Big shout out to WEM member Larry Bernstein for responding right away to my thoughts about a blog. He’s been patient about me having this great piece go live. I’d love to keep this up…so send your entries. If we can gather momentum, we will keep this going.
Teaching and Writing in the Education Market: That Issue of Pay
by Larry Bernstein
“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”
We’ve all heard this famous line from Bernard Shaw’s play, Man and Superman. We may even have thought it to be true when frustrated with our teachers during our school days.
But this adage is quite insulting to those who have made a career in education. The insinuation is that teachers join the profession because they cannot actually do anything else. In other words, teachers are those who have few skills, so they reside in the undemanding world of education. And, sadly, that view is substantiated by lower salaries in the field overall.
It seems that this mindset carries over into the world of education writing. Because, in general, the pay scale for us education writer folks is pretty low. Is it now true that he or she who no longer teaches for skimpy wages can only write to earn skimpy pay? Looks like that might be the case.
Teaching Demands vs. Salary
Anyone who has spent more than an hour in a classroom, or simply considered the many responsibilities a teacher has, knows that life in the education world is more than demanding. Educators are tasked with something huge: contributing to the development of capable, intelligent future generations. That’s a pretty heavy responsibility, especially with growing the expectations of what teachers must accomplish in the classroom.
Yet, while many people claim to know and agree that teaching is hard, it is is still not a particularly well-respected profession. One telling sign is the average teacher salary. The 2016 Economic Policy Institute study “The Teacher Pay Gap is Wider than Ever” underscored how teacher pay lags farther behind that of comparable workers—17% lower, in fact.
There are those critics who contend that public school teachers get great benefits and therefore, the pay differential some cite is not an accurate. However, the study clearly proves this to be false.
While pay rate is not the only way to judge respect given, it is a significant factor. If society valued teachers for the impact they have on our children (and the level of skill and knowledge that a quality teacher must have), then the rate would be higher.
The Connection to Writing in the Education Market
The lack of respect in the form of salary for teachers carries over to the wages of those who write in the education market. While there are certainly good gigs available and rates vary, education writers typically do not make a whole lot of money. And, generally even less than writers receive in other industries. That’s been my experience (and probably yours, too).
Recently, I considered an interesting gig announced by a reputable company, with, according to LinkedIn, about 100 employees. I figured that was a decent enough sized business that an hourly rate would be at least competitive, especially if a quality writer was top of mind.
But, I was wrong. In fact, here was the salary narrative: “We do have a baseline of $22.50 per hour that we do our best to maintain, although almost 99% of the work we do is per deliverable versus per hour.”
I did some quick calculating: based on a 40-hour workweek, and 52 weeks per year, this rate was equivalent to a salary of $46,800. Many of us who are education writers are former teachers, with at least a Master’s degree (required in the field). And those ready to bring their expertise into the writing market are pretty experienced. You get the point: that salary does not match the years and years of professional practice, knowledge, and ranking. Now, that’s insulting!
Confession: I took the gig for a short period of time. It was a slow period, and I needed the money. (Come on, we’ve all been there. No judgment.) And that’s what makes it tough. Sometimes, when we need the work, we settle for less. Maybe it could build our craft and portfolios. Or at least we convince ourselves of that because…well…hey…you know what I mean.
But, I contend that as educational writers, we can help raise the rates the industry pays. There are over a 1000 of us registered on WEM. Yes, we are in different positions in our careers, have different backgrounds, and come from different financial circumstances. I get it. Yet, I believe something can be done. We are a significant block. It is up to us to make our voices heard and let employers know we have minimums we will accept for payment.
Again, there are good gigs out there that pay a wage more in line with what an experienced professional can rightfully expect to earn. While some employers – including the ones quoted above–are middlemen who decide rates based on what a client pays, there is money in education.
Wouldn’t it be nice if more of that money went to us? Imagine doing a meaningful job you enjoy and getting a rate that is apropos to your skill set.
Copyright © 2017 Larry Bernstein. All rights reserved.