Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's Wrong With Our Priorities?

So, I was looking online to see if there are other part-time jobs I can pick up, you know, to make a living (overrated). I found quite a bit in the "help at-risk/severely emotionally disturbed children" category.

Since I've already worked extensively with these children, I thought I'd check out some of the listings. There's a problem though.

The average pay seems to be around $13/hour.

I realize that $13/hour is more than minimum wage, and that these places - usually schools, non-profits, etc. don't have the funding to pay more. But I feel very strongly that this should disturb us all much more than it seems to.

There are two problems here, really. Well, many more than that, but two that jump out at me. First of all - and this is also true of teaching - how on earth does anyone expect intelligent, capable, personable, socially intelligent people to want to work for $13/hour??? That's $26,000 a year. Even teaching pays more than that, but the idea is the same. I was second in my class in high school. I graduated from college with honors. I am a very smart girl. You know what most people's reaction was when they found out about my chosen career?

"Teaching? But you're so smart. You could do anything."

We're in trouble when that's our reaction, but it's not likely to change until people who work with kids are paid competitively. I think part of the reason that this is not likely to happen is that teaching is a pink collar job and as much as I'd like not to believe it, women still make a lot less than men. Another reason is that kids - especially marginalized kids - are not valued.

Which leads me to my second point. Kids are not stupid. They know if they are valued or not. They know if they're getting good people or not. They understand that if their teachers leave every year, someone is devaluing them.

Now, if I had a rich husband or someone who wanted to give me money just for being a good person, I'd take one of these jobs. In fact, I would love to work with emotionally disturbed kids in a different venue. But I can't afford it, and neither can most of the people I know. Also, we can get better paying jobs that don't require us to think about uncomfortable things like how these kids are being failed. I just can't help feeling that we'll regret it some day.

1 comment:

blue shoes said...

Yeah, so tell me about it. I have a Master's Degree and I make $14.50/hr working with emotionally disturbed children as a trained professional in the field. I could have actually made more working at a different agency, but the agency I work for doesn't work on a productivity model (i.e. you don't get penalized if you don't bill enough hours, because they recognize that the kids who come see us often come see us because they have problems functioning in school or the community, and that means that they often don't make it to all of their appointments). Anyhow, I decided to take the job for a year because I love the people I work with and the agency, but all of the long-term employees admit that the only way they have been able to stay there is because they are married to doctors or lawyers or the like. So who knows about the long-term prospects? All I know is that I could have been earning more than twice as much money if I'd stayed at the publishing company and become a marketing director. I'm glad I came to grad school, and don't regret my chosen field, but I'm on your side, B!