What teachers spend

I went to my local teacher supply store this morning and spent $167.50 on supplies for the new year.  The receipt is about two feet long.  Since my husband has been making choking noises about the credit card bills lately, with no paychecks coming in from me, I am not looking forward to giving this one to him.

However, $167.50 is actually about what I spend each year at the beginning of the year.  And it is nothing compared to what I spent my first two years of teaching.

When I got my first official teaching job in a public school, I was shown a dark, dank room with one window (but covered in some sort of security plastic that was completely opaque) and two dead mice on the floor.  I had tables and chairs, a desk, and some pattern blocks.  That’s it.  I asked the curriculum director about curriculum — stupid me.  She looked at me like I was a cretin and said there was no curriculum.

So here I was, about to start teaching kindergarten for the first time, and I had NOTHING.  I’m guessing I spent $1,500 of our newlywed funds just to get going.  I had to buy teacher books and curriculum materials and puzzles and games and manipulatives and art supplies….and everything.

Later I found out that the district provided $8,000 for each new kindergarten class that was opened, and as mine was new to the building, it qualified.  Of course I never saw a penny of that money.  At the time I wondered if the principal had actually STOLEN it, but in retrospect I’m sure he swiped it to use to pay for other things the school needed.  Like the mentally ill assistant teacher assigned to my classroom.

The next year I probably only spent a thousand, and then it started going way down.  So now it’s $167.50 at the beginning of the year, and…another $75-$125 during the course of the year.

I even have to buy my own copy paper and construction paper.  (I did get free construction paper at my first school.  Whoo hoo!)

I wonder how many people out there who think that teachers are overpaid actually have to buy their own office supplies for work?  Plus enough supplies for twenty other people in their office?

Whenever people ask me about holiday gifts for teachers, I always tell them to forget the tchotchkes and pool their money with other parents to buy a generous gift certificate to Target or Barnes and Noble or the local grocery store or the local teacher store, so that the teacher doesn’t have to spend quite so much of her own money.


13 thoughts on “What teachers spend

  1. Never fear. I spent over $1,000 this summer on my new class. I bought some items I really wanted and have wanted for a while. I just let myself do it for a change. We all do it.

  2. I am in year #2 and you are spot-on about spending. I spent AT LEAST $700-$900 my first year and I’m at about $400 so far for year #2. To top it off I left a higher paying job to become a teacher where office supplies were purchased with abandon. My school does a great job providing us with the essentials… but we all know there’s a lot of “stuff” that goes along with teaching primary.

  3. It’s a shame isn’t it? Teachers are expected to teach with sub-standard supplies. It happens in the preschool classroom as well.

    I was expected to perform at top notch without incentives.

    Yes, teachers need to have funds for supplies and they should get it.

  4. I’ll be starting my 1st year of teaching, and my husband’s response while at dinner with some friends (a fellow teacher & her husband who shares a career with my husband) was to ask, “if the parents don’t care enough about their kids to give you what you need, why should you care?” After glares from my friend and I, he was silent. I’m not looking forward to supply shopping receipt discussions.

  5. Mystery Teacher — wow, that’s a lot of money. What did you buy?

    Splatypus and Theresa, yep, we need lots of stuff to teach the little ones. Shaving cream, ziploc bags, playdough, starch, potting soil, tinfoil, you name it.

    Karebear, wow. Maybe you could tell him it’s not stuff that the parents are supposed to buy (like crayons and markers). The parents are doing their job. The districts and schools aren’t giving teachers what they need, and whose fault that is, you can decide. (Taxpayers? The governor? The president? Republicans in general?!) In order to teach you need curriculum materials, and what you get from your district isn’t going to be enough. You need all kinds of bins and baskets and drawers and organizers. You need pocket charts, masking tape, binder rings, stamp pads, dry erase markers, permanent markers, sentence strips, borders, posters, etc. You need games and puzzles and blocks and legos and dress-up clothes and toy food for the house corner. You need art supplies — watercolor paint, tempera paint, brushes, an easel, fingerpaints, thick glossy paper, thin newsprint paper, tissue paper, stickers, hole punches, popsicle sticks, playdough, cookie cutters and pipe cleaners.

    And sorry to anyone who thought otherwise, but schools don’t buy that stuff for teachers. They buy it themselves.

  6. kiri – can I give you his phone number? Just kidding. I know all of this, but he comes from a Fortune 500 company where if you need something you ask your boss, and they purchase it for you. No matter what you need it will be provided. He is (or was) one of the people mentioned in the post who thought teachers should stop complaining about being underpaid. He’s learning quickly the error of his ways =).

  7. The unfortunate flipside is that their are families who cannot afford supplies for their children.

    I live in a fairly poor community and we have uniforms at our school. Some families cannot afford the uniforms. What do we do for them?

  8. My husband calls my preschool teaching employment glorified volunteering. He dislikes the amount of money I spend on my classroom. My small school is pretty good about reimbursing me, if I submit receipts (and the cost is reasonable), but there are limits to what monies are available. There are things that I want to use/need to use that are not in the school budget. So, I buy them. And the thing is, if I should ever leave this job, I will probably leave the supplies there. I spend a lot of money, but I don’t really keep track of it. I probably should. **sigh** I just don’t want to think about it. I’m thankful for the school I teach at, because even though are budget is small, most of the necessary day to day supplies are there. I can’t even imagine what some of you have gone through to get a classroom up and running.

  9. Oh, and I forgot to add my two cents about teacher gifts.

    I adore gifts that are given to me, but I don’t have any use for decorative things. Gift certificates are welcomed as are classroom supplies. That just makes my day. I especially love it when a child and their family donate a toy that is a favorite of their child so our students get to discover that toy too. I always remember those children when I pull out that toy.

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  11. Yeah, I’ll definitely do a post on teacher gifts as we get closer to the holiday season.

    It’s a bummer that your job can be called “glorified volunteering.” You should be paid four times what you’re getting.

    Teresa, you’re right that buying school supplies can be really hard for some families. Schools in my district often have partnerships with churches and businesses and other volunteer organizations that donate backpacks and school supplies. I like to collect five bucks from each family — which is less than they would spend on school supplies — and then order markers and crayons in bulk.

  12. I’m also a primary teacher and I hear ya on the school supply shopping. As a K-5 teacher, I have a $25/year classroom supply budget & that includes staples, tape, paperclips, etc. So, as you can tell, its all gotta be out of pocket. I’m in my 3rd year, but I wonder why there hasn’t been some sort of reform started for 1st year teachers. Most do not even get a paycheck until mid Sept. and being 1st years, they have to go so far in debt if they are starting with nothing. They might have had a job over the summer, but most of July ends up being used for time in the classroom to set up, especially if they’ve never had a classroom before. So, summer paychecks might not hold them through until Sept. I think this is a HUGE draw-back for new teachers and a discouragement as well. No wonder so many bright & intelligent & wonderful ‘teachers’ have chosen other paths in life.

    Excellent post!

  13. Our state started giving us $250 to spend and gives the money up front. We have to turn in all our receipts at a certain date or pay the money back. It isn’t much but at least it helps.

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