How Much Does a Teacher Make?

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.
He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”
He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.  “To stress his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, “You want to know what I make?”  (She paused for a second, then began…)  “Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.  I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor.  I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an IPod, Game Cube or movie rental.”  “You want to know what I make?” (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.)  ”I make kids wonder.  I make them question.  I make them apologize and mean it.  I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.  I teach them to write and then I make them write.”

“Keyboarding isn’t everything.  I make them read, read, read.  I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.”  “I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.  I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.  I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America.”

“Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.”  (Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)  “Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant… You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”

“What do you make Mr. CEO?”

MR. CEO? His jaw dropped, he went silent.

I started school this week to get my BS in Education/Special Education.  It’s a double major and it will take me at least 2 years to complete, if not more.  I know it will be challenging but I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve wanted to teach for as long as I can remember.  When other little girls were playing with their baby dolls, I was lining them up and teaching them with a notebook in hand (complete with the pocket in front where I would put the absent notes).  After high school, I immediately started college and wanted to major in English to teach – although I didn’t know what grade.

Through a series of decisions, my education was put on the back burner while I got married, had two kids, homeschooled two kids for a season and took care of a house.  But in the back, deep recesses of my mind, I have always wanted to teach.

Two years ago, The Man Beast and I decided to put the kids back in public school.  I got a job in the only place I could: the school cafeteria.  I was a sub and went wherever I was needed.  I worked at the elementary schools and really loved the children there.  I worked at the local preschool and really loved the children I saw there.  I worked at the middle school and really loved the children I saw there.  And then I started dreaming of teaching again.

One day, I went and took an examination that, if passed, would allowed me to work in the public school system as a paraprofessional (teacher’s aid).  I took it and passed.  Then, I waited.  And waited.

I learned about a position during summer break at the local middle school working with special needs students through a woman at church.  I decided to go for it, not really knowing what to expect.  I applied for the position and was called for an interview.  I hadn’t been on an interview for a good ten years.  To say I was nervous was a gross understatement.

My friend at church (the one who had told me about the position in the first place) watched the kiddos while I went on my interview.  The principal was straight forward and to the point.  He wanted to know if I would feel comfortable doing all the tasks involved working with extreme and profound children?  Could I take care of the toilet needs of children who had gone through puberty and were as tall as myself?  How would I feel with working with extremely autistic children?

Here it was the summer and I was facing the possibility of going back to work in the cafeteria, this time as a perminent member of the crew.  I really didn’t want to do it, but had already succumbed to the fact that it might become a reality if nothing else presented itself.  Here was an opportunity.

But could I do it?  Sure, I had worked with handicapped children before – but nothing as severe and profound as these students.  But I needed/wanted a job.  I would do it.

So, I did.

I felt like a new mother the first couple of weeks at my new job.  I was learning not only the children and their personalities/temperments, but I was learning how to take care of their individual special needs.  I was nervous, but I was willing to learn.

Slowly, I got to really know the kids and the teacher I work with and I was hooked.  I was in love.  I knew that this is where I needed to be.  Soon, the thought of going back to school entered my mind.

As luck would have it, a friend who works at the same school also started going to school online.  She was very excited and told me all about it. I went online and researched a few online schools but eventually chose the same one that my friend attends.

Because I’m only getting a Bachelors and not a masters, I won’t be able to work with the profoundly disabled like I do now as a parapro.  But that’s okay.

In these past few months, I’ve kept my eyes open and really looked at the students in my school – not just the ones I work with closely.  I’ve listened to other teachers talk.  What I’ve come to realize is that there is so much need out there for teachers with special education training in the regular education enviroment!  I believe if regular ed teachers have the special ed training, they are better able to recognize special needs and modify lessons to meet those needs.

I can appreciate how extremely frustrating it is for regular education teachers to have students in their class who cannot perform even the easiest of tasks.  I think a lot of times, these children are seen as behavior problems when their ‘problem’ is actually academic.

I look forward to helping children of this capacity – the ones who might fall through the cracks because their special needs aren’t recognized simply because they aren’t easily recognized.  This is where my heart is and this is where it’s always been.  This was the reason I started homeschooling the kids in the first place – I recognized that kids cannot be placed in a box.  They are all different little bodies – and brains – just waiting to learn (even if some of them don’t realize it).

I know I sound very idealistic.  Most of us have all but given up on the public school system and all it’s short-comings.  But hopefully, we all also remember that one teacher (or more than one), who we could tell really loved their job and really loved their children.

“Great teachers are born, not made.” a teacher said to me the other day.  I believe this is true.  I believe teaching, like many great professions, is a calling.  Not just anyone can do it and do it well.

Maybe the CEO in the above story had it wrong: those who can, do and those who really can, teach.


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