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    The Teacher Who Went Viral For Sharing His Salary On TikTok Tells Us Just How Broken The Education System Is

    “We’re not only undervaluing our teachers and our school systems — we’re now also attacking them as well.”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND talked with the teacher who went viral on TikTok for sharing his first-year salary. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

    Listen to BuzzFeed Daily on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Kyle Cohen, a fourth-grade teacher in Ohio, about his recent TikTok shedding light on the paltry wages of teachers. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: You recently posted a video to TikTok in which you talked about how much money you get paid as a teacher. Can you tell us about that first video you made and why you chose to make it?

    Screengrab from a TikTok by @mr.kylecohen featuring Kyle smiling and looking at the camera
    @mr.kylecohen / TikTok / Via tiktok.com

    Kyle Cohen: Back when the pandemic started, both out of boredom and interest in doing this, I started some social media accounts to just share my teaching journey, also knowing that we were entering a time that was unlike anything we've ever experienced, especially in education. So I started a YouTube channel and was posting videos there. I then moved on to Instagram and TikTok as well. And I saw this trend going around TikTok, where people were posting about how much money they made, and I was blown away by some of the videos I was seeing of how much money people are getting paid to do a wide range of jobs. And it made me think back to my first year of teaching at the charter school I was working at, where I was making $31,000. 

    Everything that I am creating for social media, I just want to have a conversation about the current realities in education. And I want people who are in education — and not — to really understand what some of these real teachers and students are experiencing in our country. So my thought was with that video, I would be able to start a conversation, and here we are having it.

    BuzzFeed Daily: The response to the video was fairly divided. You had some people in the comment section showing their support, including other educators. But there was also a contingent of commenters who thought your salary was completely reasonable. For example, one user wrote "I feel like teachers get what they deserve. They have three months off, weekends off, every holiday off, etc. So this is reasonable pay." Were you surprised to see reactions like this?

    Screengrab from a TikTok by @mr.kylecohen featuring Kyle talking into the camera and responding to a comment that says "You work 8-9 months a year."
    @mr.kylecohen / TikTok / Via tiktok.com

    KC: Yes and no. Given our current political landscape in this country, it doesn't surprise me that so many people were supportive of that $31,000 salary. And I think it just really speaks to the current times that we're in, how divided things are, where people view education in terms of the greater job landscape, and how we value our teachers, and just also a lack of knowledge in terms of what it actually takes to operate a successful classroom, which again fueled the following video.

    BuzzFeed Daily: I know that this question probably won't have a simple answer, but do you have a sense as to how pay has gotten this bad in the American education system? Like how did we get to this point?

    Fox / Via giphy.com

    KC: So we're dealing with, I think, years and years and years of undervaluing educators in the work that they're doing and not having this conversation about where we can go in terms of how we treat them. And I also think we're at this current point in our education system as a result of systemic inequities that persist across the board in our country, including systemic racism that persists across the board in our country. And we're really looking at students who grow up in one zip code that have a dramatically different educational experience than students who grow up in a different zip code. And these are system issues, right? This isn't because of my teaching. This isn't because of the teacher who was here 30 years before me teaching the way they were. These are issues that have been persisting in this country for a really long time, and they're something that we need to address immediately.

    BuzzFeed Daily: I have to imagine being a teacher during the height of the pandemic was one of the hardest jobs to have at that time, not to mention all of the subsequent mask and vaccine debates that centered around the classroom. What has your experience been like over the last year and a half, especially in terms of the resources that teachers have been provided with?

    Photo of a teacher helping a small child put on a rainboot
    Erika Eros / Getty Images/EyeEm

    KC: Absolutely. In March of 2020, I was in the second year of teaching at the charter school. At that time, when we locked down in March of 2020, we thought we were going on an extended spring break for about two weeks. So teachers went in. We created some packets to send out to our students for them to come to pick up at school and for our administrative staff to actually go deliver to students. We were able to contact most but not all students' families — some just we were unable to reach at the time — but we were very positive, thinking it really was only going to be two weeks. 

    We then obviously realized that it was going to be far more than that and it would be the rest of the school year. We didn't have the infrastructure to sustain remote learning at the school I was at. We had one Chromebook cart of laptops for roughly five classrooms. So there weren't enough devices for all of these students. So it was a cycle of creating packets, sending them out in that never-ending cycle. There were some students who actually never picked up their packets, or we were unable to actually find an address for them. 

    The challenges that we faced at that school were then dramatically different from the challenges that were faced at the school I currently work at now. When I got hired here in the fall of 2020 to start last school year, we were one of the only districts in our area that was able to return to in-person instruction. We had students starting on a hybrid schedule in the beginning of last school year, and actually then rolled into a full in-person model, which further highlighted the inequities in our system when some students were continuing remote learning, which we all know as educators, is not the best way to be educating our students.

    They were continuing their online learning, when my students were continuing to get farther and farther ahead, further highlighting those inequities. And now as an educator, currently in 2021, embarking on 2022, where this pandemic is still real and we're still dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic, I actually believe that this school year is more challenging than last school year. 

    This school year we're experiencing the labor shortage that everyone is experiencing, but in education. We don't have substitute teachers, so when I need to take out for a doctor's appointment or my colleague has a sick kid at home, we need to figure that out. Additionally, educators are under attack, and this field is under attack. We just saw school board elections that rattled communities, where teachers and school boards and superintendents are being attacked for things like critical race theory, for social-emotional learning, for all of these big topics that are being talked about in our media. So we're not only undervaluing our teachers and our school systems — we're now also attacking them as well.

    BuzzFeed Daily: To bring that back to your salary, and teacher salaries in general, it sounds like you're doing way more work than anyone signed up for without that extra pay.

    Pixar

    KC: 100%. And I mean, no one goes into the field of education for the pay. That's not why anyone signs up for this job. We sign up for this job to make an impact and to have a meaningful impact on the lives of kids, but when you're unable to afford your own life because of the money that you're making, it's just never-ending challenges.

    We also talked about Buffy and Bring It On star Eliza Dushku appearing in front of a House Judiciary Committee to talk about how her former Bull costar Michael Weatherly allegedly sexually harassed her, as well as the subsequent forced arbitration at CBS.

    WATCH: @ElizaDushku shares her personal story of the sexual harassment she faced at CBS and the secret arbitration process she was forced to enter. #EndForcedArbitration

    Twitter: @HouseJudiciary

    After telling the committee that she was told the role would be a quote “six-year commitment to play a smart, strong leading lady...written specifically with me in mind,” Eliza said: "However, in my first week on my new job, I found myself the brunt of crude, sexualized, and lewd verbal assaults. I suffered near-constant sexual harassment from my costar. This was beyond anything I had experienced in my 30-year career."

    She went on to say that after she asked him to tone down his comments, he texted the head of CBS Studios and she was fired the following day.

    Plus, after basically confirming to GQ that they are in fact dating, Tom Holland and Zendaya talked about wishing they had more privacy, and how it felt for the world to find out via a paparazzi photo of them kissing.

    Photo of Tom Holland and Zendaya with their arms around each other's waist
    Kevin Winter / Getty Images

    Tom said: “I’ve always been really adamant to keep my private life private, because I share so much of my life with the world anyway. We sort of felt robbed of our privacy.”

    While Zendaya said: “It was quite strange and weird and confusing and invasive” and quote “I think loving someone is a sacred thing and a special thing and something that you want to deal with and go through and experience and enjoy amongst the two people that love each other.”

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at daily@buzzfeed.com.