How I Survive: American Teachers And Their Second Jobs – A Photo Essay
One in five American teachers now works a second job on top of full-time teaching. Photographer Peter Rad captures what happens when they leave the classroom.
“Working a second job, and the lack of rest that comes with that, makes it really hard to do the most important thing that a teacher does: remain engaged and enthusiastic, and really be the driving force in a classroom. The second challenge is that every year, students come to me with ideas for organizations they would like to start, clubs they would like to be involved in, and some of those things match up really well with some of my own passions.
“But when I weigh the additional amount of money that I need for my second job against my inclination, it doesn’t make sense.
“When you consider a teacher with zero experience versus a teacher like me with now 11 years behind me, there’s only a $3,619 difference in our salary. That signals to me that our district does not value experienced teachers. If I didn’t work a second job, I would be a risk for not having funds to deal with major financial problems that could occur in anyone’s life, whether that’s a major medical expense, a major car expense, or a family emergency.”
Jeanna Dorsey, 52
Full-time job Middle school social studies teacher. Earns $49,000 annually
Second job Suite-level attendant at the sports stadium for the Tulsa Roughnecks and Drillers on nights and weekends. Escorts people to seats and takes tickets. Earns $8.75 an hour
“The hardest thing is when you give your all at school, your main job – and then you come home and you have to change clothes and change your mindset. Then you have to go to your second job and you’re tired. You still have to find that extra strength to go on because you know you still need that extra money to get those bills paid.”
Matthew Williams, 31
Full-time job High school US history and geography teacher. Earns $35,000 annually
Second job Uber driver. Earns between $100 and $400 a week
“I moved back in with my parents just because I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck. It’s really hard to think about my own livelihood in the midst of trying to teach 115 teenagers. I should only have to care about their development, but I also have in my head, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay this month’s rent.’ I absolutely love what I do and I want to continue doing this and I don’t want to do anything else, but I can’t keep living with my parents to save money.
“I see November as a pivotal moment for my future. The last increase we really saw in raises and school funding has been 20-odd years, and if it’s going to be that rate again, at the current rate of inflation, I will be living in poverty. We’ve got teachers on food stamps. It’s insane.
“What typically goes through my mind [when Uber driving] is I hope I get some passengers that are easy to deal with – that aren’t going to be too difficult or drunk or whatever. What’s kind of interesting or sad is I tell them I’m a teacher and I’m immediately treated with sympathy. I typically get better tips. So I’m like a charity case.”
Courtney Haney, 25
Full-time job Middle school science teacher. Earns $58,000 annually
Second job Dance instructor and choreographer at Living Lines dance studio. Teaches ballet and hip-hop. Works 12 hours a week. Earns $38 an hour plus performances
“The most stressful thing is that I go home and worry about those kids, whether I like it or not, so it kind of wears me down. I use my lunch breaks often times to make choreography or to make lessons for that evening. Sometimes that’s what my weekends are devoted to also. Social life? What’s that? And sometimes even my personal health is at risk. It’s hard to eat lunch when you’ve got so many different things going on.
“There’s times where I have to talk to myself in the mirror and tell myself: ‘It’s OK, you can get through this. I know you’re exhausted, but it’ll be all right.’ And I get my second wind eventually. I get that adrenaline boost that I need to keep teaching. But there are times when I’m just so tired and my body is making me think that it can’t take it any more.”
Meghan McMillan, 38
Full-time job High school freshman leadership teacher. Earns $51,000 annually
Second job Dog trainer at PetSmart. Earns $9.25 an hour plus 20% commission for classes. Works 12-15 hours a week
“I try and leave school a little bit earlier than normal when I’m working just so I can have some extra time. When I go home I have to take care of my dogs first: I have to change clothes and I have to eat dinner because I don’t get home from PetSmart until 9.30pm and I’m not eating dinner at 9.30 at night. The hardest part is just managing stress.
“The reason I took a second job is that I have some debt that I’m trying to pay off. I needed the extra money to pay my bills. I was struggling with just the teaching income and this makes it so that I don’t have to struggle financially. I can live on my wage, but I’m single and have no kids. There’s a lot of teachers who are single parents who are really struggling.”
Brian Davis, 46
Full-time job Middle school geography teacher. Earns $42,000 annually
Second job Private softball coach. Earns $25 per lesson. Also an Uber driver
“We use the envelope system a little bit. This week’s softball lesson would go into an envelope for the tire fund. Or this week’s lesson, half of it would go for car maintenance.
“I will probably continue my side jobs through at least my kids going to college. We’ve accumulated some debt over the years, because when you need tires, you just put down the credit card. When the washing machine goes out, you put it on the credit card. We’re going to be catching up from that for years. I’ve got a car that’s pushing 200,000 miles and another car that’s pushing 100,000 and we’ve got a girl going off to college next year. We haven’t contributed to our IRAs in about three years, maybe even longer than that.”
Metasha Olson, 45
Full-time job Middle school english teacher. Earns $40,600 annually
Second job School bus driver. Earns $17.60 an hour. Works 10 hours a week
“The American teacher shouldn’t have to drive a bus. I don’t get to stay after school to help my students for even five minutes if they have a question. Sometimes I feel like I’m letting my students down because I have to go directly to my bus. I don’t even get to stop for a bathroom break.
“Without my second job, we flat out cannot make our bills. Even with my second job, we struggle to make the bills, without even adding on the food or extras that my kids want.”
Photography of American teachers and their second jobs as a result of the poor economy and low wages. More info about our studio and photos at theroomdowntown.com
TAGS : second jobs, poor economy
Also published on Medium.