Friday, October 15, 2010

I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday For Some Copy Paper Today

回形针(paper clip)Image via Wikipedia
A recent article in Time Magazine shouting, "California Teachers Paying For School Supplies and More" made me wonder where the author has been and under whose rock she has been hiding. Why is this suddenly newsworthy? I mean, haven't we been using our own money on our classroom for years?

I've been in education now for 26 years. At the beginning of my career, I remember spending hundreds of dollars (yes, even back then) for extra items when I wanted to do something with my class that wasn't "expected" of me. I remember buying books and tapes, LEGO Mindstorms, light-sensitive paper, etc. These days however, I truly must purchase my own basic supplies for even that which is expected of me; shelving for my room, baskets for organization, copy paper, paper clips, staples, pencils, pencil sharpeners (even the hand crank one), etc. To date (this school year alone), I believe I have over $800. in receipts for which I will never receive reimbursement.

Publishers are making millions of dollars by selling their textbooks to school districts with the "21st Century" feature of having almost all of their textbooks, workbooks, etc. online in PDF. This is awesome; until you realize that when you need the pages, you must copy them yourself. Let me make this clear though, I would like to have the option of having both (PDF and hard copy student versions of items of MY choice). Better yet, make the work interactive and reduce the PDF-type worksheets altogether. Young students do still need writing experiences though, so what's the harm in giving us all of it? Older students can use notebooks and take notes easily where elementary students take the bulk of their lesson time recording information in their notebooks. Having something pre-printed that they can work through and refer back to, makes a lot of sense. In the case of a science lab data record for example, my students took 45 minutes to record their observations in their blank notebooks and 10 minutes to do the same thing on a copied paper where I drew the data tables for them.

Teachers have always spent their own money on classroom items. Yet, I don't know of any other job where people do this. Those in the business sector don't seem to understand why we do this. My husband tells me all the time to just refuse to use what is not provided. He also tells me there's no point to doing anything if you're not getting paid for it. That includes blogging here, here or here. It also includes presenting at conferences, even at ones where my expenses are paid in full. His business-brain tells him that "nobody buys the cow when the milk is free."

Where do you stand on all of this?

I'd love your comments and I'd also appreciate it if you would take my poll. Let's see if teacher-spending is unique to California after all.

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21 comments:

Bets said...

This is just my 7th year of teaching ... but I know that I've probably spent thousands on things for my own classroom.
I've always been told that if I changed grades or schools, (technically) I would have to leave anything that the school bought me. Therefore, I've purchased all my books, organizers, some posters, all holiday & class decorations and more with my own money. Right now, I'm a single teacher without a family that needs my hard-earned paycheck. My school and PTO also gives us a yearly budget for supplies, but each year it seems to decrease.
I agree that other jobs don't have to pay for things on their own. They also are allowed to go out to eat lunch, leave work a few minutes early for an appointment, simply take a sick day without making plans and don't have to attend training on their own time. Our job is unlike most others.

Raman Job said...

You're so right, Lee. It is patently unfair. Here in Canada, our national teachers' organization has been lobbying for years to get government to allow teachers to at least be able to write off these expenditures, but no success yet. Here in my province we worked out that the average teacher is spending almost $600 per year on supplies out of their own pocket - more if you are a beginning teacher.

Steve Lissenden said...

I would love to know your husbands views on charity and the voluntary sector and where he draws he line :)

Congerjan said...

My husband keeps reminding me that it is not my responsibility to buy all the books in my library! I spend at least 60 dollars a month on library books out of my own pocket because teachers constantly ask for books that my library budget will not allow me to buy. It's my job to support them and the curriculum. What else can I do? I also have to buy my own processing supplies like book tape, labels and label covers, and clear book covers. My budget only covers so much of what I need. Oh, and I buy some of my own regular office supplies like colored index cards to color code my classes. I have also purchased 6 book shelves. I use my own equipment in my teaching too. I bought 3 Flip video cameras, 3 mp3 players, 2 CD players, and a document camera for my and my student's use in my library teaching in the past 5 years.

Michelle said...

I have bought many things for my students. I live in such a high poverty area that I have to. Otherwise, we'd have no supplies in our classroom. PTO provides money, but each year it decreases dramatically. The school also gives us a supply budget to order supplies for the year, but we have to order all of our paper and printer ink out of that. So of course there is nothing left to order anything else. I know I spend at least $500 a year in my room on things that make it run smoothly. Now I've heard that the government is taking our $250 Educator tax credit away from us this year. It wasn't even enough to begin with, but why take it away? Don't they have more than enough proof that teachers are strapped and spending their own money on their students? I sure hope that I've heard wrong.

Kyle said...

This is definitely not a new concept, as I also spent my own money on supplies and experiences I wanted to give my students. 8 years ago I was teaching in a low socioeconomic area of Kansas City, and quite often parents could not even afford to send $5 in for their students to go on a field trip, so I often covered costs like this as well. Sometimes it was finding out that a student needed a basic life necessity like shoes. How could I know my student had this need and not want to take care of it for them? It's just what we do. We all want the best experiences for our students, and quite often my students were not getting them at home. I had students that lived in environments that were not educationally (or in general) nurturing, so if some extra had to come out of my pocket to help make my classroom more this way so be it. Missouri allows teachers to claim up to $250 of these expenses at tax time. I often spent over that and I don't even really recall keeping tight records on the $250 I could claim. Again, for myself and many other educators I know it's just what we do.

Barbara Day said...

I have always spent a lot of money on my classroom, usually around $1,000. My school district often makes partial adoptions of materials, leaving gaps. I guess they figure teachers will pick up the slack. I resent that, and am reluctant to do it. I spend my own money when it is to do the things I want to do with the kids or when it makes my life easier. For example, I've purchased reading group sets of books when it's a title the school doesn't have. I also do it because, things have a way of disappearing from the school bookroom and I want to have enough copies. I spend a lot of money on ink cartridges, photo papers, cardstock, websites, and those things that make learning and the classroom more exciting. Most student teachers are shocked when I explain that the majority of the classroom books, bulletin board displays, etc. are purchased out of the teacher's pocket.

MMolishus said...

This reminds me of a local news reporter who was thoroughly impressed when he heard that charter school teachers were working on a Saturday, saying something like, "Imagine that, a teacher working on a Saturday." Great for the charter school teachers, but, seriously, reporter, you think they invented "teacher working on the weekend."

Luckily, for many of us, our teaching career is also our passion, our community service, our investment in the future. So when we put our own money and time into our "job" we know we are doing more than our "job."

Lee Kolbert said...

Yes, it really is amazing what we will do for children who are not even our own. I think that speaks volumes about who we are. I forgot to mention printer ink and often printers themselves. I just spent $100 on a laser printer cartridge. Years ago the district purchased laser printers for our classrooms but never provided for replacement cartridges.

Do you think most people in the public sector are aware of what teachers spend financially and time-wise?

gail said...

It's all about the passion and those of us who love our work put out extra time, talent, and treasure all the time. It helps us to enjoy our jobs even more. Could we teach without the extras? Certainly, but in the end we want our students to learn and those things that engage us as teachers help us get the job done while teaching the individuals.

Mary Lou Buell said...

My school is pretty good about getting us the supplies we need, but the catch is that you have to order in May for the following year...thus I've found myself in October realizing I need highlighters for a strategic reading lesson that I didn't plan on doing 5 months out.

On the other hand, room decor is entirely up to the teacher...and ironically teachers will be marked down on evaluations if their rooms are too stark.

Good to know my husband isn't the only one who balks at my school shopping trips.

Teachers at my school routinely purchase their own white boards, bookshelves, maps and DVDs....things that really should be in the school budget. My first year ('98) I was given an overhead projector for my classroom but no screen---I picked up a broken one from the dumpster at my husband's work.

eplybon said...

Lee, at the first school I worked, the number of science labs that were done in my class was directly proportional to how much money I could afford to spend on them. I'm so used to spending my own money in the classroom that now that I'm in a district that actually gives me a budget, I still tend to spend my own money. It's a habit and it is also easier than filling out all the forms necessary to purchase them with school money. Being in a 1:1 school helps - there are a lot of interactive activities we can do virtually. I don't think that I would ever stop spending my own money for some things - I couldn't look my students in the eye if I didn't give them the experiences I was able to afford. It is very sad, though, and I know that a lot of younger teachers simply cannot afford this expense (and shouldn't have to). Now that I teach teachers, I will still spend my own money for things like snacks and giveaways to save my budget for tech purchases.

Lisa Parisi said...

I just have to add my two cents here. I spend about $1000 on my classroom...books, supplies, cool tools, etc. I could do without but things are so much better with. My husband also does not understand why I blog, podcast, work on the DEN LC, and present at conferences if I don't get paid. He doesn't understand that those I things I love to do.

Theresa Murray said...

I also spend money on my classroom (and often PD) so that I can make it a better experience.

I have bought tables, decorations, bulletin board supplies, an exercise ball as an alternative chair, a web cam, speakers, radio etc. I have also brought in things we have at home (like Flip Cameras) to use for activities.

While my district is usually generous with our budget items (basic and some more), this is done in December for the following September (and we all know how things change). We have access to white copy paper (but need to budget for colored, etc).

Last spring, I attended EdcampPhilly at my own expense because I wanted the experience. I may well do the same for other conferences this year. We may receive $25 or $30 reimbursement at times but when you spend $300 or more on hotels...

It's part of the territory and makes my day a little nicer.

Dear Librarian said...

I feel very fortunate. Budgets in international schools are always quite substantial. I rarely have to spend any of my own money. With just cause, proper budgeting, and proper record keeping, I'm able to get what I need through the various school budgets.

Ann

Gordon Shupe said...

sad to say, I even spend money on the classes of my colleagues as a Technology Specialist, when I think something is going to be good for the students... I can't always wait on a grant opportunity, or hope that I can persuade a district deep pocket.

Cheryl Woolwine said...

Even though I am out of the classroom directly, I am still purchasing my own supplies. Being in a very poor district - I buy batteries, paper clips, ink etc... then for my teacher trainings - I purchase coffee, snacks, water and more, it does add up.

atruger said...

What a great post!I have been out of the classroom 5 years and just recently began teaching in a "lab"...I am still buying stuff out of my pocket just to make the environment nicer.I never minded or thought twice about buying "extras" while in the classroom and the extra hours I put in....it's just what you do when you care about your students and their learning environment.

It also drives my hubby CRAZY that I do so many things that I don't get paid for such as conferences, committees,Discovery events, Promethean events,ICE Co-Chair...

Teaching really is different than any other type of career and if you love your job and want to make a difference then you will go the extra mile, even if nobody but you and your hubby notices : )

Thanks for reminding me that I am not alone in my craziness.

~Anne

Krysten Malone said...

Hello, Lee. I am a student in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I have been a preschool teacher four 4 years now. At one place I taught, anything "extra" that I wanted to do with my children had to come out of my pocket. I thought this was really strange, but then I realized that that is how it is in most places. Others have asked me if this has changed my wanting to teach. Of course the answer is 'no'! Although it isn't fun to fork out our own money, it is worth it to me to see a child enjoy class for the day or learn something new. Thanks for your post!

Krysten Malone
EDM 310

Margie said...

I don't think that most people have the slightest clue what we teachers give for our classrooms, or the challenges we face getting supplies. I started at a school in TX and was told to send a list to the office for supplies; when I did, I was told "we don't supply those" --and that was pencils and other basic stuff! At my current school, the principal bought iPads for several teachers, expected me to set up their training, but when I asked if I was getting an iPad, I was told I could borrow the principal's to learn how to use one. Since most of my exploration is done at home, I just bought one of my own. I learned to keep receipts a long time ago!

cara said...

I have spent many dollars on classroom supplies. I am currently staying home with my little ones, but have hundreds of teaching supplies in my basement. When I started teaching, I felt that I needed to purchase so many items.