Here it is, early July. I should be enjoying some well deserved time off, yet I can’t stop prepping, reading, researching, and thinking about how to make next school year even better. It doesn’t help that on many social media platforms, teachers are posting pictures of classrooms, libraries, and resources. Then, there are the ones that post about sales and purchasing items. This is where I get a bit uncomfortable.
I have been teaching for over 20 years so I know all too well the amount of money a teacher invests in their classroom. I was a beginning teacher who spent more money than I ever should have fixing up my classroom, investing in books, and supplies. No beginning teacher earns enough to do that, yet we buy these items.
More recently I have adopted the attitude of, “Naw.” As in, “Naw, I’m NOT buying pencils, notebooks, lined paper, folders, etc. for my classroom.” I have not moved schools or districts. I still teach in a Title 1 district.
So what changed? I changed; my attitude changed. Maybe I’m a bit more enlightened and less naive than I use to be. Trust me this is a new thing for me. I have students who can’t afford back to school supplies. I have students whose parents choose not to purchase supplies. I understand that it’s not the child’s fault. But, when did it become MY responsibility to purchase said supplies? If I have 30 students and purchase 2 folders per student (1 for classwork and 1 for homework/home communication) at a cost of $9.99 for a box of 25 (according to Office Depot), that means I need to purchase 3 boxes (I need 60 folders). That means I just spent $27.97 (plus tax) on my classroom out of MY OWN POCKET. What?! That wasn’t even for the ones with prongs. Then there are essentials like pencils, pencil sharpeners (that NEVER last), bulletin board border (gotta make the room look pretty), organizational tools, and other basics. Then if you want to do flexible seating in your classroom, most districts won’t pay for that so there’s more money out of your pocket (yep, did this one last year). Some of the costs might be minimal. I bought bed risers for raised desks for around $10. Not a big deal, right? Again, when did THIS become my problem?
Teachers, by nature, are generous and nurturing. The system has totally exploited our kindness and has, in some cases, come to expect that we will purchase what we need out of our own pockets. We need to STOP this! I know what you’re thinking: “Schools aren’t funded properly”, “My students can’t afford ____”. And you’re right. Schools aren’t funded properly. Many families can’t afford supplies. However, why should schools be funded properly when we continue to fill in the gaps? Why should schools offer to buy the folders when we happily do it and then feel great when we hit a sale (yeah, hitting a sale and saving money feels great, not gonna lie)? But we need to step back and realize that we are part of the problem.
So, I am trying VERY hard NOT to spend any money in my classroom this year. I will ask my site to purchase needed materials: folders, crayons, markers, pencils, etc. This is not going to be easy, but there really aren’t any other professions (we have bachelors and masters and doctorates; we ARE professionals) that spend their own money to make their environment better and successful. Yes, there are certain items that a professional, such as a nurse who buys her/his own stethoscope, but do they need to purchase paper, folders, pens? No. And neither should we.
I know this was a long rant and most likely not so popular, but I hope it made you think. Until we demand to be treated like professionals, we won’t be. Until we stand up for ourselves and demand districts spend their money on students rather than admin, buildings, etc. nothing will change. If you can’t pay your electric or heating bill will your district do that for you? Most likely not. So why do we pay for things that the district should be paying for?
NOTE: I am fortunate enough to have an administrator who will pay for the basics out of site funds. However, many are not as fortunate. This post was spurred by ALL THE SALES that I see being shared ‘for teachers’.
Good. Maybe if we stop they can give each teacher the discressionary spending they need to have a functional classroom. I would spend upwards of $5000 a year (not a typo). Average teacher is spending $800 a year out of pocket. You’re completely correct it should not become your problem. But I’ll also add school should not be a cost burden on parents either. With 5 kids all those notebooks add up and that assumes I can afford it. How many can’t? Its not equitable. Some kids have fancier better supplies. No. FAPE is free and free is free. We know it costs at least $800 for supplies for the classroom so let’s demand funding. If we keep just paying for the supplies then there is zero urgency.
You bring up a good point about school not becoming a cost burden to parents. Yes, all schools should give at least $800 per teacher for supplies. I also have purchased my own math manipulatives over the years because they were not provided. How can a student learn math if they are not interacting with it?
Thank you, your insight is spot on!