Do you love ABE? What do you want to change?

As try to build a movement to work together to improve the conditions in adult education, we’d like to know YOUR story.

One Boston teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared her story* with us:

“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.

… I end up using my home as my office. Then I schlep my materials around from job to job.

…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 long and short of it is that I’m being forced out of the field because I don’t make a living wage. …I love my work, but I just can’t afford it.”

Tell us your story.

Leave a comment at the end of this post.

  • Why do you do this work?
  • What would you like to change?
  • If we had a union, what would it look like when we’ve won?


Are you willing to be part of bringing about that change?

There are many ways to participate!

  • Come to an organizing meeting (next meeting: Friday, 5/25 in Jamaica Plain- see below for details)
  • Hold a meeting in your area
  • Talk to people you know in the field
  • Get on our mailing list

Next Organizing Committee Meeting

Friday, May 25th, 10 a.m.
Jamaica Plain Branch Library (in the basement)
12 Sedgewick St., Boston, 02130

Contact Jana Pickard-Richardson ( with questions or RSVPs.


Non-Traditional Union News

As we continue to talk to our colleagues about organizing the field of Adult Basic Education, there is some welcome good news coming out of other states where workers are organizing non-traditional unions.  Read about the recent win for the Missouri Home Care Workers.


*Read the teacher’s full story here.

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  14. Ms. X says:

    I have been teaching ESOL for over 12 years. Luckily, I have a somewhat lucrative part time job in the fitness industry, otherwise I would never be able to continue in this line of work, which I love. I get no paid sick days, no benefits, part time wages (I haven’t had a wage increase in 6 years)….I tried to collect unemployment over the summer a few years ago and when I realized I wasn’t eligible, but had already received a payment, I had to go to a mediator like some kind of criminal and state my case at the unemployment office. (I was later found “guilty” and didn’t receive my summer bonus that year.) The frosting on the cake, so to speak, is that ABE/ ESOL administrators have the nerve to start pushing ABE licensure on us. As if anyone in this line of work wants to get a license to work a part time job with no benefits (& licensure doesn’t even grant you a salary increase.) I feel lucky to have a job that I love and lucky to live in a state that gives me Commonwealth Care (mass health benefits) but I think the education administrators need to get their butts into the programs and witness first hand, the endless amount of paperwork and adminstrivia they have put upon us who are in the trenches.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Making a living in this field is incredibly difficult.

    I thought I was the only one who felt this way.

    I graduated in 2007 with a BA in cultural anthropology from Boston University and received my TEFL certificate in 2008. I have been teaching since then. I estimate that I have worked in over ten schools in four years in both Massachusetts and New Jersey. My jobs have ALWAYS required extensive transportation. I do not have a drivers license and could not afford a car if I had one. Luckily, my boyfriend can pick me up some nights.

    In my experience non profits treat their employees much better than private corporations, especially if you are part- time which I have always been.

    In one private company I worked at in Cambridge, a division of Berlitz, I worked part time and was spending up to ten unpaid hours a week doing all the required grading and scoring. It was ABSURD. I quit out of sheer exhaustion and desperation.

    Right now I am lucky to be working at one location, for one non profit. Even though I am working over forty hours a week I still do not get benefits because some of that time is for “assessment coordination” and the other time is for teaching.

    Twice a week I work 14 hour days. It is exhausting. I am young, 28 in a few weeks, but I routinely see older teachers doing the same thing. I was told over and over again it is a requirement of the job – it makes sense. You have to teach adults when they are available- at night.

    I love my job. It makes me feel I am doing something to help other people. I work with immigrants, many who are suffering greatly. They inspire me all the time and I know our organization does tremendous good for the community.

    I always have a talk about how important Unions are with my students. Inevitably I have come to realize that more of them are unionized, even as undocumented workers, than many of my coworkers in the ABE field.
    Ironically, I can never find time to contribute to forming a Union because I have been so exhausted.

    I recently have been diagnosed with some health problems. I know I will not be paid for any days off, and so I miss doctors appointments, blood tests, etc. It’s not right but the rent must be paid.

    I AM SO LUCKY TO HAVE A FORM OF COMMONWEALTH CARE. It is one reason I moved back to Massachusetts. My medical bills from before I had it still haunt me.

    When I talk to friends who have similar degrees at me they seem shocked by how little money I make. I knew that in this world if you want to do anything that is humanitarian you are not going to make a lot of money… but I am getting to the age where I would like to be able to save something… to plan for the future… instead of just living hand to mouth month after month. I can’t even imagine how people with children survive in this industry.

    I have talked to many young people who feel the only way to make any money in this industry is by going to other countries and teaching there – especially in Asia. Fascinating.

    Thanks for listening!

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