Making Ends Meet
"I have student loans that are just incredible; I don't even have a savings account,'' says Cahill, who lives with her parents to save money. "All these people think teachers have it so easy. They say, 'Oh, they only work nine months a year, only six hours a day.' Well, I'd like to see them do it.
"There are a lot of times when I contemplate going into sales or doing something more visible, more glamorous. But then I think: 'What about my kids? Who'll take my kids?''
Dedication to her pupils and a strong love of teaching keep Cahill going at a pace that is not uncommon among the nation's school- teachers.
A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that during the 1987-88 school year, almost 23 percent of public school teachers and nearly 30 percent of private school teachers worked outside their school system to earn extra money.
Another study, this one released in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, revealed that moonlighting is more prevalent within teaching than any other profession or managerial occupation. For example, it found that only 4.9 percent of lawyers, 4.6 percent of engineers, and 5.5 percent of administrative and managerial executives work a second job, compared with 11.8 percent of teachers.
The occupation with the second highest rate of moonlighting? Protective services--police officers, firefighters, security guards, and correctional officers, 10.9 percent of whom hold second jobs.
The percentage of teachers who moonlight differs between the two studies because of differences in the survey samples, says Sharon Bobbitt, the author of the NCES report. Although both are accurate for what they measure, the NCES survey provides a more realistic depiction of the sheer numbers of teachers who hold more than one job, she says.
"[The BLS survey] does not look at a nationally representative sample of teachers,'' explains Bobbitt. "It looks at job holders and happens to have some teachers in the sample. We survey a nationally representative sample of teachers only.''
Not surprisingly, the NCES study found that there is a close correlation between family income and moonlighting. Public and private school teachers at the lower end of the salary scale are more likely to hold second jobs. And the rate of moonlighting decreases as the family income rises.
These statistics come as no surprise to the thousands of teachers like Cahill, who, for economic reasons, must work in their spare time. Debbie Pace Silver, a 6th grade science teacher in Caddo Parish, La., and the 1990 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, says she moonlights "to support [her] teaching habit.''
Silver has a master's degree, 30 additional credit hours of graduate study, and 20 years of teaching experience. Even so, she says, she "absolutely could not'' get by on her teaching salary alone.
To supplement her income she works as a stand-up comic--specializing in "educational humor''--at banquets and conventions. She also develops and leads workshops on teaching techniques for other science teachers.
"Just about every [teacher] I know has a second job of some kind,'' Silver says. "We have teachers in the lounge with their Mary Kay, with their Tupperware, with their Avon.''
With so many hours outside of school spent on other moneymaking pursuits, many teachers say their teaching suffers. Mary Freitas, a high school teacher in Santa Fe, N.M., who prepares tax returns and teaches a tax course at a local community college, says her work during tax season cuts into the time she normally would spend on her school work.
"I have to plan how to cut back on grading,'' Freitas says. "I can't afford to take as much stuff home. The more creative, interesting work I do with the kids is done during the fall when I'm not working.''
Frank Stein, a high school English teacher in Norwalk, Conn., who works as a part-time police officer in a nearby town, is particularly aware of the demands his second job place on him. "I try to keep my weekday hours down to a minimum; it's hard,'' Stein says. "I try not to let it interfere with teaching.''
Others, however, especially those who work a second job only during the summer recess, find that the auxiliary work can contribute to classroom success. Blaine Miller, for example, teaches junior high school science in Winslow, Me., during the school year, but in the summer he is the sole proprietor of Allagash Guide Inc., a company that offers guided whitewater canoe trips.
"I'm able to use a lot of my experiences from my summer trips in the classroom; it supplements a lot of areas that I teach,'' Miller says. "And after these summer trips, I go back to the classroom refreshed and renewed.''
Still, the high rate of moonlighting among teachers is disturbing to individuals and organizations working to professionalize teaching. Bob Chase, vice president of the National Education Association, calls it a "threat'' to those efforts. He points out that it is hard to keep people in, and attract new people to, a profession that does not pay them enough to survive on.
Says Chase: "Moonlighting takes its toll, both physically and mentally, on teachers. If we're attempting to professionalize teaching, this does not assist us in achieving our goal; it does not put the profession in good light. We know people don't go into teaching to become rich. However, this shouldn't mean that they have to go outside of the profession simply to make a living wage.''