Occupation: I am a teacher at a municipal elementary school in Danderyd, a community 10 kilometers north of Stockholm. I teach children from preschool to the third grade. In Sweden, schooling only begins at age seven. Six-year-olds attend preschool. Preschool used to be optional, but now it is mandatory for all children. Essentially, preschool children learn the same things first-graders do in Germany – arithmetic, reading, writing and English – just in a more playful way.
As team leader for the three lower grades, I am also responsible for making budgetary and pedagogical decisions in addition to teaching – for example on what teaching materials should be purchased. Once a week, I chair a meeting with other teachers where we discuss organizational issues or talk about possible problems. My duties also include informing teachers of decisions made by the school administration, which is not always a pleasant task. I am essentially something of an intermediary between the administration and the teachers.
Education: In contrast to Germany, elementary school in Sweden goes through the ninth grade. Gymnasium only lasts three years. In gymnasium, we begin specializing for a career direction, such as natural sciences, social sciences, automotive engineering or nursing. I chose to focus on pedagogy. After that, I went on to study teaching at college. Elementary school teachers for the lowest levels don't have to specialize in specific subjects because you end up teaching all of them anyway. You only really focus on a specific subject for your thesis. To ensure that I had the possibility of teaching in higher classes as well, I took additional university courses in mathematics and Swedish. I attended university for a total of five years.
Working Hours: I work full time. In Sweden, that translates to 45 hours a week during the school year. In exchange, though, we have eight weeks off in summer when we don't have to do anything at all. During that time, you don't have to correct tests either. It makes up for the extra work we do during the year.
Gross Income: I earn 42,000 Swedish krona per month, the equivalent of around 4,000 euros. I have a higher-than-average income. In the area around Stockholm, salaries tend to be a bit higher than elsewhere in the country. Nevertheless, a gross salary of 2,500 euros is standard for teachers. Our occupation is not exactly well paid. In Sweden, unlike in some parts of Germany, teachers also aren't given civil servant status. In Sweden, teachers are considered normal employees. Unions make recommendations, but ultimately, the municipalities determine teacher salaries for public schools. At private schools, the schools decide themselves.
I've been lucky. Because I have switched schools four times in the last several years, I was able to renegotiate each time. Combined with the fact that I have a higher position because I'm a team leader, I've ended up with a relatively high salary. The current teacher shortage gave me additional leverage. Still, I find it unfair that teachers aren't paid better. Our job is both extremely stressful and extremely important and I think that should be reflected in our salaries.
Net Income: In Sweden, all insurance payments, such as health insurance, parental insurance, occupational disability insurance, pension withholdings and occupational casualty insurance, are withheld from your gross salary. Taxes come on top of that, on a sliding scale depending on your income. They include municipal tax, church tax and national income tax. After all that, I am left with around 3,000 euros per month.