- Students: The Original American Revolutionaries - February 21, 2018
- The Case of the Shrinking Education Department - November 12, 2017
- We Must Teach the Worst of our History; Not Glorify It - August 14, 2017
- Transgender Student Rights are Human Rights - February 23, 2017
- Why "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" Still Matters in 2017 - January 16, 2017
- No Right to an Education: Detroit Schools and the Secretary of Education Nominee - November 29, 2016
- I Think I Failed You - A Civics Teacher's Letter to her Former Students - November 16, 2016
- Transforming the 'Trump Effect' in Schools - October 27, 2016
- Implicit Bias: The Missed Post-Debate Discussion - October 4, 2016
- 15 Years after 9/11: Days of Infamy & Memory as History - September 12, 2016
This week begins the 4th Annual RedditGifts for the Teachers. While the website reddit.com is often in the news for its more controversial communities, it is a vast discussion site that hosts thousands of independent conversations. One thing it is best known for are its organized gift exchanges in which tens of thousands of people around the world give each other gifts. One of those is the Gifts for Teachers drive that occurs this time each year. Teachers sign up and list a few things they could use for their classroom, and creditors (people who participate in the site) get matched with a teacher to whom they gift what was requested. At the beginning of the exchange this week, over 18,000 teachers from the United States had signed up to request a few items.
Quotes on the site from teachers:
"I teach a busy 3rd grade classroom with 24 students. Our supply budget this year has decreased to $25 for the year, leaving the majority of supplies out of our reach."
"Annually I get $0.91 per student for supplies...that is with my final 150 students....this doesn't account for the 50+students that can flow in and out of my classroom on a given year thanks to moving or course changes. This makes it difficult to keep up with resupplying basic costs for the classroom, let alone providing them interesting materials they actually want to work with - so important in engaging students."
Last year, generous donors gave over $600,000 to teachers in this gift drive. And yet that barely matches what teachers around the country pay out of their own pockets for their students.
Forbes reported in 2014 that teachers spend an average of $410 of their own dollars each year on their classrooms or for their students, many spending upwards of $1000 or more a year. In 2013, the National School Supply and Equipment Association did research and found that teachers spent $1.6 billion of their own money in that school year alone. And yet, this remains one of the lowest paying professions for people with post-graduate degrees and years of experience.
As the 2016 General Election year gets closer and close, we hear more and more politicians ranting about how much money is spent on education, and yet teachers and students are starting the year without the supplies they need. There are inequalities across the country because states spend such vastly different amounts supporting education accountability systems, but not necessarily the basic and creative needs of the students themselves. I have never read a news story about doctors having to set up exchanges to get the equipment they need. Or financiers setting up gift exchanges to help each other just do their basic jobs. And yet educators, equal professionals as those other career fields, open up their own wallets and spend their own meager incomes year after year.
I don't believe any profession should have to rely on the generosity of its own employees to provide the services it is supposed to provide, especially to children. But it is the current reality. I was one of those teachers. Every year I was in a traditional classroom, I spent my own money on notebooks and pencils and materials for my students. My goal was to make learning as engaging as possible, and that meant I had to support myself in that endeavor. I am still a teacher, but because I don't have a physical classroom, I also participate in the RedditGifts for Teachers every year. There is a teacher out there this year who could use my help. I wish he or she would get the salary they deserve and a generous supply allowance to build an engaging, creative classroom for their students. But until they do, I will pitch in too.
If you are paying out of your own pocket for your classroom this year or you are donating to a teacher who needs help, consider thinking about a bigger investment in the future as this election year approaches. Electing school boards, state legislators, and governors who value the education profession and understand what it gives to our society will go a long way towards teachers not having to pay out of their own pockets to do the jobs they love. Perhaps it's time our money goes to more than just pencils and paper, but also to actual transformational change for our classrooms.