I love my work, but I just can’t afford it.

Roaches and mice are alive and well and quite possibly learning English.
-Boston-based ESL teacher

I have been in the field for 6 years. I work 3 part-time jobs (totaling 32 hours/week; 18 teaching hours) to earn $27,000. My pay ranges from $18/hour (with 1:2 prep time) to $30/hour (with 1:6 prep time).

I get paid sick time at my one unionized job, but nowhere do I get any vacation time or health benefits. I get no pay for school vacations or when programs are closed.

Technically, I have access to a program computer but, if someone else is on it, I can’t wait because I have another job to get to. So I end up using my home as my office, paying for my own paper, ink cartridges, on-line fees, etc. Then I schlep my materials around from job to job.

I’m expected to attend staff meetings and meet with supervisors at each of my jobs. Technically, these meetings are required, but I often can’t make them, so I can’t give input into decisions despite the good intentions of managers to solicit staff ideas.

The straw that breaks the camel’s back is the increased workload – DOE requirements for more recordkeeping, lesson plans, etc. This all comes out of my prep time, which really means I don’t get paid for it. I had to fight to get some of this documentation time compensated.

The people I need to speak up to, at times, seem beaten down by the system themselves. These are basically intelligent, well-meaning people who have been fighting the system so long they have given up. The battle looks to be so long and difficult, where do I find the time and energy for it? I recently tried to discuss these problems with colleagues, but they don’t even have time to talk about it!

The long and short of it is that I’m being forced out of the field because I don’t make a living wage. I think the assumption is that you’re a middle-aged woman who has a wealthy husband, so you’re just doing a part-time job to get out of the house – it’s compassion for students that drives you. I love my work, but I just can’t afford it.

This post was written by a Boston-area ESOL teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.

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