So Much Work for So Little Money

It is almost a daily occurrence for someone like me who wants  to become an elementary school teacher to be told I won’t make  money.  

 “Go into the trades so you won’t be poor.”  

 “You sure you want to be a teacher? It’s not a lot of money for a  whole lot of work.”  

 “Make sure you marry rich or you will be living on the streets.”

These are all things I hear when I tell someone I want to go into education as a public school teacher. If you think about it, why are  teachers paid so little compared to other professions? Teaching is  actually a prerequisite for getting other jobs. According to “Public School Salary in New Hampshire” from Salary, the average New Hampshire public school teacher earns around $60,423 per year. Considering they play such an important role in society, teachers have very low salaries. For years, teachers have been known to have low salaries, especially those who major in education. I  believe things for teachers need to change now and their salaries need to be higher. 

A child’s life begins to be molded by their teachers as early as  the age of five. I still remember the names of every single one of my teachers. Children form lifelong memories through teachers, yet teachers are underpaid. My second-grade teacher made such a large impact on me that we still stay in touch to this day. I used to struggle with my handwriting, so each morning when I would go into the classroom, there would be a new pencil to help my handwriting. She helped me through some of my hardest years, and I hope to be half of the teacher she was in the future.

Other students at ORHS such as Ellie Koener (‘22) agree,  saying, “Teachers are the basis for our careers so if you grow up  and make more than a teacher I think that’s wrong.”  Teachers are not only important for memories but for mental  health, too. During my years in middle school, I began to struggle  with anxiety. With not many people to turn to while in the school  building, my science teacher took me under his wing. He made  me feel comfortable enough to speak up in class and even helped  me build a community for myself. To this day, I believe I would  not have made it through my eighth-grade year without him.  Even teachers realize how much of an impact they have on students’ mental health. “School and teachers have such an influence  on your socialization process of helping you be who you are,” says Gabrielle Anderson, a social studies teacher at ORHS. She teaches core classes such as World Cultures and U.S. History, but also elective courses like Sociology.  

Teachers have such a prominent role in children’s lives, but  sometimes children don’t get what they need from teachers. Jobs  that offer a higher salary are more likely to attract teachers that  went to school and paid high amounts of money for a degree. Ac cording to “The Neuroscience of Joyful Education” from Education Leadership, “When students are engaged and motivated and  feel minimal stress, information flows freely through the effective  filter in the amygdala and they achieve higher levels of cognition,  make connections, and experience ‘aha’ moments.” When students have the meaningful connections with teachers that they need,  there are lifelong advantages. For me, when a teacher makes a  comfortable and fun learning environment, I will be more willing  to listen and retain the information.  

However, in rural parts of the country, it can be hard for  students to get teachers who are willing to create those environments because of the pay. “I started my career teaching in rural  New Mexico and the teachers’ salaries for a first-year teacher was  $18,000 a year,” says David Hawley, a social studies teacher at  ORHS. Hawley also explains that each district pays depending on  state funding and how wealthy the community is. In order to help  teachers’ salaries, Hawley believes we have to find ways to help the  rural areas that do not have as much funding. I believe that we can  help districts across the country by pinpointing districts in need, identifying exactly what they need, and then providing them with  these resources through supply drives and fund raisers. This may result in the school having extra  money to give to teachers.  

According to “The  Status of Rural Education”  from The National Center  for Education Statistics, “On average, public  school students in rural  areas perform better on  the National Assessment  of Educational Progress  (NAEP) than their peers  in cities and towns, but  generally not as well as  their peers in suburban  areas.” In suburban areas like Durham, teachers typically have  higher salaries, but this does not mean that every teacher with a  high salary is looking out for their students. This also does not  mean that all teachers in rural districts have no experience. Still,  this statistic does give me hope that children in rural districts are  getting the education they deserve, so we might see a change for  them soon. 

For teachers in New Hampshire, I think it is important we talk  about teachers’ salaries and how low they really are. For all the  time and effort teachers put into their work, something needs to  be done for them. This is a large problem for teachers everywhere,  and I believe the first step to changing life for teachers is for districts to focus more on budgeting for teachers’ salaries. Instead of  focusing on a new gymnasium or a new sports field, the priority  should be to increase pay for teachers. Not only as a state but  as a county, we should be focusing on the budgeting of schools  to incorporate more room for teachers’ salaries to rise. If we as  a country continue to speak up and push for higher salaries for  teachers, maybe in the future there will be a change.