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    This Teacher Is Going Viral For Revealing Just How Underpaid Educators Are In The US, And It's Wild

    "If we don’t address these issues, it’s the students, our future leaders, who are going to face the consequences."

    Kyle Cohen, known as Mr. Cohen to his students, is a fourth-grade teacher in Cleveland, Ohio, who recently went viral for shedding light on just how much teachers can be underpaid — a sad reality many teachers in the US have been facing for years.

    BuzzFeed spoke to Kyle, who previously served for two years at a school for Teach For America, and he shared his love for teaching and what led him to the career after graduating from Ohio State University. With a passion for working with young people, especially formed during years at a summer camp, he wanted to enter a field that would make a big impact. "Today, I teach fourth grade in a different district where I continue my fight for an education system that all kids in this country deserve," he said.

    The 25-year-old educator, who has been teaching for four years and recently completed his master's degree in educational leadership, uploaded a video on TikTok revealing how much he got paid during his first year of teaching. “In my first year of teaching, I taught at a charter school here in Cleveland, Ohio, and I made $31,000 as a fourth-grade teacher with a class of 16 students with a wide range of special needs — and I had my college degree and experience,” he says in the clip.

    The comment section was divided — with some people expressing concern over the salary, and others dismissing it:

    One commenter agrees that $31 isn't a lot, but says that teachers have time off and are able to increase their salary"
    Another comment says, "I feel like teachers get what they deserve; they have three months off, weekends off, every holiday off, so this is reasonable pay"
    Another comment: "Why would you choose a career you know doesn't pay well then be surprised when you don't get paid well?"

    But many still showed lots of support for teachers:

    More comments of support: "Teachers can't actually complete their responsibilities in 8 hours a day; most work 10 hours or more" and "To people who don't think teachers should get paid more, homeschool your kids then"
    Another comment: "Wow, I didn't realize this comment section was going to be so toxic; great to know how much people don't value teachers"

    Current and former teachers even shared similar experiences with their salary:

    One current teacher says, "Same; different state and 26 students" and a former teacher says, "Teachers need so much more money; I used to teach and now I'm in software; I make twice as much for a quarter the amount of work"

    After one commenter claimed teachers "only" work eight to nine months a year — implying they don't work enough to be paid more — Kyle uploaded another video detailing the amount of work that goes into teaching that people often don't consider.

    In the TikTok, which has over 2 million views, Kyle calculates how many hours (approximately) go into a year of teaching vs. how much he'd make an hour:

    "I work from about 7 to 5, which is roughly 10 hours [a day], multiply that by five, because there are five days in a week — that is 50 hours." he says. "Multiply that by four, which is about 200 hours that I work a month. I also am going to add 10 additional hours per week, because if I look at my calendar, I have a lot of meetings and events, and things like that as a fourth-grade teacher that I’m required to attend."

    Kyle responds to the critical commenter in a TikTok video
    @mr.kylecohen / Via tiktok.com

    "So, this week, for example, right now it’s 6:00 in the evening; I have conferences that go until 8:00. I also have conferences next week on Monday and Wednesday to meet with all of my families."

    "I feel like this additional 10 hours a week is really just a minimum of what I am doing, thinking about all of the lesson-planning and grading and communication with coworkers and families and administration. So, it’s roughly 240 hours a month, probably more if we’re being honest. But let’s say 240 hours times the 'nine months' that I’m working, right? ... That’s 2,160 hours of work. If I take that $31,000 salary that I earned in my first year of teaching divided by 2,160 — that is $14 an hour to be a fourth-grade classroom teacher."

    In the TikTok, Kyle adds: "That's $14 an hour before taxes are taken out"

    "I don’t want to come off as ungrateful; I’m not ungrateful because I absolutely love what I do, and I would not trade being an educator for anything. I am incredibly grateful to be in this field," he continues. "But what I am hoping we have conversations about is the fact that teachers who are ‘only working for eight to nine months of the year’ are being paid inappropriately for the amount of work that they are doing."

    Kyle concludes his TikTok video saying, "It is a problem here in the United States of America, and it is a conversation that we certainly are needing to have"

    In the midst of the COVID pandemic, many teachers have been through incredible stress and burnout that led them to make the hard decision to leave the classroom. Dealing with low wages makes things even more challenging.

    A row of empty seats in a classroom
    Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

    In a 2021 survey by EdWeek, 57% of K-12 teachers said that a salary increase would reduce the chances of them leaving in the next two years. Low wages mean that many teachers can barely afford living expenses, such as housing. In fact, based on USA Today's analysis of 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, new teachers in 278 of 291 metro areas could not afford to rent a median-priced unit.

    "Back in March of 2020, our entire country was forced to shut down. Students were learning at home from a screen and we were finally having conversations about the integral role teachers play in our society," Kyle told BuzzFeed.

    This isn't the first time Kyle opened up about the challenges many teachers face — especially with COVID. Back in January of this year, he uploaded a YouTube video where he spoke more on teaching in the pandemic, his responsibilities as an educator, and the importance of valuing teachers when it comes to income.

    View this video on YouTube

    Mr. Kyle Cohen / Via youtu.be

    "At the end of the day, I want to shed light on the current realities educators are facing. Students are experiencing more challenges than ever before as a result of the pandemic. If we don’t address these issues, it’s the students, our future leaders, who are going to face the consequences," he told BuzzFeed.

    Ultimately, his desire is to have discussions that will lead to much-needed change in the future. "My hope in making these videos is to start some real conversations. Our teachers (and students!) deserve the best, and it is the unfortunate reality that we are far from making this dream a reality."

    For more videos about what teachers are facing today, be sure to follow Mr. Cohen on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

    TikTok videos not playing for you? You might need to change the settings on your device — here's how.