Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Money! (or Lack Thereof)
This entry is dedicated to Warren, who--upon hearing that the fancy pull-down maps in the classrooms dated from the late 1940s or early 1950s ("Teacher, why they put Germany on here twice? What country is Ussr?")--said - quite earnestly, "But the school will buy you new maps, right?" Anyone who doesn't understand why I find that so funny has not spent time in the California public school system. I can still make myself laugh thinking about that statement. (I bought the map shown in the picture, by the way)
People always talk about how little teachers get paid, but that's not the real problem. We don't get paid what I think we're worth, but I'd take it. However, I don't know anyone (unless they're self-employed) who spends more money on their profession than teachers.
At the beginning of the year each year I spend hundreds of dollars on supplies. The school provides the basics (or at least limited numbers of them) but if I think the children might use more than 4 pencils and one box of crayons over the year, it's up to me to get them. I usually buy crayons, watercolors, markers, colored pencils, notebooks, erasers, rulers, folders, scissors, and glue for all the kids. Then I have to buy electric pencil sharpeners, because the one mounted in our room doesn't work. (The electric ones don't work any more, so I have to go buy more, which I can't really afford right now). We got a globe for the first time this year but I had bought my own a few years ago. Many of the books that I use to make homework are mine, as are the posters, stickers, paper towels and cleaning spray. Oh, and the printer. And the stool that I use to sit on at the front of the classroom. And 90% of the literature in the classroom outside of textbooks. And all the videos and games.
Now, keep in mind that I have had more things donated than anyone else in the school, so I actually got lucky. I didn't have to buy the fans (the room gets to be about 95 degrees in the spring), the computers, the laminator, the plants, or the reading chairs, because they were all donated by people. Through DonorsChoose I have obtained an abacus for each kid, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, class pets, flashcards (I've bought a TON of those), timers, and spelling dictionaries.
I don't want to sound ungrateful. The school is getting better under this principal about providing supplies. People have been very generous to me over the years in helping me buy stuff. But at times it just feels like too much. I just bought a small pencil sharpener for each kid (they're not expensive, but it adds up!), and am going to have to buy an electric pencil sharpener, the plastic things to use in the laminator, soap, replacement scissors, glue, and dry erase pens, and books for literature circles in the near future.
Then there's the problem of food. Many of the kids do not eat breakfast - in some cases their parents don't have money for food, in some cases it's neglect, in some it's that the parent is so overwhelmed that they can't possibly get everything together in the morning, or even get the child here for the (usually really unhealthy) school breakfast. Occasionally I get some that haven't eaten dinner the night before either. I've been teaching them to use their words and tell me what's wrong instead of just acting out. When they manage to, half the time it's just that they're hungry. A lot of the time, a granola bar makes the difference. But then the other kids see it and they want some too, and... well, I can't afford to feed breakfast to 20 kids. My former students come back too - and I know which ones have been faring for themselves and probably haven't eaten since dinner the night before or even since the previous day's school lunch.