I was on a plane recently and struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me. Inevitably, we got to the “what do you do for a living” portion of the small talk, and when I told him I was a teacher, he said, as many people often do,
“They should pay you all double what they do now.” Such a wonderful sentiment, and I know many of you reading agree. You’re probably even nodding your head in solidarity right now! Interestingly, it seems like that's usually the number. Not just more  double. I usually say “aw thanks” and move on with the conversation without much more of a response, but this man seemed like a thinker, and we had extended idle time on our hands, so I pressed him a followup that I usually don’t bother with: “I really appreciate that! Actually, the “they” that pays us is you  your property, sales, and state income taxes! Would you be willing to double those to make that happen?” And so ends the wellintentioned “they should pay teachers double” conversation. Every time. You're probably shaking your head in solidarity right now. I don’t see funding for schools doubling in this country any time soon. And if it would take twice as much money to pay teachers twice as much, that’s the end of that, right? Well, I’m no math teacher, but there is  technically  one other way to make the numbers work to pay teachers double with the same amount of funding.
OPTION #1  The "Nike" Option (Just Do It)
The obvious first scenario to think through is to just give twice as many students to half as many teachers.
Ta da! If you asked teachers “would you take twice as many students in your class for twice as much money,” I’ll bet you they'd laugh. But then they'd think about it for a minute, and an awful lot would reconsider. Particularly teachers who teach older students. Don’t get me wrong  twice as many students is a lot harder and more exhausting. But twice as much money is a lot more money. My teammate and I actually did this several times this past year (note: the twice as many kids part; not the twice as much money part). When one of us was out and there were no substitutes to be found  whoever was there just took both classes of kids for the day. Those days were harder, yes. But would I sign up for that for double the salary? Knock down a wall and give me the nowempty room next door, and I really might. Having taught extensively down to 4th grade, I’d probably do it there, too. I have brief experience teaching 1st and 2nd grades for 45 minutes out of my day, and I’m not so quick to say yes, there. But I’m far from an expert with those ages. I’ve seen experts at those age groups, and I’ll be honest, I think they could do it; I’ll bet some would take it for double the salary.

Two teachers instead of four. A big class of 96. A small class of 24.
Behold, the BigSmall Option. Like the Nike Option, there are probably some accommodations to be made at different age levels, but the overall blueprint is there to get by with half as many teachers. 
Big classes of small kids aren't unheard of.

Yeah but I don't want my kid in a big class.
I know. The idea of big classes would never fly with the people who pay the taxes. Just like doubling the taxes wouldn't. I’m aware. But hey, it’s summer, and I like to think outside the box during the summer, and it isn’t like I have the power to change anything anyways.
Even if impractical, however, I do think there are two benefits to thinking about this.
First, we might be on the brink of having to figure out how to get by with far fewer teachers anyways. If the droves of teachers who are saying they want to leave the profession actually do so in the next few years, we may be doing one of these options out of necessity. It might not be half, but we might soon have no choice but to ask teachers to take on significantly bigger classes, and I sure hope that if we do, we channel the salary of those unfilled teacher positions to them in return.
Second, big, audacious, outofthebox ideas, even if imperfect  get us thinking. How big should classes be? Would students be better off in bigger classes with better teachers? Should we make some classes bigger so that we can make others smaller? Is there some flexibility out there we’re overlooking? If we want to pay teachers more, how could we actually do it? If we want to make teaching more lucrative and competitive, how could we actually do it? If we want to make big improvements for students, how could we actually do it? Do we have to keep things the way they’ve always been? Should we keep things the way they’ve always been?
It's up to us to answer these questions. Like I told the man who so kindly said "they should pay you all double what they do now," they is you. They is us. Whatever changes we'd like to see, we can't wait on "them" to do it.
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Even if impractical, however, I do think there are two benefits to thinking about this.
First, we might be on the brink of having to figure out how to get by with far fewer teachers anyways. If the droves of teachers who are saying they want to leave the profession actually do so in the next few years, we may be doing one of these options out of necessity. It might not be half, but we might soon have no choice but to ask teachers to take on significantly bigger classes, and I sure hope that if we do, we channel the salary of those unfilled teacher positions to them in return.
Second, big, audacious, outofthebox ideas, even if imperfect  get us thinking. How big should classes be? Would students be better off in bigger classes with better teachers? Should we make some classes bigger so that we can make others smaller? Is there some flexibility out there we’re overlooking? If we want to pay teachers more, how could we actually do it? If we want to make teaching more lucrative and competitive, how could we actually do it? If we want to make big improvements for students, how could we actually do it? Do we have to keep things the way they’ve always been? Should we keep things the way they’ve always been?
It's up to us to answer these questions. Like I told the man who so kindly said "they should pay you all double what they do now," they is you. They is us. Whatever changes we'd like to see, we can't wait on "them" to do it.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it!
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I'm an awardwinning teacher in the Atlanta area with experience teaching at every level from elementary school to college.
I made this website to share ideas, stories, and resources from my teaching practice.
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