For The Love Of Teaching

For as long as I have been teaching high school students English I have never known exactly how much money I earn.  I know I should be more vigilant when it comes to knowing how much each pay check will be, how much the government is withholding, and how much I am putting toward retirement.  I always figured that it would be come more important the longer I was teaching.  I often figured that I was just young and that I wasn’t as concerned as some of the other veteran teachers.

Well, here I am now 14 years into my professional career and I still don’t care how much money is in my check every two weeks.  Part of this stems from the fact that my highly intelligent wife takes care of our finances.  I suppose if it ever came to the point where I had to finance our lives on paper I might be much more attentive to the compensation I receive for doing something I totally enjoy doing.

Desiree and I began talking about this issue the other day.  We were talking about motivation and the reading we have been doing in Dan Pink’s Drive.  Pink described a study done long ago where people were asked to create a simple task without any type of reward.  The group completed the task quite sufficiently.  Later, the same group was asked to do the same task and earn a reward.  The result, again, was a job well done.   Finally, the group was asked to do it a third time without the reward/compensation received the second time.  This time the group was not productive at all due to the lack of external compensation.  This got us thinking….

I posed the question to Desiree, who is a social worker, if she would do her job for no compensation.  I have to be honest, and this might be a cop-out, but if I didn’t have expenses or if there was a way to eliminate my expenses, I believe I would work for nothing.  Now, of course I can’t do that because I am a part of a very strong and healthy union, but I enjoy filling my days helping people.

Desiree was a lot more on the fence than I was on this issue.  I believe that if I was motivated by the money I was making I probably wouldn’t be willing to get much better in my profession.  Let’s face it, teachers are not as well compensated as they arguably should be.  If I were to calculate the amount of money that I actually earn per hour considering the amount of time I put in outside of my work place, I am sure that number would be astonishing low.

I am excited to go to work each and every day.  Writing this post has been the most thinking I have ever done on this subject.  I enjoy the students I help 180 days of the year.  I am surrounded by positive people and quality educators who, I am sure, mostly share my sentiments.  I guess it’s ironic for me to say I would work for less or no compensation given the fact that I have no idea how much I earn right now.  However, whatever that number is, I believe I would do it.  I thank God for leading me down this road.  The experience of my job, students and colleagues,  is way more rewarding than any dollar amount ever could be or will be.

What would you do?  In your current job, would you work for no compensation?


About jpsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; Literacy Specialist; Reading Teacher; Literacy Coach; HS ELA Teacher; Published Author
This entry was posted in #edchat, Business, Education, Education Administration, Educational Leadership, Family, Parenting, students, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to For The Love Of Teaching

  1. Dawn says:

    I get paid in hugs, snuggles, and kisses. 🙂


    • jsteltz says:

      For the love of being a full time mom 🙂 The greatest job there is and probably the most challenging job and most important….I could go on forever.


  2. Matthew Baughman says:

    Unfortunately I think this article contributes to the misaligned (and sometimes self-perpetuated) “missionary view” of teaching. Do I care for my job and students? Yes. Do I deserve to be justly compensated for the effort and care I take in educating young people? Yes. Am I fairly compensated for the hours I devote toward edifying the future of America (pardon that sensational line)? I don’t believe so.

    The media is often quick to point out that education is the key to saving America during this time of economic hardship, suggesting the importance of it as a service. And yet, why do I, a person with two degrees from one of the finest universities in the country make what the U.S. Census Bureau identified last year as the average wage for a person who had only a high school education?

    It is unfortunate that teachers also seem to suffer from the illusion that we need to be missionaries when it comes to our jobs. We are expected to work after hours, take phone calls at home, attend baseball,basketball,football games all because we are expected to not only teach children how to read, write, and be literate in a quickly changing world, but we are also supposed to be parents to them as well. It is this expectation that we often impose on ourselves that causes so many great teachers to quit the profession, as there is truly no end to the amount of energy one might expend in pursuit of helping our “kids.”

    Unfortunately, this blog post contributes to an unhealthy perception created and perpetuated by parents, legislators, and teachers themselves–a perception that leads to incredible expectations of teachers which we all find difficult to meet.


    • jsteltz says:

      Well said! Thank you for the thoughtful response. While I agree with you on many aspects of your argument, I still don’t feel the bitterness or disease of feeling under paid. I am confident in my value as an educator. In that value I find the reward. I live a happy life, I have everything I need. Do I have everything I want like a ’68 Fender Strat, a Gibson Les Paul, and a six string banjo? No, but I eat well, have shelter, and can pursue my own interests with the compensation I do have.

      Is it unhealthy to have this point of view…I suppose so if I were talking to the union. However, if I weren’t a missionary I would be in a different profession.

      I do appreciate your thoughts and have a tremendous amount of respect for your argument.


  3. Matthew Baughman says:

    I feel I get all that you get out of teaching–what I don’t appreciate is the expectation that those rewards, non monetary, should be sufficient. Inherent in this mindset is a devaluing of the service I provide. No one would tell a doctor that they should be happy with just the knowledge that they are helping people, why is it okay for society to tell us we should just be happy with “snuggles and kisses?”


    • jsteltz says:

      Matthew-I agree with you. The ‘snuggles and kisses’ comment came from a stay at home mom, I believe.

      My point in the post is to not devalue our profession by any means, rather it is to point out that if I were motivated by the monetary compensation I would be somewhere else. Further, if I were to be motivated by the compensation I would probably be very apathetic toward my own development and the interest in changing to accommodate my students. Does that make sense?? Maybe I wasn’t quite clear on that. I need to be clearer in my writing 🙂


  4. Desiree says:

    You both went into your profession knowing what you would be paid and the expectations of being a teacher-its great that you both appear to love your job. I think you can both agree that you should be getting paid more to teach the future generation but the point is you probably will not be paid more -ever. Its nice if you can get out of bed in the morning and enjoy going to your job-I can tell the teachers that enjoy their jobs because it reflects in their classrooms-the same classrooms my children are in. This blog post is just asking you to think beyond the norm-don’t really think it contributes to an unhealthy perception of teachers. We can all agree that you should all be making more! Thanks for the post-gets me thinking in different directions.


  5. Matthew Baughman says:

    If “we all can agree” that we should be paid more, then we might be earning more.
    But I actually agree with you in many respects–teaching is not a job that is easy to remain in if one doesn’t recognize and enjoy the benefits of it. It’s because I love it so much and feel I could not be in another profession that causes me to feel such helplessness at times when I speak to an individual who has a four year degree and whose job is to design menus for restaurants like Applebees, and are making 200k + per year. I think, why will he be ten times more financially secure than I will be when I retire? Is the service he is providing that much more valuable than the one I am providing?
    Good questions here.


    • jsteltz says:

      Excellent point. I have students I have taught that are earning way more money in their own careers than I could ever imagine. How did they get there? I feel like I had something to do with that…maybe they could float me some $ 🙂 I also have relation that never earned a college degree making as much or more. I understand what you are saying…it can be frustrating. All I know is that I am happy, most days, and I have everything I need to live. Maybe I tend to talk myself into being happy. I try not to compare my profession to others..especially my friends who aren’t educators…because if I did I would find much ‘unfairness’.

      Compensation is probably directly correlated to the effectiveness of some teachers that don’t find the joy in ‘just teaching’.

      Quite the topic of discussion for a Monday morning 🙂


  6. Matthew Baughman says:

    Definitely. Please don’t mistake me for someone who doesn’t love his job–I do. I would even go so far as to say that I would still choose teaching over designing menus for Applebees, despite the disparity in wages.

    You’re also right–it’s not about the money–but I think I’m just playing devil’s advocate and trying to say it’s about what the money represents. I think teaching is the most noble profession a person can choose.


  7. Justin says:

    I’ve been thinking about this lately as well. My daughter attends a private school where all of the teachers are volunteers. I have been wondering if I’d be willing to teach in this school. I want to say yes, but I just cannot adjust my thinking enough to adjust my lifestyle. I also have dependants to consider. Again I want to say yes.


    • jsteltz says:

      This is almost going to sound hypocritical, but it correlates to your post Justin and you have me thinking. Twice over my 14 year teaching career I interviewed and was offered a job at a private high school. I didn’t take it. Why? The long term effects financially turned me away. So, would I really work for peanuts?? I didn’t then. I think I would reconsider now though…I think.


  8. Matthew Baughman says:

    Thanks for that moment of metacognitive analysis.
    It just contributes to the argument that our lives exist between black and white. (forgive the attempt at the poetical)


  9. John,

    It is always awesome to see a teacher with such passion. The ones that had the greatest impact on me had similar mind frames and complete personal situations. I appreciate you showing your fellow twitter friends a glimpse of what truly makes a great teacher tick. Thanks!

    – Oliver


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