A guest post by Frankie Wallace
You may have fine-tuned your teaching style over the years, spent countless hours creating your lesson plans, and researched everything there is to know not just about the subjects you teach but how the students themselves learn. And yet, if you’re a teacher — and one working in a rural school in particular — chances are it doesn’t matter how good your track record is, you’re still probably being underpaid. At a certain point, the truth sinks in, it’s hard to make a decent living as a rural teacher. It’s a realization that is all too familiar to rural teachers throughout the United States.
But as you stand there, scratching your head and fighting between the fact that you entered this profession to help children learn and find their potential … but you still need to pay your bills on time, don’t give up. Your case isn’t hopeless. While opportunities for advancement and career success can tend to stall within the rural teaching profession, there is another option that has become more and more appealing in recent years. We’re talking about social work.
Here are some of the reasons struggling rural teachers should consider supplementing their income as a social worker.
The Teacher’s End of the Deal
Let’s first take a look at the personal side of the equation, breaking down some of the pros and cons that affect you, the teacher, when considering the social worker option within your existing career.
The Benefits of a Social Work Side Hustle
The first and most obvious answer here is cold, hard cash. While you may pour your heart into your teaching, as we already touched on, at some point you’ve got to pay that mortgage so you don’t become that crazy teacher living out of their car. But there are other reasons besides financial factors at work here.
One easily overlooked benefit is the fact that the two career choices — teaching and social work — tend to work within very similar fields. While one is focused on teaching students, both highlight that innate human desire to come alongside those who are in need and help them through adversity. The complementary nature of both careers makes it much easier to “double up” by becoming certified for both.
Yet another great modern advantage to broadening your career into the realm of social work is that you can get many certifications and even full-fledged degrees online with little difficulty and often at your own pace these days. This doesn’t only make the education and credentials of becoming a social worker more easily accessible, though. It also allows you, if desired, to go the whole nine yards and create an entire alternative career path as a possibility for the future.
The need for social workers isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, it’s projected that the number of workers required may rise a hefty 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. That provides a nice career safety net, freeing up any struggling rural teacher who might otherwise have few other options.
How Extra Work Can Push You Too Far
Of course, as any educating veteran will tell you, teaching is anything but a relaxing career choice, with most teachers constantly struggling to keep their heads above the water. After all, the average modern teacher is dealing with a variety of challenges including an increasingly recognized diversity in learning styles within their own classrooms.
That said, you need to make sure to avoid burnout in the quest for supplemental income. After all, it’s estimated that teachers make approximately 1,500 decisions a day. Therefore, it’s important to keep perspective when trying to weigh your options. It’s also helpful to remember that there are ways to avoid that mental and physical burnout such as exercise, yoga, and that age-old favorite, an afternoon cup o’ joe.
The Student’s End of the Deal
While the pros and cons to a teacher of going the social worker route are fairly straightforward, they aren’t the only things to consider. There are far-reaching external impacts that any social worker can make as well, many of which are as profound as any teacher might find themselves producing within the classroom.
Why Are Social Workers Needed in Rural Areas in Particular?
It’s a tragic fact that students in rural areas tend to struggle profoundly with both direct issues like substance abuse as well as more indirect (yet still nefarious) elements like low socioeconomic status. While the former can be detrimental to one’s health and even lethal in certain cases, the latter can be just as debilitating in the long term, as the lack of career opportunities that most rural students face can be crippling.
Thus, becoming a social worker in a rural area can allow a teacher to also aid in the battle against things like the ever-worsening opioid crisis as well as get hands-on experience in the struggle for their students to succeed after school hours and outside of the classroom. After all, when it comes to social work, students are just the tip of the iceberg, with rural social workers diving into the heart of one of the U.S.’s most actively struggling demographics. Their service is required not just for schools but for hospitals, nonprofits, and even prisons.
Don’t Give Up!
If you’re a rural teacher, don’t give up hope. The struggle to make ends meet may be very real, but it isn’t one with zero alternatives. Considering social work as a viable supplemental income or even an alternative career path is an excellent option that has become both accessible and needed in the modern era more than ever before.
If you liked this article, you may want to consider giving this one on creating inclusive classrooms for students with disabilities a gander, as well.