The financial burden of becoming a teacher

By Gia Salvo, Rowan University

Surrounded by excellent teachers, I knew by second grade that I wanted to become a teacher. I would never abandon that dream. That desire, drive and determination are what led me to where I am now. It is surreal to think about how far I have come in my academic career, achieving things that my second grade self wished for. I am a student teacher and about to become a teacher in the real world, not just in my living room.

However, student teaching is not what I always thought it would be, especially as I approach my final clinical placement. I strive for the best experiences in order to feel fully prepared for my own classroom, but there has always seemed to be something that was pulling me backwards. It took some time to figure out what that something was. Most of my college career and time was full of balancing part-time work at an elementary school, college classes and volunteer work. Lately, I have been reflecting on what I have done and what I still have to do.

As I work my way closer to the end of my college career and my final student teaching placement, I credit the weight on my shoulders to the cost of student teaching and ultimately the cost of being a first-year teacher. The issue became clear when I began speaking with more student teachers, first year teachers and veteran teachers. It is not cheap to be a teacher, especially when college expenses are also a worry on your mind.

I, along with many others, are being asked to sacrifice our livelihoods for almost a whole year—the year before we are out in the real world funding a first year classroom of our own. As my college career continues, I have become increasingly aware of the ways I have to support myself during student teaching, as well as my first year of teaching. I have begun brainstorming ways in which I can support myself while paying for gas, food, tuition, books, supplies and edTPA. Student teachers are expected to meet these expenses while not having the opportunity to have a job or receive any type of funding for student teaching.

As a student teacher, I am being asked to work full time in a classroom, plan lessons, participate in school events, facilitate activities, teach full lessons and more. We are tasked with almost everything a full-time teacher would do, but with additional college courses and the edTPA assessment. While student teaching is an amazing and eye-opening educational experience, it is undercut by the high stress of trying to meet financial responsibilities without an income.

To become a certified teacher in New Jersey is a wonderful accomplishment that I have been looking forward to achieving ever since I was in the second grade. It has been an overwhelming challenge to hold on to that second grade desire of becoming the best teacher I can be when the cost of student teaching—and the cost of being a first year teacher—is a pressing matter on my mind.