Written by Joyce Wilson
Teaching ain’t what it used to be – at least, that’s the perception that most people have. Often listed as one of the most stressful jobs in America, teaching has long been viewed as a formerly middle-class profession fallen on hard times. True, over 1.2 million teachers don’t have social security, and they’ve been in the news recently protesting gun violence, stagnant wages and poor school conditions. Still, teachers are paid pretty decently.
Nationwide, the median annual salary for a high school teacher is $58,030, just slightly lower than the median household income in the U.S. ($59,039). Moreover, most teachers also enjoy a perk that’s unheard of in other professions: A three-month vacation in the summer. So here are some tips and advice for teachers on summer side gigs that can also be worked into your school-year schedule.
One of the great but overlooked aspects of a teacher’s skill set is that it’s so marketable. Kids need to ace their college essays. Adults need to brush up on their own skill set. So during your break from work, just switch out “teacher” for “tutor.” The downside of tutoring is that it might take you years to drum up a steady business. But the plus side is that you can set your own rate, and if you have the right clientele, you stand to make far more from this gig than you would drawing a regular paycheck. Post your resume online, stop into local tutoring centers, or network through good old word-of-mouth to get your business up and running.
Here’s another feature of your skill set, teachers: Many of you become unsung authorities on what you teach. So start a website or your own blog, and broadcast your expertise. If you teach history, visit Civil War battlefields this summer and write about your journeys. Science teachers, plant a garden and explain the process of photosynthesis that makes it so lush (with Pinterest-caliber pictures, to boot). English teachers? Maybe it’s time you wrote your novel. The list goes on. Just do something you’re passionate about so that your audience can sense you’re genuine. And if you’re ever interested in turning this passion into a profit, do your homework on how to get some revenue flowing through it.
Now that you’ve got some idea of the business you’re interested in, think about installing an at-home workspace where you can focus and maximize productivity. Where you put it will likely depend on the specifics of your house. Generally, though, it’s a good idea to stay out of the way of foot-traffic and be at a decent reserve from the commotion burbling through the other rooms. Make a list of all the office furniture and equipment that you need, and buy accordingly. Think about investing in an ergonomic chair so that you’re comfortable at all times. And always declutter it, so that the stuff around you doesn’t compound any mental pressure you already harbor. Finally, make sure it’s comfortable, so that you won’t procrastinate (like the students you’re always chiding), but instead be excited about going in there again and again.
Come the graduation lullaby of May, many teachers are exhausted with the long school year, and they want to retire their skill set (above) and simply be humans for the summer. Nothing wrong with that, either. Plus, now that you’ve remodeled your home with a swanky new workspace, consider doing AirBNB or renting your place on terms that best fit your schedule. That might mean opening up your room – or the whole house – for a few days or a few weeks. Summer’s the perfect time to go camping or see the country, so think about getting out of town. And make some money in the process. It’s not the worst idea in the world.
Joyce Wilson is a retired teacher.