Skip to main content

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.


Jessamyn Harris said…
I hope you are writing off all of those expenses for tax purposes...
Bronwyn said…
Of course! But it doesn't help a whole lot...

Popular posts from this blog

Why Teachers are Afraid to Go Back

  Opening schools to in-person learning is an extremely emotionally charged topic right now for parents and teachers both, and for good reason. With almost half a million Americans dead of COVID and worries about mental health crises from isolation very serious, there seem to be no good answers. In fact, one of my students recently told me that “there are no good options. There are only less worse options.” If the science says it’s safe and the district has a plan, which where I live has been approved by our very conservative Alameda County Public Health Department, then why aren’t all teachers excited about going back?  As a former classroom teacher, I want to explain this. Hint: It’s not about the science. The first thing you learn as a teacher is that you won’t make enough money. We joke about needing a rich spouse or family money but it’s not actually funny, because it’s so often true, especially for beginning teachers. The reason I am no longer in the classroom is becaus

COVID in prison

 I have been a bit MIA because I broke my ankle on Thanksgiving (hiked back out two miles on a broken ankle!) and had surgery. So I forgot to worry that I hadn't heard from Jorge, my former student and co-author in prison, in a while. Turns out that I was right to worry, as he contracted COVID although seems to have made a full recovery. I got a letter from him today that he said I could share parts of. I'd like to highlight the very last paragraph. This young man was suffering from COVID, totally cut off from all his loved ones, scared and in prison, and he remembered to ask after my family and worry if we are feeling lonely. He is a remarkable person. ------------- Sorry for the late reply, there's been so much that's been going on since I got to this prison.... As you know, before quarantining when I got to this place for two weeks, I did it at SATF for two weeks also. So in total I quarantined for a month and my tests came back negative. After the two weeks here I g