Lord knows I’m not in it for the money

Every time someone hears that I’m going to become a teacher, I get the same reaction over and over again. They say something along the lines of “Bless your heart,” followed quickly by something about how little money I’m going to make. Anyone who wants to be a teacher and is in school working on their teaching degree, I promise you, knows damn well how much (or how little I should say) money they’re likely going to be making when they graduate. For me at least, the haunting prospect of never making as much money as I would like to, and certainly not as much as is worth all the work I’ll be putting in, doesn’t even begin to sway me away from teaching. I fought long and hard to get here and I’ll be damned if I let something like money push me away from the profession I love with every bit of my heart.

I was raised by a yoga teacher and a nurse practitioner, the perfect example of free spirit meets practical and realistic. My mom, the free spirit, always encouraged me to do what my heart desired. She used to say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But that encouraging voice was often drowned out by the hundreds of other voices surrounding me, talking about money and how the future was STEM, and how I would always be guaranteed job security and a nicely sized paycheck if I looked to the medical field.

I had loved teaching since I was young, finding ways to baby-sit, tutor, lead summer camps, and coach children whenever I could, but my family had steered me towards science related programs. In high school it was easy to compromise: I tutored students in math and science and taught summer camp at the Science Center, but college was different. When it came time to pick my major, I found myself split between what I loved and had always loved and those little voices whispering in my ear that teaching would never get me anywhere in life and to stick to what was sure to make me money.

As the daughter of divorce, I craved stability over passion and entered college with the intent to join the medical field. It didn’t take long for me to realize that all my classes were making me miserable and that I wouldn’t be happy continuing down the STEM path, but finally admitting that I loved the career that everyone had always warned me away from was terrifying. After a semester of General chemistry that made me want to drop out of college all together, I gathered the courage to switch my major. I did so a few days before the end of my freshman year and didn’t tell a soul. It was an incredibly scary secret to keep, knowing that I had done the opposite of what everyone had told me and finally made a life decision based off what I loved, but my gosh I can not begin to describe the level of pure elation I was feeling.

The next few weeks involved a lot of conversations about whether I was making the right choice, but from the minute I switched my major, I know that I was finally following the right path for me. It’s been a long journey since then, full of crazy unsure times where no one really knew what to expect, but I continued to gain experience where I could. I worked in a second grade classroom for a semester, then in a kindergarten after school program. When the schools all closed, I became a nanny and worked with the most incredible little boys to get them through remote learning and continue to develop my teaching skills. And now that schools are open again, I’m teaching kindergarten again in a local school, navigating the craziness that is every day in a kindergarten classroom.

My days are full of random questions and repeating instructions about a million times, punctuated by the occasional “I LOVE CHEETOS” or “WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DINOSAUR?” My kindergarteners are funny, clever, and so excited to be at school every (okay most) morning. We have so much fun and nothing beats getting to see them learn something new every day. And while working in my classroom makes me happier than I ever thought I could be at work, I promise you my days are by no means full of sunshine and rainbows. My students drive me up the wall at times, while they’re so smart and work so hard, they’re still only five years old. I get yelled at, occasionally have things thrown at me, and every once in a while have to persuade a very angry five year old not to run away and to come inside the school without touching them (because we aren’t allowed to do that).

This job is not for the faint of heart and if for some reason you’re in it for the money, it won’t be worth it I promise you. This job is for those who want to make a difference, who love watching small minds grow, and who are as prepared as possible for a day of insanity… in the best possible way of course.

One Reply to “Lord knows I’m not in it for the money”

  1. Isabella,

    I laughed when I read your title. So true. But I think you’ve crafted a thoughtful explanation of why you are “in it.”

    As a fellow lapsed bio major, I identify with your academic switch. Later as a political science major (who was thinking of law school), I decided to take my upper level (outside my major) classes in education. Seemed like a way to get a requirement out of the way and leave school with a marketable skill.

    There was no academic tradition in my family. My dad dropped out of school in the 10th grade to work during the depression. So my family was against me being a teacher because of low status (in there eyes) and the low pay.

    But I loved it and spent over 50 years teaching. Still love it. So glad I didn’t go for the money.

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