That's sounds like a no-brainer, but in teaching it's really not. So many teachers will claim the opposite - that they aren't in it for the money. And for some, that's absolutely true: they would enjoy teaching, and endure all of its headaches and heartaches, just because they enjoy it. They "like working with kids". They like believing they "make a difference" in the world. I like those things, too.
But for me, teaching is not a hobby. It's not just something I enjoy doing. It's not something to do in my "free time".
It is a livelihood, it supports my family, and I wish teachers would stop selling themselves short by saying they don't do it for the money. You cannot continue to say that and then complain about tiny raises and nonexistent step increases on a district salary schedule.
Thirty years ago, my current salary would have made me rich. Twenty-five years ago, I entered my first year of teaching making a whopping $18,800 in inner city Oklahoma City. I was fortunate that the state had just passed a law making that the new and improved, higher entry wage for its public educators. I was single, still living with my parents at first before moving to my own, very nice, gated, $360/month apartment. I had a reliable car. I was comfortable.
Now, with meager raises, I make significantly more than $18,800. My family lives, humbly, in a not-too-large house, in a not-too-nice neighborhood. My vehicle is 20 years old. We have satellite TV and wireless internet in the house. Extra spending money? Well...
When we added children to our household, we made a conscious decision for my wife to stop working to stay at home with them. I realize that was our decision, and we stick by it, but it effectively cut our income in half. We always felt it was important for one of us to stay at home with the kids during their preschool years and not send them to strangers for babysitting while we worked. But because of that choice, my salary became our only means of income.
Needlessly to say (and repeat), I continue to teach because I get paid to do so. Yes there are other reasons, noble reasons, but it is also noble to support my family and raise responsible, respectful children. I make no apologies for that.
However, there is a discrepancy between my personal situation and the situations of some of my fellow educators. You might drive to a school parking lot on a school day and see teachers arriving to work in their late-model SUVs or Mercedes and then observe me putting around the bend in my '95 Ranger. You might sit before a teacher for a conference about your child's achievement scores and notice they keep time with the latest iPhone model and silver jewelry, while I'm still wearing the same shirt I wore five years ago. You might catch your child's teacher spending Spring Break on the beach in Florida, while my family will spend a night in nearby Branson. Some teachers will eat at every trendy restaurant that opens in town, attend movie premieres at the theater, and spend their money on things that my family probably wouldn't even if we had it to spend.
I don't mean to put them down for those choices, and I don't want to sound like a martyr, but what the general public may not understand is that some teachers have another income. I could never approach their lifestyles because we chose to forego the second income in my family for the time being.
This job is not a hobby that I could take or leave. My wife is not a lawyer. She doesn't bring home six figures from her own business. The money I make is not disposable. It's not money to blow. It's not my allowance. I'm not just marking time. I don't make money just so I can reinvest it in my classroom like many others can afford.
So yes, I'm in this for the money. I have 3 college degrees and 25 years of experience, and we still work hard to make ends meet. Thankfully, as many will quickly point out, there are other benefits to my profession. I do get to make a difference and influence the future. I do get to give kids a hand up and point them to better directions and better lives. I get to feel the joy of success with 20-25 fourth graders every day. I get to see them "get" a difficult concept or skill. I get to watch them grow and become ladies and gentlemen in a society that is increasingly less gentile.
And for those reasons, I am thankful. I work for less, because my happiness does not come from a bottle, or a vacation, or granite countertops, or a steak dinner; my happiness comes from knowing that my own children are getting quality time with their parents at home, that my students are getting the best I can give them, and that I make my God happy with my efforts to serve. I'm in it for the money, because the money allows me to do so much more. I must continue to remind myself about the intrinsic values of being a teacher.
Perhaps it would sound better if I paraphrase a current advertisement for bratwurst: