I grew up all over the place – South Korea, Louisiana, Kentucky and North Carolina. Daddy was in the Army and Mama was a waitress. Money was not easy to come by and I watched them both work double shifts many times. I was on reduced lunch and my clothes most often came from yard sales or hand me downs. I did not mind that. It was just the way things were. They both wished better for me of course and encouraged good grades and college.
Sure enough, I graduated in the top 10% of my class. My AP history teacher told me to do ANYTHING but teach. My Biology teacher thought I had potential to be a Geneticist. My English teachers pushed for journalist or fiction writer. But, universities and colleges are EXPENSIVE. I could barely afford the money to APPLY let alone pay for tuition. I was accepted to Appalachian State University in 8th grade. I mistakenly checked the wrong box when taking the SAT and was surprised at the acceptance. So, I figured I could count on that school when I was actually ready to attend. LOL
Because of peer pressure, I spent a precious $25 to apply to UNC Chapel Hill because my classmates teased that I couldn’t get into a REAL college. ASU was and is a respected learning institute in North Carolina but we did not have a strong sports program so teenagers were apt to call it CRAPalachian because well, teenagers are inherently STUPID. I was accepted into UNC “where” and I posted my acceptance letter on my locker as a FU to the bullies.
The Teaching Fellows Scholarship was new and the state was recruiting bright students into the fold of teaching in hopes that would somehow improve the education of our children. I don’t know if it worked or not, but it meant I would have a full scholarship. If I attended ASU instead of UNC-CH it also meant I could keep the difference in my pocket. Having no real guidance about careers for smart young women, not knowing about student loans and being hotly pursued by a Marine recruiter I thought it would be my best option to take this opportunity. After all, ANY degree was better than none, right?
I did well in college, learned a lot, did my student teaching with excellent reviews and found that my gregarious nature and good humor fit in well and the students seem to enjoy the way I relayed the knowledge of English and Literature. Once, I even I dressed up as Ophelia and passed out droopy daisies while staying in character and reminding them of the literary devices they needed to study for the upcoming exam. I thought I had found my calling.
Teaching is a very unappreciated career. In North Carolina, especially, it is woefully underpaid. Every school system is shamefully understaffed, the hours are long and NO WE DO NOT GET THE WHOLE SUMMER OFF – people need to stop saying that. We do not work when the kids are on vacation – TRUE but we are also not paid. We can choose to divide up our 10 month salary into 12 months. In 1992 I was paid $26,000 for 10 months. Now, with my 7 years of experience I could pull in a whopping $40,000 at the most. That is maybe $3000+ a month which is maybe $100 a day. At $15 an hour at Target I could be paid $120 a day. So no matter how I slice it, going back to teaching just does not make sense.
NC is desperate for teachers so I have toyed with the idea of renewing my license and adding to my 7 years of tenure so that I might get some sort of pittance of retirement benefits. I allowed myself to be convinced that using my degree was better than not using it. But I think I know that teaching is just not going to be a benefit to me or my family. That is very sad because I am a fabulous teacher.