Sunday, March 20, 2016

Teachers: "If it's Free, it's For Me!"

Teachers in Hernando County, Florida look giddy as they shop for free classroom supplies at Tools 4 Schools, an initiative by the Hernando County Education Foundation on the site of Springstead High School.

The article in the Tampa Bay Times and written by Dan DeWitt asks an important question, "Why do teachers need free supplies when the school provides $250 per year to supply their classrooms?"

And schools send out lengthy school supply lists to families at the beginning of every school year.

And stores like Target and Walmart and Staples have school supply donation bins.

And . . . well, you get the point.

Teachers never want their students, their kids, to go without. That $250 per year budget only goes so far. Used to order supplies from the district warehouse via a catalog is like buying your groceries from a dollar store when you really would rather buy them from Wegman's or Publix.

Is it because teachers have champagne taste and beer pockets? Shouldn't they learn to live within their means?

You know you need to build a classroom library full of a variety of reading choices on different levels for your classroom, but the only way to do that is to use the free "book" that comes in a happy meal.

You need to give the kids a chance to create posters about their favorite endangered species, but the only supplies available through the warehouse is yellow, orange, and black poster paint and newsprint. Where does all that newsprint come from??

You need to print student work on demand in your classroom, so you buy your own printer, but have to use the other side of already used paper to publish your student's creations.

It's not as if teachers need supplies like a 3D printer, although MakerBot is making it harder and harder not to believe we need this in our classrooms. For the new teachers I prepare at Mount Saint Mary College, their dream gift is a personal laminating machine. True story!

Teachers spend money out of their own pockets to supplement their classrooms, much to the dismay of their significant others and accountants (who I am kidding, teachers can't afford accountants!). Although it's wonderful that Hernando County Education Foundation is trying to fill in some of the gaps, and it's great that Scholastic offers teachers' wish lists for their classroom libraries during the annual book fair, and it's fabulous that teachers can write grants from organizations like HP and NASA to get some incredible technology. And it's more than admirable that teachers donate to their own classrooms out of their own meager salaries and that parents through the PTO/PTA raise money to fill in more gaps. The filling of these gaps is like filling pot holes on our well traveled roads. They are only temporary, use cheap materials, and have to be filled again the very next year.

I just wish they didn't have to. I wish that as a country we truly valued education enough to put our money where our mouth is - and pave the roads our children travel with quality materials that last a lifetime.