What’s tougher: Being a teacher at a high poverty school or being a private sector consultant?

Friends of mine have moved into teaching from consulting, as well as into consulting from teaching.

Two friends recently relayed stories about moving from teaching into consulting. In both instances, someone asked the following question: “Has the transition to the consulting work been tough?”

In both cases, the person who asked the question was implying that the long hours of consulting must be difficult to handle after working in a field where you get summers off.

This leads me to believe that there is some ambiguity around the answer to the question: is it tougher to be a teacher at a high poverty school or a constant in the private sector?

Assuming someone has the skills to excel at both positions, it is much, much, much tougher to be a teacher at a high poverty school than it is to be a private sector consultant.

The hours, on average, are probably about the same.

But, as a teacher, you’re working with students who have grown-up in extremely difficult situations; who often have significant mental health needs; and who are depending on you to help them achieve in a world that has, for the most part, written them off.

As a teacher, getting bad news means one of your students might have been killed.

As a teacher, the problems you’re trying to solve are an order of magnitude more difficult than the typical corporate strategy problem. The problems of a high poverty school lie at the intersection of instruction, leadership, and poverty, and these problems are interconnected with our nation’s historical inequities. At times, such problems are nothing short of overwhelming.

As a teacher, you are performing live every day for 5-6 hours a day. Every day is an all day client meeting, and while, at the core, the clients share similar goals as you, on many days their behavior might not be aligned to achieving these goals. And it’s your job to change that.

At best, you might be earning 50% of what you’d be making as a consultant. At worst, 5%.

At best, you might have 50% of the status you’d have in a private sector field. At worst, your peers and parents think you’re wasting your potential.

So let’s put this issue to bed. Being a teacher at a high poverty school is much tougher work than being a private sector consultant.

Unfortunately, most of our society doesn’t understand that this is true.

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