I know that we are all very passionate about our struggle to improve learning conditions for our students, but I really wish that teachers would take a stronger stance on looking out for themselves as well.
As teachers we encourage students to develop their sense of self-respect and worth. I wish that teachers would do the same. When I hear, “It’s not about the money, it’s about the kids”, I know that our message is meant to convey that our priority is the welfare of our children, but what I hear is, “we’re already earning enough and we’re not worth any more!” I think that it is about time that we present ourselves as the professionals that we have worked hard to become, and that our level of education, responsibility, and professionalism demands to be reflected in our compensation, as is with doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other educated professionals. We do not need to apologize for expecting a decent, professional-level wage. When doctors negotiate compensation packages they are not compared to ‘other public sector employees’, nor are judges and public defenders. The fact that we are working in a system that is funded by public resources should not strip away the acknowledgement of the level of professionalism we have achieved. I am not belittling other ‘public sector’ jobs, but we should not allow ourselves to be compared to non-professional occupations when establishing our worth.
When I decided to enter teaching, it was ‘about the kids’, but it was also about becoming a professional. I was working as a heavy duty mechanic at the time, and although it meant a slight drop in wages, yearly increments would theoretically make up the difference. Today, my counterparts, (fellow BCIT Heavy Duty Mechanic s classmates), are earning well over $100 000 per year, and depending on the companies they work for, have better benefits packages. I know other teachers who have made similar career changes, with the same economic results. For myself and others, yes, it is about the money. I will not apologize for my stance, because I know how much I’m worth, how much I could earn in the private sector, and how much I bring into my classrooms.