How I Survive: American Teachers and Their Second Jobs – A Photo Essay

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This story was originally published in The Guardian as part of a project on teacher pay, teacher activism and classroom funding in the United States. Click on this logo to see the complete three-day project.

One in five American teachers now works a second job on top of full-time teaching. Photographer Peter Rad captures what happens when they leave the classroom.
Interviews by Erum Salam.

Jeanna Dorsey, 52

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Full-time job Middle school social studies teacher. Earns $49,000 annually
Second job Suite-level attendant at the sports stadium for the Tulsa Roughnecks and Drillers on nights and weekends. Escorts people to seats and takes tickets. Earns $8.75 an hour.

Peter Rad / Guardian US

Jeanna Dorsey: “You need that extra money to get the bills paid.”

“The hardest thing is when you give your all at school, your main job – and then you come home and you have to change clothes and change your mindset. Then you have to go to your second job and you’re tired. You still have to find that extra strength to go on because you know you still need that extra money to get those bills paid.”

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Matthew Williams, 31
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Full-time job High school US history and geography teacher. Earns $35,000 annually
Second job Uber driver. Earns between $100 and $400 a week.

Peter Rad / Guardian US

Matthew Williams: “I tell them I’m a teacher and I’m immediately treated with sympathy.”

“I moved back in with my parents just because I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck. It’s really hard to think about my own livelihood in the midst of trying to teach 115 teenagers. I should only have to care about their development, but I also have in my head, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay this month’s rent.’ I absolutely love what I do and I want to continue doing this and I don’t want to do anything else, but I can’t keep living with my parents to save money.

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“I see November as a pivotal moment for my future. The last increase we really saw in raises and school funding has been 20-odd years, and if it’s going to be that rate again, at the current rate of inflation, I will be living in poverty. We’ve got teachers on food stamps. It’s insane.

“What typically goes through my mind [when Uber driving] is I hope I get some passengers that are easy to deal with – that aren’t going to be too difficult or drunk or whatever. What’s kind of interesting or sad is I tell them I’m a teacher and I’m immediately treated with sympathy. I typically get better tips. So I’m like a charity case.”

Brian Davis, 46
Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Full-time job Middle school geography teacher. Earns $42,000 annually
Second job Private softball coach. Earns $25 per lesson. Also an Uber driver

Peter Rad / Guardian US

Brian Davis: “I’ll probably continue my side jobs through at least my kids going to college.”

“We use the envelope system a little bit. This week’s softball lesson would go into an envelope for the tire fund. Or this week’s lesson, half of it would go for car maintenance.

“I will probably continue my side jobs through at least my kids going to college. We’ve accumulated some debt over the years, because when you need tires, you just put down the credit card. When the washing machine goes out, you put it on the credit card. We’re going to be catching up from that for years. I’ve got a car that’s pushing 200,000 miles and another car that’s pushing 100,000 and we’ve got a girl going off to college next year. We haven’t contributed to our IRAs in about three years, maybe even longer than that.”

Metasha Olson, 45
Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Full-time job Middle school english teacher. Earns $40,600 annually
Second job School bus driver. Earns $17.60 an hour. Works 10 hours a week

Peter Rad / Guardian US

Metasha Olson: “The teacher shouldn’t have to drive a bus.”

“The teacher shouldn’t have to drive a bus. I don’t get to stay after school to help my students for even five minutes if they have a question. Sometimes I feel like I’m letting my students down because I have to go directly to my bus. I don’t even get to stop for a bathroom break.

“Without my second job, we flat out cannot make our bills. Even with my second job, we struggle to make the bills, without even adding on the food or extras that my kids want.”

See The Guardian’s complete photo essay on teachers and their second jobs.

More Stories from the Project

Read these other Guardian stories from the Teacher Takeover project:

Billionaires vs. Teachers: Koch Brothers’ Plan for Public Education

Video: The Disturbing Truth About Teaching in America

U.S. Spends More on Education Than Other Countries. Why Is it Falling Behind?