By the Light of the Silvery Moon: Teacher Moonlighting and the Dark Side of Teachers' Work
reviewed by William Leach & Erin Miller - May 02, 2019
Title: By the Light of the Silvery Moon: Teacher Moonlighting and the Dark Side of Teachers' Work
Author(s): Eleanor J. Blair (Ed.)
Publisher: Myers Education Press, Gorham
ISBN: 1975500172, Pages: 200, Year: 2018
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By the Light of the Silvery Moon: Teacher Moonlighting and the Dark Side of Teachers Work, edited by Eleanor J. Blair, provides a comprehensive view of mixed methods research studies looking into the world of secondary jobs for professional educators, also referred to as moonlighting. Deciding whether or not to take on a secondary job is typically framed as a dichotomous choice between monetary gain and extracurricular enjoyment. Through a mixture of quantitative analysis and qualitative storytelling, the authors in this volume explore the varied and nuanced reasons that educators pursue secondary employment. As a whole, the text highlights both the benefits and drawbacks to moonlighting while advocating for positive policy changes related to the profession of teaching. Blair divides her compilation of chapters into three distinct sections: Section One, Teacher Moonlighting: Studied and Still Misunderstood, Section Two, Teacher Moonlighting IS Teachers Work, and Section Three, Teacher Moonlighting in the 21st Century: An Old Wine in a New Bottle.
Throughout the book, the authors of each chapter emphasize the importance of defining moonlighting. Some authors argue that any work outside of the standard teaching contract should be considered moonlighting, including coaching and tutoring. Others argue that any work outside of school should be considered moonlighting, like working a non-education job after school or working a summer job. No matter the definition, all authors agree that teacher moonlighting should be addressed by all stakeholders, including school systems and the state and federal levels of government. As the book progresses and each author offers an exhaustive examination of existing data, a running theme emerges; namely, that teaching will be considered a semi-profession unless teachers are not required to work multiple jobs to simply make ends meet. As a whole, this text brings together years of seemingly sporadic moonlighting research, putting these studies into a well-organized context.
Readers familiar with the educational system in the United States will find many familiar stories within this text. From an eye-opening autoethnography to sobering statistical analyses, this volume offers insight into an often unspoken, seemingly dark side of teaching. Blair situates her compilation of chapters within the historical and social realities of the teaching profession, allowing readers to track how moonlighting has evolved over the past 70 years. Blair seamlessly connects this history with the realities of the 21st century teacher, raising the question: if rewards and satisfactions are not built into teaching, then where do teachers go to find them? Unfortunately, some researchers found that teachers are forced to moonlight or to leave the profession entirely. The authors move the conversation well beyond monetary issues while highlighting the negative effects that restrictive, blame-placing policies and pay-for-performance schemes have on teacher morale and motivation.
Even though the book explores teacher moonlighting in a thorough and holistic manner, it also leaves room for further research. For example, Blair, summarizing the literature, notes that even if teacher salaries were raised, some moonlighters would be reluctant to leave their secondary jobs. This indicates that other forces are at work aside from monetary gain, even when secondary jobs reduce the quality of student interactions, class preparation, and family time. Another area for further research is the conflicting attitudes of superintendents and teachers regarding moonlighting. Specifically, in Chapter Four, Wisniewski and Kleine note that while superintendents generally did not support moonlighting, they did view it as necessary, and over 75% did it themselves as teachers. Further, 60% of teachers believed that secondary jobs had no effect on the quality of their teaching. Such richness in the data on teacher attitudes offers a wide array of future research opportunities.
Blair concludes her text logically, positing that low teacher pay leads to low teacher morale, which in turn prompts teachers to seek second jobs. Blair also illuminates the problems readily seen in academia, including low levels of respect in school settings and at various political levels. As moonlighting has become embedded into the very fabric of teaching, Blair leaves us to simmer with the fact that moonlighting is rarely cited by policymakers and is infrequently noted in the literature.
This book is a must-read for teachers, administrators, policymakers, and anyone with an interest in entering the teaching profession. It leaves the reader with much to consider as it argues for respectable, fair working conditions in our 21st century schools. Blair concludes that as long as working conditions remain hostile and as long as personnel and educational decisions are left to a disconnected central office, teachers will be subjugated to a subprofessional role wherein moonlighting is normalized. Overall, the text makes valid arguments for change within the teaching profession while also leaving many opportunities for future research to move the discussion forward.