It’s Not about the Money… except when it is…

We are teachers; we don’t expect to get rich. When someone decides to go into education, that person knows that a wealthy lifestyle is just not a possibility. We want to make enough to live and pay our bills, but we know we won’t be making any “big bucks” unless we go into administration. In the research I’ve been doing for my dissertation, I’ve been researching teacher job satisfaction – and money is rarely mentioned. Not only is it not an issue, but teachers spend much of their own money on their jobs every year. According to a 2003 National Education Association research study, the average teacher spends at least $433 annually on classroom essentials and about eight percent spend approximately $1,000 every year… and that was 2003 – we can assume that amount has increased in the past 12 years.

This is my 20th year in the classroom… I can’t even imagine how much of my own money I have spent on classroom furniture, materials, supplies, and my own continuing education – many thousands of dollars – I’m just glad that my husband hasn’t been keeping a running total. But what he doesn’t understand is that I’m not unusual. When we need something for our classrooms or our students, we don’t have a supply closet at school full of stuff… we go to Wal-Mart or Staples or Target or OfficeMax… and buy it ourselves. Then when a teacher down the hall says, “Ahhh – I need more Post-it Notes for an activity for this afternoon, and I ran out!” What do we do?  We all hit our desks and give our colleague what we have because we know what it’s like to plan a lesson activity and then run out of supplies.

At this time of year there are many sales on school supplies – you think that is for the parents?  Nope. It’s for us teachers. A parent may buy school supplies for a few children… which usually stops sometime in high school… but teachers buy supplies for 30 – 150 children. Here is a list of the things my students expect me to have for them when they ask: tissues, pencils, pens, loose-leaf paper, binders, folders, lead for pencils (.05, .07, .09), erasers, paper clips, scotch tape, duct tape, band aids, safety pins, lotion, hand sanitizer, and a female student actually asked me if I had any personal hygiene products for her one year. I have had my desk raided by a substitute teacher when students wanted things.

I will be heading to the fabric store soon to get material to cover my bulletin boards in my new classroom… I left the fabric on the boards in my old classroom to help the teacher who moves in there… It’s just what we do. We are the most generous people with our time, money, resources, energy, and heart… I appreciate my fellow teachers, and I show them as often as I can. During Teacher Appreciation Week, guess who does the most appreciating… we do!  We appreciate each other!

So, if you are a teacher… thank you.  Thank you for what you do every day in your classroom… I wish I could buy supplies to start out your school year – at least a pack of Expo Markers… but maybe some thoughtful parent will send your student in with one on the first day of school.

If you are a parent… when you are buying school supplies for your child, maybe add an extra box of pencils, pens, paper, tissues, or chocolate for your child’s teacher. What a great way to start a wonderful relationship!

If you are neither… you can help too!  Ask a teacher… “How can I help you? What do you need?” After you pick him/her up off of the floor, I’m sure you will get a list. Choose something from the list, get it, and then deliver it to the school. Without a doubt that item will be used to help a student.

It’s back to school time… teachers are already working in classrooms, attending training, preparing lessons, pre-reading texts, and doing their own “back to school” shopping… Oh, and many will not be paid until the end of the month – remember we are ten-month employees.

It’s really not about the money – we do this because we love our jobs, and we love our students, but a little help is always nice!