good by drawing widespread attention and support to the cause.
But attention to the problem is just the tip of the iceberg. It takes a lot of time to correctly assess the core problems, come up with sustainable solutions for them, and implement those solutions one by one.
Those were the thoughts that settled uncomfortably in my stomach when I read this article from Chalk.com. It compares teacher salaries around the world, from starting salaries to the top-of-scale earnings by teachers who have been in the game upward of 15 years.
Try not to be too stunned by the huge disparity between the top earning country and those just a little lower on the scale. (I wonder what Luxembourg winters are like?)
The chart also shows compares how quickly teachers reach their maximum earning potential. (You’ll notice that England, Scotland and the United States spend quite a long time in the starting range before they get anywhere near their top of scale.)
Now, I’m quite sure that you don’t spend time comparing your salary against what your friends in other professions make. After all, you didn’t go into teaching to become a millionaire. You went into it out for reasons that have nothing to do with money: a love of people, an infatuation with a particular subject, and an eagerness to make a difference for the future.
The fact that you’re making a wage lower than others with your education and experience level is a fact much easier to forget than to try and fix. What can you really do about it, after all?
But the most interesting aspect of this article is found a bit farther down, where it presents another chart that compares salary data to the average number of hours worked by teachers in each country.
Take a look:
Again, if you’ve been teaching in the US or UK for any length of time, it won’t surprise you at all to see that the average annual hours spent exceed the salary cap by about 30%.
I’m sure you don’t need any more proof of this than the bags under your eyes and the tiredness in your bones.
(I must say, though, that there’s something grimly validating to see the truth you already feel on a daily basis etched out in numbers and lines like this.)
Oh, and lest anyone say that it’s normal in your country to work a certain amount of overtime, the article adds
“It is important to note that this is number of hours spent teaching, and does not include additional teaching duties such as prep time, extracurriculars, or additional student aid time.”
Far be it from me to begrudge the Luxembourg teachers their 1% status. If our current education system was rewarding teachers so well, I confess that I wouldn’t feel obligated to complain on behalf of those less fortunate.
But as this chart shows, we are caught in the middle of an education system that is woefully broken.
Maybe it’s not hopeless. Maybe one day the education system will be righted to offer decent compensation and make overtime the exception, rather than the rule.
But right now, the pressing question is…
Can you afford to wait for the education system to change?
If you are a teacher with a family to care for…
If you want to build a sustainable career in education…
If you want the time you spend to really count for something…
The answer is probably no.
No change happens overnight. But you can make changes today that help you climb out of the 99% and into a teaching career that fairly rewards your hard work.