Teaching—I’m SO In It For The Money–Miriam Sagan

Teaching—I’m SO In It For The Money
Recently I’ve noticed a discourse—across the state, across the nation—on public educators saying “we’re not in it for the money.” Or, conversely, other folks saying it to us.

I understand that this is meant to communicate:

Teachers are underpaid.
Teachers are idealists.
Teachers are not motivated by salary.

Well, two out of three isn’t bad. (Still a failing grade, though). But it isn’t good either. I’ve taught community college as an adjunct, half-timer, full time faculty, and 3/4 time faculty. I’ve been grateful for every cent I’ve earned. More than that, let’s be blunt, these earnings have been the difference between stability and economic disaster for me and my family.

No longer are teachers single school marms waiting for a cowboy to sweep us into domesticity. We support ourselves, our children, and our parents. Our salaries are economic development—we buy houses, and cups of coffee.

And here is something else—I never want my students to think I am indifferent to money. I’m not marginal, or Henry David Thoreau, or living on air. I share their concerns. I’d never tell THEM that they aren’t in it for the money.

I started wondering, who IS in it for the money? Obviously workers in terrible poor paying jobs—that’s survival. And investment bankers—maybe ”survival” of a less sympathetic kind. But folks the world over take pride in what they do—whether decorating a wedding cake or brain surgery—and yet no one tells bakers or surgeons “Well, you’re not in it for the, gasp, money!”

I would not do my job for free. Does that mean I am any less caring or committed a teacher? No, it does not.

So let’s stop saying we’re not in it for the money. A glance at our cars and clothes will tell you instantly how un-avaricious we are. But we need to care about our own basic needs. And I think this should come first before we can “afford” to care for others.

2 thoughts on “Teaching—I’m SO In It For The Money–Miriam Sagan

  1. Hi Miriam! It’s been 20 years or so since we met at your Taos “Journaling” workshop. – my very first non-adbiz writing foray as an adult. I’ve published one novel, and am assembling a second book, an anthology of my short pieces. Book no.3 is in the oven. For three years now, I’ve been offering my own workshops in North Texas for seniors who want to learn how to craft their legacy stories for future generations of kin. I remember our four days of intense spontaneous classwork as yesterday! Have recently introduced Natalie Goldberg’s classic ‘Bones’ book to wild enthusiasm. You and Pierre Delattre made a powerful impression on me all those years ago on the High Mesa. Let’s visit sometime.
    Your aging pal,
    Larry Taylor, Dallas

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