Home Author Sue Culverhouse Why Teachers Spend So Much On Their Students

Sue Culverhouse

Why Teachers Spend So Much On Their Students

It happens every year even though I have no intention of letting it go on. Other teachers and I spend hundreds of dollars on needs for our students.

Let’s just look at why this happens.

As you know, school started early in August. As of this writing, the county budget where I live has not been passed. This is no accident. I recently read the schedule for budget hearings and the initial schedule planned for the budget to be passed about August 16. That would, of course, have been a couple of weeks into school.

News bulletin: children need supplies the first day of school.

Ah, yes, you think, but they have a list of items they take to class on the first day. That is true, but it works for regular classrooms, not related arts classes.

I serve every child in school from kindergarten through first grade—as does the librarian, the computer teacher, the P.E. teacher and the guidance teacher. These children require tissues, hand sanitizer, pencils, crayons, markers, and numerous other items to use in our rooms too.

Fortunately for me, a fourth grade teacher gave me some boxes of tissues and several bottles of hand sanitizer from the closet where those items are kept in her room.

Members of my family have always been extremely generous with buying crayons, folders, etc. when they are run on sale at various stores. I also buy as many of these supplies as I can while they are marked down.

Sadly, the $100 for school supplies is rarely available for those items while they are on sale because the money is never forthcoming until after the budget is passed. By then, store owners figure that your classroom is already filled with items necessary for day to day use. The $100 we could have spread out for scores of items at sale prices of ten or fifteen or twenty-five cents each now have to buy these same items at $2.99 or more.

Are you getting the picture?

Last week my pencil sharpener broke. The walls of the trailer in which I teach are too flimsy to hold a regular pencil sharpener, so I have to have an electric one. Imagine how many times it is used by between 400 and 500 students each week. Consequently, pencils sharpeners don’t last too long.

I was told by our bookkeeper that the school did not yet have funds to buy an electric pencil sharpener. It is not an item that is extraneous in my room because I teach writing classes also. Therefore, when I went to Sam’s Club on Saturday, $17 of my personal budget went for an electric pencil sharpener. I won’t be reimbursed for this item either. Every item bought with county money has to go on a purchase order and be approved prior to its being bought.

So far this year, I’ve bought crayons, markers, colored pencils, a few boxes of tissues, folders, notebooks, hundreds of pencils and the fantastic electric pencil sharpener. That doesn’t sound like a lot but it adds up. I’m not an exception. If you ask any teacher, you’ll find out that many purchases throughout the year come right out of the teacher’s pocket.

I know teachers who pay for snacks for kids, fund field trip money for kids, buy all kinds of items because their students need them.

Not every child enters the classroom on the first day of school. Many kids move around not one, but several times during a school year. Many times it is because their parents are struggling financially just to survive. Some times military families are transferred; children have no control over where they live or how often they move.

Regardless, children who enter at the middle of a school year are not required to bring in the list of supplies required at the beginning of school, but they need these items anyway.

Teachers know children who may have clothing needs and are even having little or no food when they get home at night. The Angel Tree in our school has heavy participation from teachers who want these kids to have a visit from Santa. They stretch their budgets to meet the needs of those who need a little help from a friend.

At our school we are fortunate because some church groups donate supplies as do some local businesses. These items help tremendously and we are grateful for any help we receive.

Sadly, this year as teachers are being told that they shouldn’t expect a grade higher than a “3” out of “5” on their evaluations, teacher morale is at an all-time low. (This is not from the principal but from the new evaluation system created through political input outside the schools.) When you dedicate your life—and a portion of your earnings—to the children in your care, you don’t need to hear that you are just mediocre. You know that you are giving your all and that you don’t need to be kicked down because some person with an ax to grind against teachers has made your life more difficult.

Every day I hear teachers who wonder aloud if they should just quit and go to work at a job where they can walk out at the end of the day and leave their work behind. They don’t leave, but they do consider whether or not they are being fair to themselves and their families to continue to serve the public.

Why do teachers keep teaching? There’s only one reason that makes any sense. Teachers love their children and are trying to give them an opportunity to succeed in life. They know that on any day, they are some child’s best hope.

Why do teachers keep spending money on their students? At some point in time, it appears that teachers still have a heart that cares.

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