Guest Post: TOC Life & an Unstable Income

Tonight’s guest post comes to us from Tom Hayward, a TOC in our district.  Tom and I (Karley) go way back; we used to work at the Saanich Police station together in the Block Watch Office (just for one summer).  Needless to say, after a summer of Block Watch antics, we became fast friends.  When he is not teaching school, you can find Tom tutoring and teaching guitar lessons.  Tom also moonlights as a wedding singer.  I wish I could say this is a joke, but it’s not.  Tom wrote and sang a song about, and for, Joel and I and performed it at our wedding.  It was absolutely amazing.

Here’s what Tom has to say about the financial life as TOC (and how to make ends meet when the paycheque is unstable).

I have spent nearly my entire teaching career as a day-to-day substitute teacher – ahem, teacher teaching on call. While the reasons for this are mostly circumstantial, there have been times when I actively sought to be a TTOC rather than a classroom teacher. After graduating from the BEd program at UVic I worked in some local independent schools here in Victoria. I then left the country for the experience of teaching in London, England. Upon returning I went back to the independent schools before finally getting picked up by the local school district. While this has meant a rather fragmented three-year teaching career, I have been able to adjust quite well to the unpredictable nature of on-call work.

Teaching on call brings with it a large degree of uncertainty. Will my class be “good”? Will I work well with other teaching staff? Will there be a lesson plan? Will I even work today? One thing you can be certain of is this: you won’t be making as much money as a regular classroom teacher. It’s a cold hard fact. Even if you get a call every day, there’s a good chance that some of those days will be half days. Following breaks there is often a lull as teachers return to class healthy and refreshed. With such unpredictable workflow, the financial stress can be very real. Here’s how to cope:

1) Know how the system works. At least in my district, working a morning in an elementary or middle school pays more than an afternoon. If you have the choice, opt for teaching in the morning. As well, working one day in the morning and the next day in the afternoon is usually a smarter idea than working a full day and having a day off. Depending on your district, consecutive days can mean a bigger pay cheque at the end of the month.

2) Get to know the staff. This is huge. Eat in the staff room. Introduce yourself to the teacher next door. Hand out a card. Network. Be pleasant. Smile. This is really basic stuff, but the impression you leave on someone else could pay off in dividends later on.

3) Do a good job. Let me tell you a story. I once subbed in a school and I had a prep block. The teacher said if I felt like it I could do some of the marking on her desk. I did ALL of it. A few months later she needed coverage for the month of June. Who do you think she called? If teachers know you are good at what you do they will trust you with their students. This could mean a good chunk of change in your bank account.

4) Get a part-time job. TTOCs have the luxury of being off work at about three and going home with usually little or no marking or planning to do. Use this time to make a little extra dough. I currently tutor and give guitar lessons in my spare time. It’s not much, but a little bit of cash in my pocket definitely makes a difference to my bottom line. It’s also smart to designate that money as “fun money” so you aren’t dipping into your chequing account every time you want to go out with your friends.

5) Be smart with your money. Teaching can be stressful. Financial hardship can be stressful. If teaching is your passion you don’t want any other stresses affecting your work. Pay your bills on time. Be a bit frugal with your money. Put some into savings each month. Your teaching will improve if you have fewer worries clouding your mind.tom

Being thrust in front of thirty kids you don’t know and teaching something you haven’t seen since grade seven can reduce even the most seasoned teacher to a crumpled pile of frayed nerves, frantically grasping for the nearest stress ball. Master your financial situation and lighten the stress-load that’s weighing you down. Your students will thank you, and you will thank yourself.

-Tom Hayward

What Tom won’t tell you is that he’s actually kind of a big deal…his music has been featured on CBC!  Check this out. 

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: TOC Life & an Unstable Income

  1. Darn. I do most of the stuff you recommend (eg. having a side job… I have 3!), and I am still running out of money fast. In my district, we can’t be requested… so no matter how many enthusiastic thank-you emails I get, they can’t ask for me back. Which means I rely on the random calls… and they aren’t coming in quick.

    Do you suggest a certain amount to be saved from each pay cheque?

    • You know what the best advice I’ve had? Karley just straight up told me that being poor for a bit builds character and I’ve come to totally agree! Yes I may not be able to do all the fun things I’d like to do but I’ve really learned to prioritize what’s important – for example travel is my number one so besides life savings that’s where my saving money is going these days. So maybe I have to say no to all the super amazing music festivals that I would LOVE to go to this summer because I want to go on a trip in the near future – cant have it all so it really makes you think.

      As far as budgeting and saving I think it depends on the individual and circumstances. Living costs will be different for everyone as will the amount you can save. I’ve heard 10% as a basis works for a lot of people but it might not work for you! Save what you can and talk to a financial advisor.

      Thanks so much for the topic idea too!

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