I currently work as a substitute teacher, started in the 2009-2010 school year so this fall will be the beginning of my 4th year subbing. I'm also a grad student, I'm getting my Master's in elementary education plus certification in math and science. I plan to be a middle school math and/or science teacher. Something that has been bugging me for a long time is that I see so many teachers at the schools I sub at buy SO MUCH STUFF for their classrooms, and I read about this on proteacher as well. Why do you all do this? What happens if you don't, would you get in trouble?
My husband is a teacher, a special ed teacher for children with severe emotional disturbance or severe behavioral disturbance. Last year he decided he wasn't going to spend any more of our money on his classroom. Not a dime. Not even for pencils. BUT he already had so many supplies and things from the many years prior that he did buy stuff for his classroom. So I wonder, what would it be like for a new teacher like myself coming into a brand new classroom with nothing?
I was shocked reading a thread about kindergarten and first grade teachers buying the rugs for their classroom. Um, what?? I had no idea schools expected/forced teachers to buy something like that. If you didn't buy it, would the school really let the little ones sit on the floor??
Personally I think all teachers should go on strike from buying things for their classrooms...teachers are already grossly underpaid and should not have to buy the things that make their jobs possible. If we stop subsidizing the classroom out of our own pockets, wouldn't that eventually force a change?
Am I naive for thinking I can get away with buying nothing for my classroom(s)? Middle school teachers, what kind of things do you feel you HAVE to buy?
I love cute...I can't help it, BUT I also am the only breadwinner in my family (single mom), so I won't compromise my family for something in my classroom. I always look for deals, make it, or do without.
I figure I spend 9 months of every year in my classroom and it encompasses most of my open-eyed time.
WHile reading your post, what stood out to me the most was that I got the impression that you believe we HAVE to buy things. We don't. And no, I don't think we would get punished (although I wouldn't be surprised in some schools). The reason we buy it is so that we do have it to use. Are we underpaid? Yes, definitely. Do the kids still need supplies? Of course. I would rather spend my money to help a student feel less embarrassed about his parents not having money, then tell him that I'm not spending my money on him. At the end of the day I have to feel good about my choices. I teach my students responsibility, but I also teach them compassion.
When I was a first year teacher, I couldn't afford to buy many supplies, and I saw how difficult some days were. The school did supply many manipulatives, but all the extra supplies I needed for those creative lessons were going to come from me. And these helped my students understand, so I didn't feel as if my money was being wasted.
So don't feel like you HAVE to buy supplies. And to answer your question, yes the students would have to sit on the floor if the teachers didn't buy those rugs. But those rugs will last longer than one year. So it's an investment, and it makes your classroom feel like home.
My school DID let my kids sit on the floor. It was nasty cold tile and my kids HATED "carpet" (floor) time. I ended up doing a Donors Choose project for a carpet.
I buy things for my classroom because it makes my life easier. If I have to spend 8 hours a day in my classroom 5 days a week, I want it to look nice and be comfortable. I also buy pencils and paper and craft supplies because it allows me to do my job.
I don't think you are naive at all. k-6 teachers teachers tend to purchase more that upper grade for a variety of reasons. We do teach all subjects in a self contained room so that does make a difference. However rugs and other things to build the "cuteness" factor" add up. I am not sure why k-6 teachers run that rat race but this is the reason I purchase some things: I am in that room for a long period of time and I want to be a place that looks nice. I am amazed though at what k-6 teachers spend time and money on at times.
Things I won't buy: paper,pencils,erasers,playground equipment
I'm very lucky that my school purchases most supplies. The things I do buy are "extras" to enhance the curriculum- certain books, posters, etc. I get reimbursed for $75-$100 of that. Do I have to buy it? No. I do because I want it.
We aren't required to buy things (in my district)...what I purchase is what I want/need or that the students need. I work in an 80+% low income school and several students come to school with no supplies. I buy plenty of supplies during the sales because those that do bring supplies cannot replenish them throughout the year. Also - I spent $50 out of my own pocket for a sturdy pencil sharpener that was the best 50 bucks I ever spent! The headaches I eliminated was totally worth it! 29 students with broken pencils and a cra**y sharpener that only EATS pencils made me crazy!! My peace of mind was well worth it.
With that said - I don't mindlessly buy because something has bells and whistles. I haunt the goodwill and clearance aisles and decide if the purchase will REALLY make a difference in my teaching. I shopped around for the pencil sharpener for the best deal.
My classroom is, for some students, their only "safe" place and I do what I can to keep it that way - even if I have to buy it.
The comments about working in low-income schools are interesting. Believe me I know what you mean...I sub in an inner city low-income school district. I used to feel sorry for the kids and did actually buy a pack or 2 of pencils to disperse my first few months of subbing. BUT - here's the thing - after a while I started noticing that at the end of the day, those same pencils would be on the floor. I also started noticing that the same kids complaining that their folks didn't have money for school supplies also had brand name gear (clothes, shoes, hats, etc.) on, and many had expensive electronics like iphones, ipods, etc. Sure, maybe some if not all were probably boosted but even still at half-price street price those things cost a lot more than school supplies.
I found it strange that their folks could come up with over $100 for shoes but refuse to spend less than $5-10 on school supplies. Now I mostly sub for middle school because that is what I want to teach in, if I taught little ones I might be more inclined to come out of my own pocket for them, but with the big kids...um no way. I'm not going to buy supplies for you and you just throw them on the floor, or have your folks take advantage of my kindness because they can't be bothered to go buy you school supplies. I'm talking basic stuff here, like pencils and notebook paper. Most of the schools I teach at (the entire district is Title 1) actually supply loose-leaf paper, some also notebooks, so all the upper school kids really need is pencils...A 12-pack of pencils at walmart or any of the stores around here during a sale is less than 30 cents. So I don't think it is unreasonable to expect parents to buy them for their kids.
My husband and some of the other teachers at his school just pick up the pencils on the floors of their classrooms and lining the hallways at the end of the day and keep them in a bucket on their desks. The kids are free to use these. I'll probably do that too .
I liken it to mechanics and doctors and technicians buying their own tools or office workers buying plants and nicer furniture. The tools allow the technician or doctor to do his/her job, just like resource books & manipulatives help me do mine. The plants and furniture make the 8+ hour day feel nicer, just like curtains & matching bulletin boards make my room feel nicer.
I could probably talk the school into buying some of my tools (but not all - not things like rugs and library shelves), but then they'd belong to the school. I want to be able to take my tools - that I've learned how to use well - with me and not start all over again.
I'll buy a few dollars worth of pencils & rulers & things at back to school sales where they are a penny each, but I no longer pay for most consumables myself, and those are "emergency" supplies. I've never taught in a Title I school, but I agree that it is reasonable to expect kids to supply their own pens and pencils. I'd even say buying their own paper is reasonable. It's ten to twenty cents a pack at the start of the year. They need to learn to stock up!
The answer for me is simple... we (the students and I) go without and make do.
I do not buy basic supplies for students out of my own money. I do help organize a local charity program that collects backpacks and basic school supplies for needy children on my campus.
From my very meager Office Depot budget, I purchase copy paper. I need a lot of copy paper because I am required to implement certain programs but am not given the resources to make it happen. I buy legal size paper for certain lessons because I can make it stretch for two or three activities instead of giving out a fresh paper every time.
With what is left over, I buy pencils and give them out very sparingly.
Some of my colleagues like buying posters, art supplies, plastic pencil sharpeners for every child, etc. That is their affair. They almost always show up at my door begging to borrow copy paper because their budget is gone or have to pay out of pocket.
From my own money, I like to buy decor items, organizational items, and luxury perks. For example, I bought an inexpensive microwave, took over my husbands minifridge he used on a job site, and used some Kohl's coupon magic to get a Keurig for $90. I NEVER have to leave my room except for recess duty and the restroom. My MIL bought me a Keurig cup carousel to display all of my coffee and keep the area neat and I love it. I enjoy having teachers visit me for a cup of coffee before school on occasion.
I hear what you are saying. I teach in a low income school and, as far as school supplies, I don't buy those. The kids or the school provide them. If I need things for a project, I ask the school to get them. If I can't get them through the school, I don't do the project. The exception being science supplies. I'll buy those with my own money and they'll follow me when I leave. I do buy things to make my room cute. Like others, I spend a good amount of time there, I want to like what it looks like. I don't spend much anymore. But when it comes time to move schools, I'll probably spend some the first year.
Money is tight for me right now because we are in our second year of having no contract, and the state imposed legislation to increase our pension payments and premium sharing for health insurance. When I first started, I spent a lot of money on my classroom library, idea books, books for my teaching,classroom decor, etc. I have taken a hard look at where my money is going, and who appreciates it and what's really necessary. I can get a lot of great classroom ideas from the internet free, and I use a lot of books from the public library if I can get them rather than purchase them. After I had an administrator "suggest" that I rotate my classroom library book crates because I have such a large library, I also looked at spending in that area. We have new fire regulations that severely cut back on how and where we can hang things, so our classrooms and halls will look pretty sterile next year compared to what they've been. I don't think teachers would "get in trouble" for not spending, but the budgets are so small, and we want our classrooms to have a homey, cozy atmosphere that stimulates and promotes learning. With limited budgets, furniture, rugs, teaching and art supplies get cut, so if we see a "bargain" or something that fits our theme, we tend to snap it up. Yes, the district should be providing more, but the reality is that it doesn't. We also are forced to order from a catalog like School Specialty which has bloated prices. The school realizes a discount, but it isn't passed on to the individual classroom teacher. When I see Crayola markers or colored pencils for example priced cheaply at Target in July or August, or penny sales at Staples, I stock up for the year. I shouldn't have to, but I find myself doing it. It's a fine line. The middle school teachers in our district have much less colorful classrooms. They don't spend their day with one class, and the focus is on their particular subject.
Every year I struggle with how much to buy and what to buy out of my own pocket. We have a small supply budget that covers things like pencils and copy paper. I try to spend my money on things that will last -- mostly books, but also shelves and organizational stuff like book bins. I do not buy one time things like craft supplies. If I don't have money in the budget for it, I ask parents for donations or we don't do it. Our school buys classroom carpets but they're not in nice shape. They certainly don't make the room look nicer but they do the job.
As a middle school teacher I buy what I consider comfort items. Those are things that make my life easier or nicer to look at. The school is good about getting my must have items.
After 20 years, I don't buy as much as I did when I was getting established.
Don't buy things other people say you need. Buy only what you know you have to havr--which is very basic. Then get other things ss the need arises. Otherwise you'll have too much stuff and not things you really need.
I think teachers spending their own money on classroom items is a perpetual problem. We like our classrooms to be bright and colorful, warm and inviting. With budget cuts I think it's getting even worse. That being said, I rarely spend much of my OWN money. At the beginning of the year I get $150 from our PTA. That usually covers what I've bought to start the year. We also get to keep half of the Box Top money my class raises. I've gotten around $200 from that some years. I think $350 is more than enough to spend in a year on decorations for my room.
I am fortunate though. The school I teach at doesn't have kids who don't come with school supplies. If I put a wish list on my website, I usually get most of what I ask for. Our pencil sharpener broke last year, so I e-mailed my parents asking for a new one and I got 2.
I think for most of us, spending our own money is a choice. I would never buy a $300 rug with my own money, but I did buy one for $19 last year from Costco.
on what I spend, but I still spend money on my class. It doesn't go for "cute" stuff to match a "theme," though I have no problem with folks who do that. I buy stuff that makes it easier for me and my students to do out jobs. In my 94% free lunch school, many of my kids lack basic necessities, although their parents always seem to find money for smokes & tatoos. Anyway, if I want them to have something for class I pretty much have to supply it. For instance, the easiest way for me to keep track of their papers is to have everything in their binder, which is kept in a crate. The binders need to be plain 1 inch ones, because the bigger ones, or those with zippers and what not don't fit in the crates. Invariably, if there are 3 kids who bring their own binders, at least 1 will be a binder that doesn't fit, which means the kids is disappointed (because that's the binder she REALLY REALLY wanted!) and the parent is annoyed because they spent money trying to do the right thing and it didn't work out. Could I alter the way we keep track of their work in class so I don't have to buy binders? Sure, but I've done this a long time, and this works best for me. In a perfect world, the school or PTA or school supply fairies would take care of these kinds of things, but in reality it's up to me. The district supplies my curriculum, but that's it. Our PTA is tiny (but dedicated!) and struggles to raise funds that are dedicated to rewards for the students, so there's no help from that quarter. That said, my kids earn tickets in my class for doing their jobs, and they have to pay me in tickets for any of my supplies they need.
You are right we don't have too but at the same time you are going to need things to make your job more efficient and easier for you! But it does stink. I already spent over $50. I know what you mean and still need a few more things. At least we get back $250 on our tax return!?
Many teachers I know that don't buy anything for their classrooms have sterile-looking environments. Teaching is my life. I love it. When I go to work every day I don't want to look at plain boring-ness. I do buy for the kids but I also buy for me. A few years ago I was moved in to a portable with peeling wood paneled walls. I spent about $100 on paint and did the whole thing. I even painted the ceiling which was just thrown up plywood. I would've been so depressed if I had to go in a brown room all day long.
One of my dd's teachers let us know at the beginning of th eyear that it is her first year and she just bought a car and moved in into an apt - she made a wish list and asked for donations. I think we moms came through for her.
She asked for an xmas tree and lights (we got her a tree (used) and lights and decorations in her college colors
bulletin board stuff
that ticky tack wall sticky stuff
and so on - I believe she got everything ashe asked for. some used some new. she can edit how she wants and replace w/ new as she goes along. Itw as a good start.
When I taught elementary, I spent way too much but it was my choice.
Middle school teachers, what kind of things do you feel you HAVE to buy?
In middle school, I don't have to. However, I've purchased posters and a good pencil sharpener. I buy pens for me to use, because I like a certain brand. I've purchased construction paper for some projects, so students didn't need to buy poster board.
This coming year, I will buy and sell pencils (not for profit). I will also get a few extra notebooks and things that students' parents should supply, but I will sell them, not give them away. Middle school kids generally have cash, as evidenced by the amount of candy they buy and bring to school. I'm done providing pencils and supplies for free. I need my income to provide a living!
Each teacher at our building is given $100 to buy classroom supplies...and pretty much anything goes. It could be posters, bulletin board items, pens, staplers, etc. I even got 2 MP3 players one year, justifying that I was using them as part of my listening center. I suppose if there was a truly off-the-wall request it might be denied. Additionally, our very generous PTO gives each teacher $100 at the beginning of the school year. We are given a personal check and do not have to account in any way for how it's spent. We almost always have an abundance of donated supplies, maybe not the colored pencils or 3 ring binders, but the basics like paper, pencils, crayons, and glue. We also seem to have backpacks for those who need them. I've requested only 2 in the 15 years I've taught. The demographics of our school have changed significantly in those 15 years, but the majority of the families still try their best to supply the majority of the most needed supplies. Getting them to re-supply mid-year is often a struggle, so I do usually spend $5-10 on glue, crayons, etc when they're on sale in August. I've spent a lot of money on my classroom over the years, more when I was starting out than I do now, but it's often on things that are mine and will go with me should I ever leave...books, posters, decor-type items, rug, curtains, etc. I don't consider those necessities, but I sure do enjoy them.