In the U.S., we've been fed this idea that we are the "greatest country in the world." But the pandemic response has thrown that into deep question, and more and more in recent years, people are waking up to the ways in which the U.S., one of the wealthiest nations in the world, neglects to protect its citizens.
We don't have universal healthcare or mandatory paid leave policies at work, two huge concepts that many other developed nations have managed to implement for their citizens. One teacher, Ilana, has the unique perspective of having worked in the U.S. and then moving to Denmark. In a recent viral TikTok, she explains the differences in her life in both countries...and why she could never return to the U.S.
In the U.S., her "contract hours," meaning the hours that she was required to be at school, were set at 45 hours a week. About 35 of those were spent with students, about seven hours were for planning and meetings, and the rest of the time was basically her lunch breaks.
When teaching in the U.S., she worked about 10-15 hours outside of school every week, probably planning lessons or grading homework. All in all, in the U.S., she worked about 55-60 hours a week.
In Denmark, on the other hand, her contract hours are about 35 hours a week (10 less than in the U.S.). She spends 18 hours a week with students, 11 hours planning and attending meetings, and then the rest of the time is lunch/recess/off-duty time. She works about five to 10 additional hours a week, adding up to about 40-45 hours of work a week.
"It's a huge difference!" she says. "And I'm a better teacher because I'm not so tired and burned out." Her video racked up nearly two million views, over 315,000 likes, and thousands of comments. And it's not the only one. Her whole TikTok page is dedicated to explaining what it's like for her to be an American teacher teaching abroad.
In her first video, she explains that she hasn't had to spend any of her own money on school supplies while working in Denmark, but that's a thing that teachers in the U.S., unfortunately, have to do on a regular basis.
In another, Ilana explains that teachers are allowed a budget for school supplies, so yes, the school will get them whatever they want as long as it's affordable enough. When another teacher asked kind of jokingly, "Are you hiring?" Ilana responded, "You should definitely come here. It's a lot better."
Ilana shares the process she went through to get a teaching job in Denmark as well as more general pros and cons of living in Denmark vs. the U.S. (the most notable con being that grocery stores in Denmark do not compare to grocery stores in the U.S.). But in general, Ilana seems much happier living and working in Denmark than she was in the U.S.
In the above video, she explains that public schools in Denmark are funded by the city, not the district. That means that no matter how wealthy the neighborhood, every student in a city gets the same amount of funding.
That is not the case in the U.S., where students in low-income neighborhoods often get a worse education because they just don't get as much funding as students in wealthier neighborhoods.
Although the system isn't perfect, Ilana much prefers living and working in Denmark as opposed to the United States. Teachers in the U.S. are overworked and underpaid. In Denmark, it seems that teachers (and people in general) are more valued, the government actually works for their benefit, and people are happier and don't feel as burned out.