Some teachers and education professionals aren’t waiting for policymakers to compensate them fairly. They are simply picking up side hustles, and others are turning their passions into businesses.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 60% of public school teachers supplement their teaching salary with income through other jobs.
Simply put, having a side hustle is very real for many teachers across the country. Teachers are five times more likely to have a side gig than other full-time employees.
Gwen Guthrie famously sang “Ain’t Nothin Going on But the Rent.” And it’s true, Rising costs — for things like gas, groceries, and housing — combined with their low teacher salaries, have driven teachers to seek out supplemental income from second jobs. One in four teachers reported working 10 or more hours per week at an alternate job to augment their teacher salary, and 8% reported working more than 20 extra hours at another job.
The alternative — struggling financially as a low-paid educator — is taking a mental health toll on Black educators.
In a survey of over 2,600 teachers about what it’s like to be a teacher in 2023, the research found that although teaching “wasn’t the top-rated job-related stress for Black teachers, they were the most likely to say that their low salary was a source of stress.”
Teaching by Day, Waitressing at Night
Wizelie St. Jean, operations coordinator for a founding school in Brooklyn, has progressed through the education profession, beginning her career as a daycare school teacher. From the time she could remember, she kept a side hustle to fund her lifestyle outside of bills and work, she tells Word In Black.
“I used to work as a teacher’s assistant, and I also used to waitress on Fridays,” St. Jean says. “I used to teach from 7:45 to 4:00, and then I would go to Fridays for 5:30, 6:00.”
Although having both jobs limited St. Jean’s sleep and social schedule, she says doing so offered her both the opportunities and luxuries that just working as a teacher could not.
“It was a personal decision,” she says. “I like nice things, so to keep up with my lifestyle, I decided to get another job, and Fridays gave me that opportunity.”
St. Jean worked at T.G.I. Fridays for roughly five years of her education career and made an additional $3,000, “or more,” a month, she tells Word In Black. Despite her love and passion for children, St. Jean decided to transition out of the classroom, to more behind-the-scene roles in education to compensate for her low teaching salary while still staying in the schools.
A Passion-Driven Side Hustle
Antonio Griffin, a music teacher in the Ferguson-Florissant school district in St. Louis, teaches preschool through second graders.
“I left high school knowing I wanted to do something related to music,” he tells Word In Black. “During the day, I teach music to kids. Once that’s over, it doesn’t stop. My side hustle begins right away.”
Griffin is also a music producer, so he works on music for others, writes lyrics, or performs at gigs to bring in extra cash. He says people around him even laugh at him sometimes because he’s always on the go, even outside of teaching his babies.
“It’s a lot of work, and it’s constant. I never get a break. I never have a chance to just sit back and play a video game or watch a show for real,” Griffin says.
Unlike St. Jean, Griffin isn’t choosing his side hustle solely to make additional income, but rather to keep his passions alive and excited.
Extra Money Pays for Work Supplies
Aside from providing for themselves outside the classroom, teachers also often have to provide for their student’s needs or buy classroom supplies.
On average, teachers have spent $687 of their own money in the last year to stock their classrooms, with 40% of teachers reporting they’re spending more on classroom supplies than they had before the pandemic. This is money that comes from their already low salaries.
“Teachers that work in the education field don’t get paid for what they do,” St. Jean says. “We deal with a lot. We are basically molding future presidents, or people that are going to actually be actors, make a difference to this world. We mold them, so yeah, I feel like we definitely deserve more money.”
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