Rasma Says

Musings, deliberations, flashes of unaccounted for brilliance…

What Would You Do For Money?

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the all too prevalent idea that the money we earn is compensation for the inherent suffering that work is. Is it a bad habit or indicative of a brutal reality that people whine and complain about their jobs?

Maybe it is culturally determined. On an average day in the teacher’s lounge at my school, people don’t complain about the job. A few years ago I spent part of a summer with a number of teachers from the States who voiced outright hated for their jobs: the employers, rate of pay, workload, just about everything except the students for whose sake they endured all the suffering.

Lots of people adhere to the idea that since teachers want to teach and are engaged in the development of young minds, they should expect to put up with little money and awful conditions. If the job were easy there would be some kind of moral imbalance. Teachers, who by definition are morally Good, should not be interested in Money, which is the only thing morally Bad greedy corporate pigs are after. Ergo it would be a moral impossibility to pay teachers what they are worth.

I don’t buy it. I believe I should get a lot of money as a teacher, but not because the job is impossible and I suffer from trying to do it. I believe I should get lots of money for teaching because I love it and do a good job. Society needs teachers who do a good job, so why not pay them well to be there?

It’s not just about money, though. When I moved to Norway I took a twenty thousand dollar pay cut. And that in a country that is ranked among the top 3 in the world for cost of living. We don’t get more money in Norway than teachers do in the States. There is also a cultural aspect to the idea that “if I am doing a (morally) good job then I must be suffering.”

That cultural element is absent in Norway. If I ask teachers in my school if they love their jobs, the answer would be a Yes, but…  They’d find something to improve on: it would be nice to not have to teach first thing Monday morning, we could use more time for planning, it would be nice if we could manage a trip abroad with our students. When I asked the American teachers why they stayed on in jobs they hated, little wheels started whirring around inside their heads: does not compute, does not compute. To them it was a given that 1) if you had a job however miserable, you better hang on to it, and 2) all jobs are like this. In other words, all jobs which are  on the Good side of the moral scale are like this. You love the work, but hate the job.

In Norway we have the flip side of the cultural attitude: if you do what you love then you shouldn’t need to get paid. I dislike this attitude just as much. Yesterday a woman was telling me about her choir director. Apparently the director is inspiring, well organized, musically gifted… so accomplished that she edifies the musical life of her community as well as her choir members. When I said something about this choir director being well paid, the woman turned to me with an utterly shocked expression on her face:

Her: Paid??!! She loves directing the choir.

Me: Isn’t that all the more reason she should be well paid?

Her: She doesn’t do it for the money!

Me: Of course not, but shouldn’t she get money anyway?

Her: I doubt she would even ask for money!

Me: Why not?

Her: Well, I’m sure she gets her driving expenses covered and such, so she doesn’t have any EXPENSE with running the choir.

Me: But why shouldn’t she be well paid if her work is valued?

Her: She loves what she does.

Me: Then why not pay her well?

Her: She doesn’t do it for the money.

And so on… the conversation had no end, as we were communicating from within two fundamentally divergent paradigms.

Hers: we are paid for work we do because we have to.
Mine: we are paid for work we do because we want to.

I think it is because I love what I do that I should be paid well for doing it. Be it teaching or writing. I gladly accept money for doing something I love to do and which is of value to others. Pay me, and pay me well, and I will be encouraged to keep on doing it!

If you are a good choir director, or teacher, or anyone who loves doing what you do because you are very good at it… I hope you are paid lots of money. You deserve it.


This entry was posted on 04/04/2012 by in Uncategorized and tagged .


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