Maybe I Should Just Go Flip Burgers

#Fightfor15 @wendys @fightfor15 #strikefor15 #...

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

On a drive with my husband this weekend, the conversation turned to the striking fast food workers asking for their pay to be raised to $15/hour, which would effectively double their current income.  When a current-events topic like that comes up, I’m usually able to go on a rant about my opinion while still maintaining a fairly good mood.  This time, though, my thoughts weighed on me, making me quiet and, for lack of a better adjective, tired.  My husband managed to voice my thoughts for me as we drove, though.

“I was thinking about it,” he said, “and have you ever made that much money teaching?”

No.  No, I haven’t.  $15 an hour, forty hours a week, equals a yearly pay of $28,800. That’s more money than the yearly salary of my first teaching job, and more hourly pay than I’ve ever made as a sub.  I’ve had one job with a yearly salary a little higher than $28,800, but it was an intense job where I spent way more than forty hours a week in the school building, so if I were to break it down to hourly pay, it’d still be less than $15/hour.  I’m not factoring the hours at home lesson planning and grading into any of these calculations.  And fast food workers think they should make that much for flipping burgers and manning a cash register…  Really?

I’m not begging for sympathy.  I knew what I was getting into when I chose this profession, and even more so when I turned my focus on private schools (you know that myth that teachers make more money in private schools than in public schools?  Laughable.  The truth is that private school teachers make about $10,000 a year less than their public school counterparts).  A student in Boston once told me that he assumed that we made around $60,000/year teaching in his school.  He didn’t understand why I laughed.  No good teacher goes into the profession for the money, and we know we won’t be living luxurious lives on our salaries.  So this isn’t me asking for more money, though that would be nice.  It’s more that I’m trying to put things into perspective.

Because while I don’t need sympathy, I don’t have much sympathy to give, either.  I have a college degree and a specific skill set that people supposedly value.  Not everyone can do what I do, and I do it well.  That should be worth something.  It’s hard to listen to the unskilled laborers of the fast food industry (valuable men and women, but let’s call the work what it is) demand to make more money than I do.  When teachers ask to be paid more, they’re often vilified as being self-centered and greedy, but here the focus is on the employees’ hard lives and need for more money.

I wish I could say I was angry at the discrepancy, but honestly, it just makes me sad.  And a little tired.

I don’t want to hear the emotional appeal rhetoric and the sad stories.  I just don’t.  Please don’t judge me for that.  I do feel bad for these people and their tough situations, but I also haven’t heard a rational argument as to why it’s the responsibility of McDonald’s corporation to make sure their entry-level hourly wage is enough to support a family.  Especially since some of us with a marketable skill can barely make that much in a salaried job sometimes.

I realize that some teachers do make more money than I do.  Public school teachers who’ve been in their districts for a long time can do pretty well for themselves.  But even then, no one would call them wealthy.

All I’m saying is that if there ever comes a day when teenagers can earn more per hour flipping burgers than the men and women who teach them make, I think I’ll cry.

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8 thoughts on “Maybe I Should Just Go Flip Burgers

  1. It’s a sad state when people are more sympathetic to the plight of a fast food worker than an educator. Why should a teacher who puts his/her whole heart and soul into the profession worry that there won’t be enough to make ends meet, when a job that a 16 year old kid can do pays more. I am in Alaska right now, in a district where they pay substitute teachers $18/hour and full-time teachers get a bit more than the lower 48 states do, but the demand is higher up here-when I subbed in Washington, it was nowhere near that high for me subbing. I didn’t expect to be a millionaire when I chose this profession, but I also don’t expect to be undervalued as well. Very well written blog.

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    • Really? When I subbed in Alaska, I didn’t make that much. Maybe it was the town we were in. I do know their regular teachers made more than those in the lower 48, though, due to the higher demand. Interesting. I’m glad you have the opportunity to make a little more up there, but I also understand feeling undervalued. While the non-financial rewards of teaching can be awesome, it is a hard profession to be in.

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      • Yeah, I guess they recently changed the rate of pay for subs because the old system was too complicated. I’m still waiting for the e-mail so I can start subbing. I’ve been out of work for long enough, and being stuck inside is starting to get to me. I’m hoping to get started before winter break. How long were you in Alaska, we’ve been here for 1 month and are set to be on orders for 3 years. My husband wants to live here forever though, which is fine with me so long as we stay busy 🙂

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  2. The minimum wage in Ontario, Canada, where I live, is 10.25/hour. When our fast word industry workers started hearing about their American counterparts striking for want of 15/hr., they thought they should be able to get raises, as well. But while my teaching salary won’t do much to support my argument here (we’re well-paid in Ontario), I completely agree with everything you said. It’s hard to imagine a job selling burgers (though it has its challenges, I put myself through school doing it) warranting the same amount of money as a job that someone with a degree would get.

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