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5 Tips for Surviving As A Broke-Ass Teacher

This awesome guest post was written by Chad Lesauskyi_teach_therefore_im_broke_

When I first moved to San Francisco I took the vow of poverty to become a public school teacher. My rational behind doing so was that teaching skills to help kids become Little Lebowski Urban achievers seemed way more spiritually gratifying than taking a job as an office monkey. After seven years of shaping young minds like a boss I feel I have a firm grasp on what it takes to survive as a broke-ass-teacher in San Francisco. Now granted I do get a steady paycheck, but we know all too well how ridonkulously expensive it is to live in the Bay Area which means by San Francisco standards I’m still a broke-ass just like all of you beautiful people reading this article.

So how do I keep my rent checks from bouncing? Over the years I’ve developed a few strategies to help maintain a kung fu grip on my hard earned loot. If you are an aspiring teacher or know someone who is then you might find these tips useful if not slightly entertaining. Here they are:

1. Crowdsource Like A Boss: As a teacher you have access to 160 unpaid interns who would rather sell off their grandmother than do homework. Leverage this opportunity by creating contests that reward students with homework passes for up-cycling items you may need in the classroom. Everything from paper towel rolls to wine corks are worth their weight in gold to a crafty teacher.

2. Break-Even Steven: Each year after STAR Testing I reward my students with a pizza party. The problem is most of my students don’t have jobs so they are brokeasses too and often times are not able to pitch in for a pizza party. So what do you do when the Domino’s delivery guy hands you a bill for $60 worth of pie and you only collected $32.50 in dough? Giving pizza only to those students who chipped in would surely lead to a Lord of the Flies-type scenario so that’s definitely not an option. A better idea would be to plan ahead, buy enough pizza so that every student gets two slices and two additional pizzas that you can sell for a buck fifty a slice to make up the difference. Hustle and you will never find yourself using rent money to subsidize a pizza party. Period.


3. Skill Share: The bartering system scares the shit outta economists because if we all stopped using money (coin, paper, electronic or otherwise) the world economy would go down the crapper, but I digress. Anyways, teachers are ninja masters when it comes to bartering and more specifically skill sharing. Need a pair of pants altered? Make damn sure your students are behaved during the next school play and maybe you can cajole the drama teacher into trading your computer skills for an alteration or two.

4. Yard Sale It Up!: During my first year teaching the only thing that kept me from jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge were my weekend bike rides through the city. Somewhere between daydream-lesson planning and trying to avoid oncoming traffic I realized there are a ton of yard sales. On any given weekend someone is upgrading their home office and is willing to part with all kinds of goodies for pennies on the dollar. Score!

5. Free Shizz: Now this is kind of a grey area, but I have managed to secure a handful of items gratis on that virtual flea market affectionately known as Craigslist. Now if you are just expecting people to give you free shit because you are a teacher then that just makes you a douche bag. The key here is “Always Pre-Phrase the Convo”. This by the way is also a great skill that will come in handy during parent-teacher conferences, but that’s a topic for another blog post. Anyway, I always have a sales pitch when meeting prospective clients on Craigslist that very casually mentions my teacher status and how I plan to use the item in question in my classroom. Genius I know.

About the Author

Chad has been teaching middle school science in SF for the past seven years, but often gets asked if he works at (insert name of neighborhood bicycle shop). Not that he looks like a bike mechanic, but somewhere there is a bike mechanic that resembles him. Check out his website and follow him on twitter.


photos from the author and The Wall Flower Confessions

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".