Millennials, before you turn up your pointed noses on obtaining a degree in education, review this list of gig bonuses that matters sooner than any of us want to believe:
- Job Security
Working for the public school system across the country generally means that once you’ve advanced past your probationary period (ranging between 1-3 years), you’re golden. Some feel conflicted about the perks of tenure, but for the individual teacher, it means job security—hands down. Contrary to urban myth, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be fired. It only means that your employer has to work considerably hard to prove you deserve to be fired; working against your credentials, contract, and your union support.
2. The Privilege of Holidays and Summer’s Off
Don’t you feel bad sometimes complaining about being exhausted during the school year to your friends who then turn and look at you with disdain because, unlike you, they have to beg some disgruntle superior for a 10 day stretch of vacation once a year? Summers off must be the guiltiest pleasure of the stateside teacher. Enjoy the freedom of forgetting what day of the week it is for weeks on end, while casually scheduling brunch on a weekday with your equally fortunate colleague.
3. Happy Hour
Ever wonder why Happy Hour starts at 3pm? Well, perhaps the liquor gods knew who they needed first to serve. Teacher crowds are usually the first to populate the local pubs and breweries. If any of you knew like I did to make friends with the bar owners, sometimes they’d cut you and your teacher crew an even fairer deal if you frequented the same spot often enough. Happy Hours are also great places to make new teacher friends (wink wink).
Truth and light! The American Federation of Teachers is one of the oldest and most well established unions remaining in the United States. Though there are mixed feelings about what purpose the AFT serves today, the fact is, that it’s a rare socio-political force to be reckoned with in our apparent capitalist society. Belonging to such a powerhouse means solidarity with others who too want free and fair public education for all children, and not at the expense of teacher martyrdom. Check your state education website for affiliate unions for more information on what your union may have to offer you.
5. Retirement Funds
I started saving for my retirement at age 22 thanks to the Tax Deffered Annuity option, in addition to automatic enrollment in the Teacher’s Retirement System administered by the City of New York. Consider how great it is to have access to well mapped retirement programs compliment of your local government, especially if you know the minimum about investing. You can borrow from your investment if ever in need, and gradually pay yourself back on a schedule that suits you. Though dipping into your salary further may feel like a deeper stretch, it’s an intelligent way to be your future self’s best friend. Buying a home, a car, or paying for an advanced degree/certification program, for instance, is so much sweeter when you can do it with your own money.
Ever flash your teacher identification card to get a price cut on a new Macbook at Apple? It never hurts to ask any store if they provide price cuts for teachers. Some of my favorite stores for honoring educators is Banana Republic, Barnes and Nobles, and Staples. The expanse varies from fitness facilities, insurance companies to cell phone providers, and so on. But there are tons others that at least give teachers discounts on specific items or services. Just flaunt your teacher status to find out or visit your state or city website for teacher incentives and discounts.
7. Community Purpose
Teachers who teach in the same community, even within the same 10 mile radius, can witness their students grow up. The stateside teacher gets to be a part of the community for which they serve. If you made a difference to even one child, you get to bare witness of the impact of that difference. Maybe I recognize this as a perk because I truly have developed an appreciation for what I’ve now lost working with transient student populations. When I visit home, I’m still greeted by some random shout-outs from old students, now adults, on NYC subway platforms and on sidewalks who still recognize me. I even get to have meaningful conversation with a few from time to time. There is truly nothing better than looking into their eyes, seeing the humility and maturity, being a witness to their personal growth, and feeling grateful to have been part of their story. Check out my post Full Circle for more on this.