Harvard is doing a survey on the type of people who join TFA, and one question has really stuck with me. They presented me with two jobs: a teacher or some average corporate job (I forget the title, but the point was that it did nothing for society). Both jobs made $50,000 per year and required 60 hour work weeks. They asked which job I’d take, and obviously I chose teacher. But after I did that, they bumped the corporate salary to $75,000 and asked again. They kept asking in hopes that I would cave in and switch to the corporate job. It gave up (and probably decided I was lying) at $500,000.
The money issue is fresh in my mind lately. In the last week, a relative stranger pointed out to me that a year at my college cost more than I now get paid, and then I found out that we’re all actually taking a pay cut for next year, and then I spent more on food for my kids than I did on my own groceries for the week. Let’s be realistic: if I had wanted to get rich, I would have taken my fancy degree somewhere else.
What Harvard wants to know is how much you could pay me to walk away right now. Obviously after a few years I might leave, and if I had a family it would change the whole story, but right now? I think that would be a really easy question if I hadn’t started teaching. $50,000 vs. $500,000 is a joke, not a decision. But now, knowing my kids and how much I love them and how much they need me, I can’t imagine walking away from them for any amount of money. I can’t imagine spending my time doing a job that helped absolutely no one, just because it would give me a bigger wardrobe and a nicer car. I don’t think I would sleep at night. I literally think these kids would haunt my dreams.
I might be too idealistic. I might think I’m making a bigger difference than I really am. I might be flat-out lying to both myself and Harvard. But I really, really hope not. And we won’t find out unless a million-dollar job offer falls into my lap.