Ed Note: In honor of World Teacher Day on Saturday, we asked teacher and leading blogger Cool Cat Teacher (Vicki Davis) to fill us in on the hidden costs of being an educator, from extra time to extra dollars.
Whether you’re a homeschooling parent, a teacher or a college professor, few truly understand the full scope of the hours spent outside regular class periods – studying and in prep, or even just staring at the ceiling after midnight pondering how to reach a child who’s got you by the heartstrings.
Being A Teacher Is Harder Than Being In Business
In the business world, I got paid much more money and had much more free time than I do now as a teacher. For example, my grades from the previous week are due Monday mornings at 8 a.m. in the online grade book. Last week was Homecoming, so Friday I was helping take pictures of the mini parade and was making sure the JV football team was fed their pregame snack. Oh, and then at the game, I also had gate duty and concession stand duty. So, this past Sunday, I found myself grading for almost 2 hours.
Time As A Limited Resource
As you can see, the hidden cost of teaching is in time. Teaching, as a profession, encompasses 99% of the work of other jobs in 25% less time. Despite the comment, “you get summers off,” teaching has me far busier than the monthly quotas and monthly operations reviews from the cell phone market I ran in my twenties.
Doing More With Less
Here are a few things that help me do double-duty, save money and supplement those hidden costs of being a teacher:
- Maximize your time: At my school there’s no office door to crank through email or plan, I couldn’t live without the free Mailbox app, my secret to getting my inbox to zero every day.
- Supplies in demand: Kids run out of everything and they often don’t tell their parents. I usually buy several hundred pencils from a bulk supplier at the beginning of the year for home and school.
- Classroom décor: There are lots of other things I need for my classroom that don’t fall under a budget either. In fact, every piece of furniture, including my chair, I purchased myself. It isn’t that I’m denied those items; it’s just that what was originally purchased just didn’t suit my needs. For instance, the office chair that was supplied gave me knee problems.
- Deductions: I also buy books, snacks, art supplies, and things for genius hour. These are hidden costs but I can’t help it – they’re little extras that are essential to a pleasant and productive classroom environment. I keep the receipts for these kinds of purchases up to the $250 deduction from gross income for out-of-pocket classroom expenses I can use on my taxes every year, and then I just stop counting if I hit the deduction by February or March.
- Many helping hands: I also get money for recycling ink cartridges and have the students take part in raising the money for the class. They take better care of their projects if they work for it and we raised more than $1,000 a year. And I must say I do appreciate the gift cards from parents that I can use for supplies!
Focus On What Works
In teaching you don’t get to justify expenses based on “payback periods” because the rewards of a good lesson are more intangible and take longer to see. I see that payoff myself so I’m more willing to pay out of my own pocket. If it doesn’t pay back in increased learning, I don’t get it next year.
Thank A Teacher
In honor of World Teacher’s Day, it is my hope that this brief glimpse into my world will help you see beneath the surface of what it means to be a teacher. It shouldn’t be a secret that the future of this world is in today’s classrooms. It also shouldn’t be a secret how much teachers do behind the scenes and how much unseen cost they take on, both in money and in time. If you can, take a moment to thank a teacher – it might just mean the world to them that you’re aware of the difference that they make every day.