What This Teacher Makes

There are a number of excellent posts about what teachers make, most notably Taylor Mali’s poem, What Teachers Make

but one of my students on the bus home from fencing last night actually asked what I make.  So I told him, but based on past numbers.


I said,

“When I started in this business, in 1996, I had a master’s degree already, and so I got a $700 boost to my salary, so I started at $14,700.  And for that, I worked about 120 hours a week — which admittedly included the time that I was asleep on my assigned dormitory, but on call in case a child woke up sick in the middle of the night. And I worked about nine months out of the year, or around 35 or 36 weeks.”

“So what is that equal to?” this kid asks me.  I said,

“You should do the math.  Lay out the problem with me.”

So he did, and we laid out the word problem together.

“120 hours a week times 36… that’s 10 times 36 or 360, plus 2 times 36 or 72. And 72 plus 360 is 432, and all of that times 10 (to account for the hundreds place) is 4,320 hours.  And dividing $14,700 by that…”

Here is math failed him, so we opened it up to the bus.  And they could not do it. Then one of the kids figured out how to use his cellphone as a calculator, and they worked it out as $3.40 an hour.

Now. This is unfair.

I make more than double that now (though I’m close to a decade away from making triple that at the usual COLA increases that prevailed through most of the last decade [and if the salary freeze continues, it may be when Tarterus freezes, too]). And I have health care insurance, which these days is a type of miracle in itself.  And OF COURSE there’s all sorts of direct and side benefits to being a teacher.  AND there are all sorts of direct and side benefits to being a boarding school teacher, including an apartment that I don’t pay rent for all year ’round (call that $12,000 a year), and a dining hall that’s pretty good where I eat most of my meals for those same nine months out of the year (call that $5-7K annually).  So it’s a pretty good living, all around, and I don’t need to complain about being in near-poverty at all, nor have I ever made such complaints in my entire teaching career.

But really… if you wanted to know what a teacher makes, besides a difference… Well.  Now you have an answer.

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  1. My first year teaching in boarding school school, I made, using your calculations, $3.70 an hour working the number of hours you calculated. Now, almost ten years later, I’m at a day school where I work eight-hour days for five days a week and for about 160 days a year — and I make over 150% more an hour than I did at boarding school.

    The problem of teacher pay is bad. The problem of teacher pay at boarding schools is REALLY bad. How are boarding schools supposed to attract teachers while still paying them nothing?

    • I think that the problem of teacher pay in private schools is really bad across the board. As I pointed out, teachers in boarding schools have a variety of benefits, not least of which is housing — your apartment now is comparable to your apartment at school, I think, and so you have to add into your salary calculations a benefit worth several hundred dollars a month — $10,000 to $15,000 a year, approximately, or an additional $2.80 a hour. Throw another $1.50/hour on top of that for our meals in the dining hall (generous, I know, but that’s what it costs).

      So now we’re up to a hourly pay of $8.00, when you started working here — if we include non-standard benefits like housing and all meals for a first year teacher.

      The really horrifying issue is this: I’m guessing that you’re making around $9.35/hour, if you’re making over 150% of your original starting salary. But this means that in 10 years, inflation has been rising at 2-4% a year… and your base salary has risen about $1.35/hour over that same period, if we add in the benefits of housing and food.

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