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Impact vs income: Teacher thinks of quitting classroom citing low pay

Published:Sunday | December 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION: I think you captured the plight of many teachers well in your November 23 article 'Tired teacher wants to quit classroom.' As a teacher, I believe that making a positive impact in students' lives is important, but what about the relatively poor remuneration you mentioned? I too am turned off by the poor attitudes of some students. However, my main reason for wanting to quit the classroom is the low pay.

-Teacher Too

SMITH: Thank you for your feedback on the referenced column.

That article made it clear that quitting the classroom was a reasonable option. There are many valid reasons why a teacher could make that decision. And remuneration is a crucial one.

Teachers have electricity, water, cable, and telephone bills to pay. They have children's tuition and medical expenses to take care of. Many have a mortgage, or pay rent. Many also have students' loan to repay. Add to these, monthly car payments and health insurance premiums. These obligations require money.

It can be difficult for a teacher to consistently give her best to unruly, disrespectful and lackadaisical students, while being unable to pay her bills or provide for her own children. In this situation, any reasonable person would consider the option of a better paying job.

That is sometimes the answer. Other times it is not. There are teachers who have quit the classroom, citing low pay. They get a higher paying job elsewhere in the government services or private sector. What often happens, then?

In many cases, they upgrade their car, move to a more upscale neighbourhood, or take more overseas vacations. Soon, they again complain they can't make ends meet; they need more pay - perhaps abroad.

You see, we all wish we could earn a bigger pay check. But at all times, I believe our attitude needs to be one of contentment, and a willingness to make the best of what we do earn. A person who is not satisfied with and doesn't know how to manage a $100,000 a month salary, will likely be equally dissatisfied with $200,000.

My advice, while not discouraging you from contemplating a better paying job, is to first review how you're managing your current income. Don't focus only on your net pay; instead, assess the various deductions from the gross salary.

If those deductions are for consumption related expenditures - car loan, pay-day loan, computer, household appliances, clothes, vacation - then that's a signal you need to review your expenditures. Apart from the statutory deductions, your other deductions should ideally be for savings, health insurance, mortgage or students loan.

Many teachers can indeed live off their current salary, though it's admittedly below less qualified private sector professionals. It's a matter of living within their means, and prioritising their commitment to mould young lives and serve Jamaica.

Sure, that calls for personal sacrifice. It calls for a professional commitment. And it calls for selfless concern for country. The greatest teachers have always paid the price. They've always - despite relatively low income - dedicated their lives to making a life-changing impact in as many children's lives as they can.

n Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of From Problems to Power and co-author of Profile of Excellence.