Thursday, October 27, 2011

Teacher Spending

It's pretty common for teachers to spend their own money on their classrooms. So common that people don't see it as a problem.

It is a problem. What other job would ask you to buy supplies without getting reimbursed? Do nurses buy their patients medicines? Do bankers buy their own...crap, I don't even know what they use. Pens? (Every business needs pens).

I think you get my point. I usually fight hard against buying things for my classroom, because it's simply unfair. This year, for whatever reason, I've spent more than I planned already. Here's the damage so far:

*Online grading program: The school says they bought a membership, but it took so long to materialize that I bought a membership to Jupiter Grades for $49.95. This is an online grading system so students and parents can check their grades 24 hours a day.
*Snacks-these are for my class reward system (bonus bucks). One of the incentives is a snack, so I went to Big Lots and spent around $20 on pretzels, granola bars, fruit snacks, and bottles of water. (I refuse to buy candy. They get enough junk, so I try to buy things with some semblance of health to them.)
*Pencils-this is also something the kids can buy with bonus bucks. Rather than be SUPER annoyed by kids telling me they don't have a pencil and asking to borrow one, I "sell" them for two bonus bucks. For whatever reason, they've been selling like crazy this year. I've spent around $5 so far, which isn't a ton, but I know this is going to keep adding up throughout the year.
*Markers/Crayons-before school started I hit up Walmart and got colored pencils, markers, pencil boxes, erasers, sharpeners, and crayons for my classroom. It makes doing projects a lot easier and these are honestly just necessities for any classroom. I spent about $25 on these items.
*Halloween-this isn't required, but I bought my student's erasers and "scary" rings for Halloween. Again, I'm anti-candy, but I wanted to get them a little something. I usually get Halloween pencils, but with class sizes over 40, I went for the more economical erasers. I spent about $5 on this.

Total so far: $105. And it's October. :/

I'm definitely going to try to cut back, but I know it's not totally over. So, for all the parents who complain about buying back to school supplies, please know that the teachers get it. We buy school supplies too. I try to make my supply lists contain only what is necessary, but if I didn't have a pretty lengthy supply list, I'd spend even more of my own money than I already do.

Any other teachers wan to chime in with how much you spend? I have a feeling I'm on the lower end of the spectrum, actually.


  1. some years I have tallied it up and spent close to $1000. I have really really tried to limit it the past few years. This fall I bought (among other things) an electric pencil sharpener for about $35 at Staples which the students jammed a pen into and broke by week 3 of school.

  2. I work in corporate america and I provide my own pens, purchased my own 10-key calculator, brought in a three hole punch from home among many things. I did this because I wanted nicer things than than the company generally provided.

    It seems like the things you buy for the classroom are also "extras".

  3. Wow, I didn't know teachers bought such a lot of things. Do all parents know this? Hasn't anyone volunteered to get stuff?

    I work for a corporate too, but I have never ever had to buy my own pens or supplies. In fact if there is a particular brand of pen that I like, I just let the office manager know and she buys it (as long as it is reasonable)

  4. Have you ever used Donors Choose? When I was teaching, I always put up requests--and most of them got funded!

  5. I buy stuff for my classroom all the time. I got really jazzed the other day because 200 count boxes of tissues were selling for 10 for $10 at Safeway (my local grocery store). I am always spending money on tissues, plus all the other stuff you mentioned - pens and pencils, markers, glue, scissors, etc. Also, I buy a lot of videos for my classroom. I would say I spend somewhere in the range of $250-$500 per year.

    It really is a burden. I write these types of supplies off on my taxes, but still it definitely takes a chunk out of my monthly budget. I just feel guilty asking the kids to provide because I work at a Title I school and I know that many of the parents REALLY can't afford it.

    Also, there's a lot of incidentals that you're "expected" to spend money on, like fundraisers (candy, candles, pies...these are the popular things that clubs sell at my school) plus events (car washes, pancake breakfasts, etc.). Eventually I just have to start saying no to the kids when they ask me to buy's hard, but I end up shelling out a TON of money supporting their clubs and activities.

    All this on a paltry salary, compared to most other workers with master's degrees. Sigh. It's a good thing I love my job.

  6. One more thing:

    @Walnut - Yes, some things are extras but a LOT of stuff that teachers buy are very much necessities. I know some teachers who buy their own copy paper. I mean, you HAVE to have copies. And like Jessica mentioned, if you don't have pens and pencils available, a lot of kids will just sit there and do nothing. I'm not going to let the lack of a pen or pencil keep a kid from his or her education. I consider that to be a necessity.

  7. Great post - totally hear you on this one.
    A few years ago I started offering extra credit at the beginning of the year if kids would bring in tissues or copy paper: 5 points per tissue box, OR 15 points for a ream of paper - up to 15 points total. The kids seem to feel good about contributing if they can, and in the long run, 15 points out of the 2000 for the semester has basically no impact on their final grade. I definitely spend a couple hundred per year on my kids....but I enjoy spending money on them - if I feel like I actually have a choice. Tissues and paper seem like necessities to me - so it's nice to have those taken care of =) Like you, I gave up on the pen battle a while ago - so I do buy kid pens. But I buy cheap ones, and my TAs label them with tape that says "Ms. James" on them - so they stay in class longer that way =)

  8. "It's pretty common for teacher's to spend their own money on their classrooms."

    "Teachers" without the apostrophe. The apostrophe would indicate either possessive, and you don't own "to," or would indicate a contraction, and "for teacher is to" doesn't make sense.

  9. Teachers do spend alot of their own money and it will not change until a good number of teachers stop.

    The problem that goes unseen goes unsolved. As long teachers continue to pay for necessities or find a way to get the necessities without pressuring administration the cycle will continue.

  10. @Anon #1 - Since we're playing grammar police, '"Teachers" without the apostrophe' is not a complete sentence. If you meant to correct (which just makes you seem like jackass, btw) you should have said: "Teachers" should have been written without the apostrophe.

    Yes, I can be a jackass, too.

  11. I didn't notice my typo until right now...I am an English teacher, even we make mistakes. But don't tell my students! (or should I say, "student's").

  12. Put out a wish list to parents. I always purchased things for our children's classrooms. Now I am afraid to use an apostrophe:)

  13. If you know about the typo now, then fix it! Editing is so important.

  14. If I fix it, your snarky comments won't make sense.

  15. I am a teacher of high school students. I feel your pain. Sometimes I feel I have to purchase items in order for the day to run smoothly....I have brought things from DVDs to even Prom tickets for students who can't afford it...I guess we will get a reward from it someday.(Smile)