How Teachers Can Give Themselves a Raise


Work fewer hours.

That’s it, really. I probably don’t need to explain it, but you did click over here and you likely expect more than three words, so…

Here is how working for others… uh, works. You agree to do a job. Your employer agrees to pay you. You come to an arrangement whereby you will work for a certain amount of hours, and in return, they will give you a certain amount of money.  For teachers, the amount of work and the amount of money is almost always spelled out in black and white in a contract. For instance, mine says,

“The teacher’s normal day shall be seven (7) hours and six (6) minutes, unless permission is granted by the principal to leave earlier. Professional development half-days shall be three (3) hours and thirty (30) minutes with the start time to be determined by the building administrator.”

“Teachers shall be entitled to a duty-free uninterrupted lunch period of not less than thirty-five (35) minutes.”

And farther down the document, there’s a salary schedule that states exactly how much I will be paid for my labor.

So it’s pretty cut and dry. There’s an exchange. Work for money. Tale as old as time.

Now, when it comes down to it, we’re all hourly employees. Your investment banker friend might pull down 100K but he’s also working 60-hour weeks. So while he drives a nicer car, wears fancier clothes, and takes cooler vacations than you, he also mostly drives that car to work and back, is only seen in his fancy clothes by other bankers, and doesn’t take many vacations because he works all the damn time. He’s trading additional time for more money, and as a result, his hourly rate would be something like:

$100,000 divided by (60 hours/week x 50 weeks/year) = $30/hr + no personal life.

You, on the other hand, made a different choice. You chose time over money (or at least, that’s what I did and what you should be doing). You make a much more modest income, but you also work fewer hours (and if you don’t, you should).

If you feel like you’re underpaid as a teacher, it’s probably because of one of these reasons:

1. You’re young and pay for new teachers hasn’t moved in eons.
2. You work in Oklahoma West Virginia Arizona.
3. You work too many hours.

Let’s say you’re a mid-career teacher making $60,000. You work 10-hour days, plus you put in 10 more hours on weekends. Your hourly rate is:

$60,000 / (60 hours/week x 38 weeks) = $26.31

(And this assumes you don’t work over the summer. But if you’re working 60-hour weeks during the school year, I have a sneaking suspicion you’re not one to spend your summers on a beach, so your hourly rate will be even lower.)

If you want a raise, there are only three ways to go about getting one (short of leaving for a higher-paying job, and good luck with that).

You might work more, although you have to be careful. The math doesn’t always work in your favor. If your district is offering less than your hourly rate (which is likely), then it’s not really a raise. It’s just more work for more money, but not enough money to make it worth your while (unless you have no life and nothing better to do with your time, in which case, I’m sorry).

You can stick around for another year and get a small raise (unless they freeze steps, which is certainly a possibility, isn’t it?).

Or you can work fewer hours, which:

–boosts your hourly rate of pay.

–gives you more time to do the things you really want to do in life.

–is something you can start doing tomorrow.

So here’s how to feel richer than an investment banker:

Let’s say you’re not crazy and you don’t work 60 hours a week. You work fifty because you tell yourself it makes you a better teacher. So:

$60,000 / (50 hours/week x 38 weeks) = $31.58/hour

That’s investment banker money and you still get the summers, Spring Break, and Christmas off. Look at you, high roller!

But if you’re working 50 hours a week, then you’re donating more than 10 hours every week, or more than 380 hours over the course of a school year. If you don’t believe me, check your contract.

If instead, you work a reasonable workweek of 40 hours — which for many of you is actually more than what you’ve agreed to work when you signed a legally-binding document that governs employee-employer relationships the world over — then:

$60,000 / (40 hours/week x 38 weeks) = $39.00/ hour

And you’ll also have a personal life (although you’ll still be tired and useless on Friday nights, no matter how quickly you get out of the building).

So if you want a raise, stop working so many hours.

It sounds simple because it is, and yet so many teachers have a hard time doing it. If only there were a book that could help them…

(Disclosure: I wrote it):

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One Reply to “How Teachers Can Give Themselves a Raise”

  1. I work in a state with no union. Our hours are not specified in contracts. My system and many others in the area seem to think that salary means unlimited hours. Frequent after school meetings sometimes held in a “central” location are the norm. I am satisfied with my pay but not with the hours and ever-increasing demands.

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