Last week I shared some of the financial aspects of teaching that are contributing to a lack of an abundance mindset among teachers. The money teachers expect and earn for teaching definitely wreaks havoc on our money beliefs, and therefore, our bank accounts.
But there’s more to our money mindset than money. Other expectations placed on teachers seep into our subconscious and create doubt about our ability to earn, and even whether or not we deserve to make more money.
Here are some non-monetary impacts teaching has on your financial success.
Without the free labor teachers provide, the American school system would shut down.
Whether we’re talking about extra hours before or after school helping students who are struggling, extra hours planning lessons and activities, hours in front of the tv cutting out shapes for a bulletin board, or courses we take on our own time (and with our own money) to improve our classroom skills, working for free comes with the job.
It’s expected. It’s presented as normal. And it’s taken for granted.
It’s also never enough.
Teachers are constantly being asked to do more, for no extra pay, with the ever-familiar call of, “Do it for the kids.”
We need someone to chaperone the dance. No, we can’t pay you… you’re doing it for the kids.
In 2020, California governor Gavin Newsom was asked if the small increase in education funding would be enough to bring new teachers into the profession. He responded, “The greatest incentive is the inspiration, that spark that led someone to want to contribute in such a profound and dignified way by educating the minds of the next generation.”
In other words, teachers will do it for the kids.
But all this free labor is doing a number on your ability to earn more money.
The free labor expectations that come along with teaching further ingrain some beliefs that many of us are taught early on:
- If you really want to help people, you’d do it for free.
- It’s greedy to ask for compensation when doing something that doesn’t cost you anything.
- If you truly care about the kids, you’d do it for free.
Well, I call bullshit.
Apple purports to care about its users, but nobody bats an eye at spending over $1000 on an iPhone.
Car companies care about the safety of the people who buy their cars, but they still raise the price of their cars when a new feature is added.
Doctors care about their patients and are still encouraged to charge for their services, and raise their fees based on experience and specialization. No one says to doctors, “Do it for the sick people.”
When you accept the premise that doing things “for the kids” means doing things for free, you cement that expectation deeper into the bedrock of your brain. And it doesn’t just impact you at school. As a blogger or teacher business owner, these beliefs will lead you to undercharge for your services, sponsored content, and even ad space on your blog.
Not to mention the fact that all that free work is taking time and energy away from building your business. I can tell you from personal experience that after teaching all day, running an after school rehearsal, and supervising kids until their parents finally pick them up, by the time you get home, you’re mentally and physically exhausted and will not be able to do quality work on your blog.
Money Hurdle: I can help people or I can make money. I can’t do both.
Clear the Hurdle: Remember that every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. So while it doesn’t cost you money to chaperone the dance, it keeps you in “school mode” well into your weekend, preventing you from resting after a long week and sapping your energy for other projects. It doesn’t cost you money to join another committee, but it does take up space in your brain and requires you to stay late for meetings instead of going home and spending time with your kids. Everything costs something.
Suggested Mantras: There are a few mantras I can suggest for this money hurdle. The first is from one of my favorite money mindset writers, Denise Duffield-Thomas.
- I serve, I deserve.
- It’s okay to say no to things that don’t serve me and my goals.
- Charging for my time, energy, and expertise doesn’t make me a bad person.
Toxic positivity is everywhere these days, but in few places is it as prevalent as in schools.
So what is toxic positivity? According to Right as Rain, a mental health website run by the University of Washington medical department, toxic positivity involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy. It comes from feeling uncomfortable with negative emotions. And while it may be well-intentioned, it can cause alienation and a feeling of disconnection.
Expressions of toxic positivity can be anything from the useless, “everything happens for a reason,” and, “it could be worse,” to more targeted banality.
When I asked teachers in the groups I participate in for examples of toxic positivity they see, there was no shortage of responses. Here are just some of the replies:
- Teachers don’t teach for the income, they teach for the outcome.
- A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.
- As you stress about having to go back to school soon, just remember… There is a child who hasn’t been in an encouraging atmosphere since they left your class – They can’t wait to see you.
- Educators are the only people who lose sleep over other people’s children.
- Great teachers have high expectations for their students, but higher expectations for themselves.
If these oft-repeated platitudes make you groan, wince, or throw up in your mouth, you’re not alone. They’re full of “inspiration” that is unhelpful, counter-productive, and tantamount to gaslighting.
They deny teachers the ability to express their true feelings and encourage them to put on a happy face to make others – usually the ones who are imposing unrealistic expectations – feel better.
And it’s not just one-liners turned into colorful memes that stubborn toxic positivity.
Is there a single teacher in the US who hasn’t been shown Rita Pierson’s TED Talk, Every Child Needs a Champion? It’s practically required viewing for education majors, but what does it really teach us?
Then there’s Taylor Mali’s poem, “What Teachers Make.” Another example of toxic positivity that encourages teachers to consider the hard work of teaching to be a reward.
And don’t get me started on inspirational teacher movies. Grrr.
Like the expectation of free labor, these expressions lead to a culture in which teachers are expected to work hard for low pay AND consider ourselves lucky to do so.
Not only does toxic positivity deny teachers the ability to voice our concerns, fears, and doubts, it attempts to make us feel bad for even having those emotions.
Like when your mom used to guilt you into eating spinach because there are starving children in China who would be grateful for that food… it’s not helpful. You still hated every bite of that spinach, and probably resented your mom for making you eat it.
This toxic positivity is not only bad for your mental health, it can get in the way of you seeking out extra income or even a different career.
- You don’t need to make more money… you’re not in it for the income.
- Feeling burnt out? Well, that’s what good teachers do. You want to be a good teacher, right?
- Stressed out and not sleeping is expected. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.
Money Hurdle: Burnout, stress, and financial struggle are normal and they’re not that bad.
Clear the Hurdle: There’s a line in The Big Bang Theory in which Sheldon states, “I know I can feel 2 things at once. I’ve seen Inside Out,” and this is the key to combating toxic positivity. You can love aspects of teaching, and still desire to make more money. You can value your relationships with your students and colleagues, and also want to build another community online. You can be a great teacher, and still need another outlet for your passion, self-expression, and personal growth.
Suggested Mantras: I can be a great teacher and still want more for myself.
And that’s not all. There are other educational standards that mess with your mind, too.
- There’s a limited amount of money, and how much you get is completely out of your control. This is true for schools, which typically have tight budgets, but not for the rest of the world. When running your own business, there are plenty of readers, clients, and customers to go around. The world is an abundant place.
- If you want more, you have to beg. Websites like Donors Choose exist to support teacher begging. It’s the online equivalent of a “Will work for food” sign and it ingrains the idea that teachers struggle for money and are at the whim of people’s generosity.
- It’s never enough. There is always more work. There is always more grading. There is always more to do. And no matter how much you do, it never ends. This can create the illusion that you have no time to blog or make money outside of school, when really a lot of that work doesn’t need to be done.
While people like to think that the only thing that affects their wallets is the numbers on their paychecks, there’s more to it.
Next time you start to doubt your ability to be financially successful because you’re “just a teacher” take a moment to think about which of the money hurdles you are really facing and take a step back to refocus on what’s possible.
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