As a former teacher, I understand that you work hard, wait for summers, make up for lost time over the summer, and then start over. Plus, you get told a lot that you don’t work hard (because of the summers) and you’re overpaid. For some reason, though, it’s still hard to make ends meet. You don’t want to be greedy, but you want to live the life of the professional you are. Here’s some advice on how to do it from someone who’s been there, done that, and watched others get their cut.
Wait for the Pendulum to Swing
When the economy is strong and babies are abundant, education is a priority, like right after WWII. Our country put a premium on educating our youth, and the field of teaching benefited as much as the new school buildings. The pendulum has swung as far as it can go in the opposite direction right now. Citizens are questioning all aspects of that liberal arts education stressed post-WWII, and you have become the universal scapegoat. If only teachers didn’t make so much, we could have better schools. Or, if only teachers taught better, students would learn more and take tests better than those in Asian countries. Everyone wants data, but that’s not what teaches kids. You do, and eventually the public will begin to see what’s been missing in schools. If that coincides with a decade of economic stability or expansion, get ready for a revival of your job. If you’re willing to wait for the good times to return, stop reading now.
Coaching or Advising
Most schools pay a little extra for the added nights and weekends of coaching and advising. Sometimes, you make a little more than minimum wage. Other times, you can enjoy near small-town superstar status. My last year involved advising three groups (two were cut when I left) for a whopping $1500. Academic clubs will get you a few hundred bucks, while coaching a D1 sports team will get you several thousand and membership to the Old Boys Club. If I had it to do over, I would have probably worked towards job security on the football field rather than tried to expand student minds with a literary club. Just ask your athletic director or principal what’s available if you want to make a little side cash without having to work too hard to find the job.
You can work for Sylvan or Tutor Doctor or Varsity Tutors and pick up some extra money. The main problem is that it’s more of the same that makes your life hectic already, and their take is about half of what the parents pay. If you want to get more than half the amount the parents think you're worth, try solo tutoring by listing your own ads or joining a site like Educabana -- use coupon code iknowbrian to get your first year free. The fact is that your teaching skills are valuable, and plenty of parents want to hire qualified students. And, the more that gets taken away from education, the more opportunity will exist for tutors. It’s also so much more enjoyable to teach one-on-one.
Join the Dark Side
If you want to double your salary under the guise of helping students, become an administrator. The truth is that many of these folks believe in education, but they are now forced to make the tough decisions no teacher wants to make, like which teacher gets cut next. The good news is that, in theory, you’d only have to work half as many years as an admin as you would have as a teacher to make the same amount of money. The reality is that you’ll now need a bigger house and a new car. And teachers won’t like you anymore, so you’ll lose a lot of friends at work, which means you'll have to go get a dog or something. Another way to join the Dark Side is to become some kind of interventionist or coach or assessor (of teachers). Have fun being more disliked than the superintendent.
You spent hours and hours making the lessons perfect, and you know that no one else has anything like your worksheet or quiz or entire unit. Sell them! If your district was organized enough, it would be selling units out from under teachers. Luckily, innovative thinking is not a trait of administrators, so you have the right to make a little cash from all those extra hours at home. TeachersPayTeachers is a legitimate site to use in order to sell your life’s work. Start young, however. If you’re a first year teacher, get an account TODAY and list your items immediately. Even $100 a year for a 30-year career is enough to buy yourself a nice watch (that your district WON’T be buying you) for your retirement. Plus, if you get refired instead of retired (like me), you can have residual income from your teaching career as you look for something better. In fact, if I was still teaching today, I'd have a TPT tab open during every prep period in order to add lessons as I create them. You can give some away for free, but the point is for teachers to benefit for the work, so try to charge the minimum of $.95 for most of what you add,
Write a Book (or ten)
When I first started teaching, I bought about a dozen self-help teacher books. Some were subject-specific, but most were just ideas that could help a beginning teacher. Maybe you’re a science teacher who’s always had an idea for a short story that used real science fact as a science fiction tale. Use the summers, while you still have them, to work on something that can continue to make some money once you get laid off or retire. Even if you’re not a good writer or don’t like writing, you have a specific skill set and an ability to organize those skills to teach others: in other words, you’re already a non-fiction writer BECAUSE you’re a teacher. It’s free to put your books on Amazon and to promote them on social media outlets. And you never know. My top-selling book is a unit plan for teaching Catcher in the Rye along with Rebel Without a Cause. It has many sales in both Canada and Australia, as well as the US. But your writing, like mine, can be about whatever you want, even if you might know more about education that some other subjects. If you want help putting your files into a book, contact Brian.
Start Your Own Business
Whether you mow your retired neighbors’ lawns for cash, work security at local fairs, do some summer roofing, or even start your own web design business, you have skills and you are not a failure because you’re a teacher. The biggest problem is that you’re swamped 10 months out of the year and only have two months to catch your breath. If you can just work through those two months, you might be able to establish enough of a side business that it becomes your real job someday. I’ve talked to teachers who make as much landscaping, roofing, DJing, and more. You have good people, teaching, and organizational skills, and you are not defined by how a bunch of narrow-minded people see you. If you do want to start your own business, it’s worth getting a quote from an honest web designer like Passive Ninja, since your online presence is going to be what makes or breaks your venture after all your family members have already bought your services. Organichic is a new company in Fond du Lac that was just started by a teacher and designed by Passive Ninja.
My friend started selling an invention called Craniums that protect Chromebooks. Just like many small businesses related to education, he saw a problem and addressed it. I think the fact that it's also a whiteboard was just luck, but it stands as the best Chromebook protector out there until you invent a better one. If you can't invent your own educational products, learn how to sell on Amazon or eBay and encourage those around you to invent something. Then you can be the online salesperson.
Start Your Own School
No longer far-fetched, you can, in fact, start your own school. Maybe you’ve got ideas as to how to make it more efficient, more educational, or more lucrative for the owner. It’s kind of a Wild West situation in a lot of states right now for creating schools. Give all the kids computers and tell them to stay at home. Make it a boarding school for kids who’d be better off away from home. Voucher schools benefit from lots of grants from conservative groups looking to recreate education. If you want some of this money, you need to go for it now. Don’t wait for all the other for-profit companies to move in to your area.
If you can be the one to come up with a way to fix education in America, you can make a lot of money. Since I never had the best luck completing this one, I can’t tell you any more than boarding schools are the best fix for kids who tend to grow up to be thugs and integrating the core subjects does more than just about any other magic bullet people have tried. Besides that, it’s totally up to you, but there’s money to be made. As a side note, if you can just fix the way teachers have to login to a dozen accounts per day, that would do a lot. For example, ONE system that does grades, subs, paystubs, student info, test scores, testing, scheduling, and all the other crap we used every day in different ways. That’s billions. Did you know most of what we use in education is repurposed business software? Get a group of smart teachers and a few programmers together and you can start printing money.
Become a Consultant
If you don’t want to actually fix anything but can promise to fix one thing, then you’d be a good consultant. Teach teachers how to teach. Some school districts bring these clowns in from the outside, while others hire them on the inside as “coaches.” Either way, you’ll double your salary and cut your work in half, without having to offer any measurable improvement. Yes, it should be too good to be true, but it’s not. One of the consultants my school used routinely made $10,000 for a day of speaking, then sold his program (that didn’t work) to schools, and sent out emails to all of us teachers trying to get us to join him for added webinars (that we could all pay for on our own). I’m not saying that every consultant runs a racket, but if you’re going to bother, go ahead and make it a full racket.
If you want to be a consultant, here's a tip: you are not smart enough to come up with something on your own. Refer to a college education class and then research, rephrase, and repackage. If you don't believe me, then just think about your next consultant with what I just wrote in mind.
China is always looking for English teachers, and Disney is in charge of a pretty substantial program over there right now. The military might hire you, too. If you have a family and/or care about your safety, some situations might not work, but relocating is a decent option depending on your situation. I looked into Germany or France, but it seems that non-military schools only use European Union folks to teach English in most of Western Europe (where most of us would want to relocate). I found an international school in the Bahamas that was hiring as I was being laid off. They wanted a theatre-type guy, but it might be a legitimate option. I never looked into Canada too much, but I did like the system they had of working four years and taking one off at ⅘ the salary each year. That’s good for writers or B&B owners. I’d heard that military schools are scaling back a bit, but that might be a decent option for you to get out of Dodge.
One major consideration here is cost of living. Teachers in California sometimes live in homeless shelters with their families. Some states have no income tax or no sales tax, but be sure to compare salary and cost of living to where you currently reside, and then factor in $5000 to $10000 just to move all your stuff. And flights back to see family.
If you are old, retire. I mean, if you think anyone (students and teachers alike) really appreciate you right now, you’re wrong. The district wants you off their payroll, that kid who got let go last year with the new family needs the money more than you, and you can’t really relate to kids better now that you’re old enough to be their grandma. I saw this way too often in my district: people taking a 30-year position and making it a 40-year position. Just get out and get on with life so that those who understand technology don’t have to come in and show you how to use your gradebook each time you logon. I don’t want to be mean about it, but a major reason for schools running out of money was that teachers got paid so much more towards the “end” of their careers, and then hung on an extra decade. Multiply that by all the Baby-Boomers that were still teaching, and you get the financial situation that led to Act 10 in Wisconsin. Your duty as a teacher is to get out with an early retirement and find something else to occupy your time. Some districts offer “sweeteners” to get you out. That means they don’t want to pay you so much money anymore. If you really love teaching, after 30 years, ask to make what new teachers make again. This is not a joke, and teaching really has changed. Five years before I was laid off, I voted against a contract that would have reduced retirement benefits to people I'd never met. No one else my age or younger joined me. At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do, but I was wrong. I should have voted for me then because all those older teachers had voted for themselves for years. If the forty year-old teachers see you with as much contempt as I, imagine what the 22 year-olds think.
You’ve got all the wisdom of one or forty years of teaching, and all your relatives at family gatherings could care less. In fact, they HOPE you talk about something, anything else. However, hundreds of thousands of teachers online are always looking for a little chicken soup for their souls before they start out for another day in the trenches. Write about it. An anecdote a week about your years of teaching. Sure, you could turn it into a book or a cool website, but you could also just use it as a journal. Maybe five people ever will read what you write, but those five people will have wanted to read it, and they might be better teachers because of you. If you want to make money blogging, you’ll want to promote products and try to get some affiliate commissions. For example, if you used a Chromebook Cover that you really liked, and you have an Amazon account, write a lot about it, and then when someone drops $20,000 on your promoted protectors for 1000 students, you’ll get about 5% of the sales, or $1000. Not bad for a blogging, but you probably don’t want to waste your time promoting your favorite pencil.
If you’re a young teacher who has not added extra pounds and wrinkles because of the stress, hit the dating scene, and stay out of the office pool. The happiest teachers I knew were the ones married to people who made more than them. These teachers could and did say goodbye to the job at any time. In Wisconsin, when teachers lost most of the benefits that made the career a sensible choice for intelligent people, many of the intelligent people started looking for alternatives. This was a lot easier if there were no part time wives and kids to deal with, or if a spouse was raking in $100,000. And if you’re both teaching, all you can do is go home and complain to each other, and I have seen enough teacher-to-teacher marriages end, so it's not as healthy as you might imagine. Many eligible people are doctors, lawyers, engineers, IT specialists, architects, or even inheritors of old money. The fact that you are educated makes you interesting to them. Find one of them, not because you’re a golddigger, but because you’re smart and young and available. You don't need to teach immature children all day and then come home to one of your own that you married.
We’re not exactly talking government cheese here. Not exactly. However, the government offers several ways for teachers to make more money by spending less. Unfortunately, none of these government programs benefitted me while I was teaching, but if you’re reading this, you might want to check out what’s available to you. First, the government wants to reward teachers to spend their careers in schools with low-income children. You can get huge chunks of your loans forgiven if you make it well past the standard burnout years of teaching in these schools. A newer program forgives loans for any teacher working a certain number of years AFTER a certain date, which meant I would not have qualified for it until after my loans were all due. More than likely, the government will continue to forgive more and more loans for Millennials and Generation Yers (whiners?)while allowing Baby Boomers to stay retired early, leaving Generation Xers to make up the difference. Go online to find out more about loan forgiveness for teachers or other service positions. These are real and if you are teaching today, you probably will qualify for one eventually. Another use for the government for teachers is in government financial aid. If you are a starting teacher as a the main bread-winner in a family of six, you more than likely qualify for public assistance because you are below the poverty line. The good news is that you don’t have to be fully below the line to get other benefits, so look into what your government offers. Unfortunately, you probably can’t get out of receiving your district’s “Cadillac” healthcare, even though you’d qualify for a better, cheaper Obamacare plan. Oh well, can’t win em all.