My Son Wants to Become A Teacher But There’s One Big Problem

My Son Wants to Become A Teacher But There’s One Big Problem

For as long as I can remember, my son has dreamed about being an elementary school teacher.

He works at youth camps in the summer. He coaches young kids in soccer. He volunteers in the kids’ program at our church. And, in his Junior year in high school, he was selected to be an assistant teacher for incoming 9th graders for a semester of math. He loved the experience and soon after, decided on teaching as a vocation.

I would be proud of my son regardless of his choice of vocation. And if he becomes a teacher, I’d be over the moon.

The problem? Teachers’ pay is crap. Especially at the elementary level.

The problem with working as a teacher

I don’t want to pay a hefty post-secondary bill, just to have him graduate and start working at a fraction of what it cost to send him to school. That just doesn’t seem right.

Don’t get me wrong. I love teachers. I hail from a long line of teachers. My grandparents, my mom and my siblings currently teach in (or have retired from) a career in public education. Everything from elementary teacher to guidance counselor to high school principal to special-needs teacher to post-secondary instruction.

If there was ever anyone who understands the demands and rewards of being an elementary school teacher, it’s my kid.

But it all comes back to the money. Or lack of it.

As we wait for the college acceptance letters, I secretly find myself hoping that he will not get accepted into the education programs to which he’s applied. And I feel guilty about it.

The average starting salary for a 2017 college grad is just under $50,000. But the national average starting salary for teachers is just over $36,000. That’s a big difference.

To help my son decide if he really wants to dedicate his life to teaching, we created a list of the Pros and Cons of the profession.

The Pros of Being a Teacher

Teachers are Life Changers

I still remember all my teachers from school. Not because they were all great teachers, but because they all had an impact on my life.

Without a doubt, teachers are instrumental in shaping not only a child’s education, but their personality, social skills and habits that will stay with them for life.

Great Work-Life Balance

Although most teachers start their days very early, they usually finish early in the afternoon. The parking lot of our neighborhood school is practically devoid of cars by 4 PM.

Contrast that with other lines of work where individuals struggle to make it home for dinner by 6 PM. Corporate careers seem to be stretching from a once family-friendly 8-hour per day, to 10 to 12 hours per day. A career in teaching leaves more time for family, friends and other interests.

Vacations and Paid Time Off

There is no other career choice that allows employees summers off, as well as multiple holidays. This is an incredible perk if you are a parent. No more worries about care for school-age children when you have the same holidays as they do.

Early Retirement

Although teachers’ retirement perks are not as great as they once were, teachers still have the option to retire in as little as 30 years on the job and get a portion of their pay guaranteed for life. This gives teachers the option to have a Second Act at a relatively young age. I know retired educators who (upon retirement) purchased a winery, sell handmade crafts on Etsy and substitute back in the classroom.

The Cons of Being a Teacher

The money. Only the money. But that’s a big Con.

Why are teachers, who are shaping the next generation, paid so little for such important work?

I wonder if other moms of bright, capable young adults are steering their kids toward more lucrative careers. If so, it’s a shame.

I don’t know how our situation will turn out. My son has a good head on his shoulders and it’s ultimately up to him to choose his vocation. I will support him no matter what he chooses.

Meanwhile, I anxiously wait for those acceptance letters.


This article originally appeared on the site It has been reprinted with permission.

8 thoughts on “My Son Wants to Become A Teacher But There’s One Big Problem”

  • Everything you say is correct. Even going for your Masters and your doctorate does not improve ones pay. Read story after story of PhD types who are adjunct professors, teaching a class at this college and another at that college, trying to string together a lifestyle and an income stream. Nocando.
    Get a career going in another field. Teach Sunday school. Teach something at the local “Y” or other youth organization. Get into the field of Human Resources and teach careerists something new that their company wants to get out to all employees.
    Teaching is wonderful. It can be fulfilling. But for a viable way to support a family, it is difficult.
    Yes you have summers off. But then you will find a p/t job because bills keep coming due. Sorry.

    • I agree with you 100%. I wish I had included this idea in the original post: there are so many opportunities to mentor and teach kids other than being in the classroom full-time. I can see my son coaching soccer or being a youth leader at a church.

      Like you, I’ve heard so many stories of teachers working another job just to make ends meet. I know that being in a class-room all day with kids is exhausting. I can’t imagine after a full day of teaching kids that you have to head out to another job.

      • Your son also HAS to understand that when he is a student-teacher, the college will put him into a school with well-behaved upper middle class students. This will be 180 degrees opposite of where a “hiring school district “will place him after he signs a contract. He will be a beginning teacher, ergo he will be sent to the worst school because teachers at those schools are trying to get out and into those better schools. They put in their time now they want out to a better school. And the district is just trying to get a warm body into a classroom. No allegiance to your son OR any new employee. This is the way it is.
        Those who can- do. Those who can’t -teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers how to teach. Those who can’t teach teachers how to teach – – become Deans.

  • It took me 11 years, but I’ve doubled my pay as a teacher. One big help would be working in a unit district where K-12 teachers are paid the same. They usually have stronger unions to advocate for fairer pay because they are bigger. It’s not impossible, and the change that’s come about from strikes in the past year or two should give you hope.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Penny. It’s so sad to watch teachers strike, when you know they just want to be in the classroom teaching. We had to deal with a strike last year and it was difficult for everyone involved: students, parents, teachers and administrators.

  • Very sad to read this post, but I understand and agree with most of it.
    My mother was a teacher. My wife and I are teachers. Despite the family tradition, I’m relieved that neither of my kids have shown an interest in becoming teachers.
    Some of the points in the post are even changing. Many colleges require a master’s to get a teaching license. In my school district the new teacher’s retirement system is different (and not as good) as my pension based system.

    • As a former teacher, my mom receives 90% of her salary as her pension. She retired many years ago and feels very fortunate to have retired when she did. The pensions have definitely changed and aren’t near as lucrative as they once were.

      Teaching is one of the most important professions. My mom and my siblings loved their jobs. That’s one of the reasons I felt so guilty about getting my son to look at the benefits before he pursued teaching as a career.

  • This is an old article but I just found your website. I have to say teaching in Canada is a very well paid job in part because they have amazing pensions. Lots of our family members are teachers. . I would love it if my kids became elementary teachers. Great salary, great working hours and a great pension. I think things are different here vs the US.

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