With a slow economy and many spouses out of work, there's an enormous percentage of school teachers taking second jobs in recent years. That means the new Kevin James comedy, "Here Comes the Boom," is quite relevant. And not just for national financial reasons, but also for issues with the American education system as well. In the movie, James plays a biology teacher and former collegiate wrestler who returns to the ring for extra money as a mixed martial arts fighter in order to save his school’s music program.
It wasn’t always like this. Searching through the history of cinema and television, we don’t come up with a lot of teachers who needed extra income. Some of those who could compare to James’s character include Principal Anderson (Josh Mostel) in “Billy Madison,” who was a wrestler before becoming an educator but not simultaneously.
When discovered, Anderson was very embarrassed, though nothing like the characters among the following ten who were spotted first-hand by students while struggling to make ends meet with part-time gigs outside the classroom.
Movie: ‘Warrior’ (2011) Second Job: Mixed Martial Arts Fighter
Basically, this is a the serious sports drama that "Boom" appears to be remaking as a farce. There is no official link, but here a high school physics teacher and former UFC fighter played by Joel Edgerton returns to the ring as a mixed martial arts fighter because he can’t make ends meet on instructing alone. The superintendent doesn’t approve and suspends him without pay, leading to his concentration on competing in a tournament to provide for his family. Another good educator lost because of insufficient wages.
TV Show: ‘Breaking Bad’ (2008-2013) Second Job: Car Wash Cashier; Methamphetamine Cook/Kingpin
Apparently science teachers are strong individuals, as is also the case with Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher who eventually becomes a regular killer as he rises to power in the meth business. Before he requires additional income due to being diagnosed as having cancer, White already works part-time at a local car wash (which he later owns). But when he is faced with unaffordable medical costs, he takes up another more lucrative side gig as a drug manufacturer, which leads to bigger and better -- albeit less moral -- positions and money.
Movie: ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ Second Job: Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic
One of the few instances in which we see a character take up teaching as the second job, in the fifth Harry Potter installment Ministry of Magic official Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) is appointed to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as the latest to fill the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. It’s not a matter of money for her so much as government control, and really Umbridge’s stint as a Hogwarts instructor -- then “High Inquisitor” and finally Headminstress -- is under the duties of her other, regular job. She rules over the school like a pink-clad fascist, and when she eventually loses both jobs, nobody is feeling bad.
Movies: "Indiana Jones" Second Job: Adventuring Archaeologist
You could probably argue that the two career roles of Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford), as a professor of archaeology and a globe-trotting archaeologist, are one and the same. It’s no different from an English professor character also being a novelist (a la "Wonder Boys") or a musician/composer taking up teaching (a la "Mr. Holland’s Opus"). His trips are even funded by his university. But Indy’s second gig is more than mere digger of artifacts; he’s basically a superhero treasure hunter, and his prestige in the field often has little connection to how he does in the classroom. People (young women) seem to take his courses solely because he’s handsome, not because he secretly saves the world from Nazis and Indian cults.
Movie: ‘This Could Be the Night’ (1957) Second Job: Nightclub Secretary
The only example included from before the 1980s, this classic from director Robert Wise ("The Sound of Music") stars Jean Simmons as a young schoolteacher, barely even familiar with the blackboard, who quickly takes on a night job as a secretary at a nightclub. The separate gigs aren’t connected, but in some scenes we see one of her thuggish employers (and love interest) visiting her day job, providing advice and later muscle in certain situations with students.
Movie: ‘Varsity Blues’ (1999) Second Job: Stripper
Another school teacher who moonlights at a nightclub, the difference here is that sex-ed instructor Miss Davis (Tonie Perensky) is not a secretary at her establishment. She’s a topless dancer, who ends up being doubly exposed to a group of students illegally attending the club. A good sport, after being temporarily stunned and embarrassed by the familiar boys in front of the stage, she continues with her routine. Clip NSFW
Movie: ‘Mean Girls’ (2004) Second Job: Waitress
It’s one thing to get a job as a stripper. You don’t expect high schoolers to spot you in that profession. But working a job at the mall a few nights a week, math teacher and mathlete coach Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) is just asking to be discovered by a kid from her class. Even if she is a bartender at a chain restaurant and won’t be serving any teens; it’s the mall, a high schooler’s home away from home.
Movie: ‘Clueless’ (1995) Second Job: Waitress
Waiting tables appears to be a common second job for teachers, representing 20% of the examples we were able to find. Technically, though, this one barely counts. Stereotypically gay P.E. teacher and coach Miss Stoeger (Julie Brown) was never seen in the film working a second job, but according to a bit of trivia on the IMDb, the character appeared in an MTV promo as having another gig at a restaurant, where she runs into students Cher and Dionne (Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash).
TV Show: ‘The Wonder Years’ (1988-1993) Second Job: Mall Santa
Recall what we said about teachers mistakenly taking part-time gigs at the high schooler haven known as the mall. In a 1990 episode titled “A Very Cutlip Christmas,” Kevin (Fred Savage) discovers Coach Cutlip (Robert Picardo) moonlighting as a seasonal Santa Claus for the Brightlin Mall. Cutlip starts giving the kid special treatment to keep him from telling others at school, but Kevin lets his big mouth slip and word gets out. The embarrassment might seem unnecessary unless you consider how emasculating it would have been back then for a male role model and authority figure to be found out as being unable to provide for his family. He’d easily lose the respect, as a leader and source of guidance, of the boys in his classes.
Movie: ‘American Teacher’ (2011) Second Job: Box Store Stock Loader
This popular documentary narrated by Matt Damon has been a big proponent in people discussing the idea of teachers working second jobs lately. In the film, great teachers have to quit the public education field to become real estate agents and charter school teachers. There’s also Erik Benner, a history teacher and coach who works as a loader at Circuit City until he’s laid off and then takes a similar position at Floor & Decor. He admits to feeling shame when recognized in his other job, but that’s still nothing compared to the hardships he faces at home when he’s unable to properly provide for his family with both the teaching job and the additional gig.