Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How much do spend on your job?

Last week I spent thirty dollars on lab supplies. I don't do that every week, but it isn't particularly unusual either. Then there's the big package of dry erase markers I bought on Halloween, the ink for my classroom printer since the monthly copy limit is so low, the pad of chart paper for my anatomy students' presentations, the tickets for my incentive system, the seemingly endless stream of pens that I hand out to kids who can't be bothered to bring them (I've given up lending them after my administration told me I wasn't allowed to request collateral; if I'm not getting the pens back anyway, I might as well be the nice teacher who is always happy to provide pen and paper when you forget .), more staples for the stapler so I can update the student work on my wall of fame, and so forth and so maddeningly on.

I should probably just let it go and accept that this is what teachers do, but I'm feeling a wee bit frustrated today. The department meeting where I found out that we still don't have textbooks or half of the required lab supplies for the AP Bio course that started in August, the district cut everything the science department requested out of our budget for some federal money we're receiving, and the school board's decided to budget $0 for consumable supplies like dry erase markers, graph paper, staples, and tape for secondary classrooms for the year. Maybe the frustration stems partly from the fact all this is happening when the new superintendent and assistant superintendent each got a $50,000 SUV as part of their contracts.

Don't get me wrong: I can afford the to buy basics for my classroom myself. I can and have done things like writing Donors Choose grant proposals to get somethings I couldn't otherwise afford. It isn't a huge burden. Still, I wonder how teaching compares to other careers.

The boy had to have some of his own tools back when he was an apprentice electrician, but they certainly didn't expect him to provide his own wire and nails. My engineer dad has pretty much everything supplied for him, as does my pizzeria assistant manager mom. I don't know enough about the day to day of that many other careers.

I can somewhat grudgingly admit there are a lot of pluses to my job as well. I didn't have to go $200,000 in debt to get the education to get this job. My commute is under ten minutes. Unless I happen to feel like wearing a suit, my usual uniform of slacks and a sweater works just fine. I have more freedom than others to pick my own schedule in the summers. Maybe our society has done the calculations and decided it balances out.

Or maybe they think of teaching as noble work, something we should be glad to do for no compensation. After all, in addition to the satisfaction of helping shape the next generation, we get the joy of working with all of the wonderful little kiddos, a group that consists not only of the truly terrific teens(and there are many) for whom I stay after school to tutor, coach quiz bowl, and help with college applications, but also the kids who've just gotten out of juvy, jail, or a behavioral facility, who threw flaming toilet paper rolls and raw eggs at the algebra teacher last year, who'll walk down the hallway with their pants sagging, tell you, "Fuck you!" when you tell them to fix their uniforms, and then harrass you about the suspension they received when they see you in the grocery store, who hit one of my friends in the head with a rock today while he was trying to break up a fight. I'm doing my best to respect, believe in, win over, and educate all of the students, no matter how challenging, but, some days, I do not love my job.


Anonymous said...

As a teacher, you get $250 as a deductible on your federal tax return for non-reimbursed supplies for teaching. Most of us spend way more than that.

Are you on any teacher listservs? Sometimes other teachers give away old books or equipment for the cost of shipping. Your AP Bio teacher might be able to find textbooks that way, if she/he is on the AP Bio Electronic Discussion Group (you can sign up on the AP Central website).

Frugal Scholar said...

I sympathize as this really bothers me. Teachers are expected to be altruistic in ways that other professionals are not.

And even though you are not in debt for your education, many teachers--and many in Teach for America--are in debt!

I was also going to mention the tax deduction for k-12 teachers.

Chariot said...

I myself have a teaching degree. This is a topic that has always bothered me about the profession. Teachers should NOT have to provide basic supplies for their classrooms!

Parents should provide their children with paper and pens. And if they can not afford it than you, the teacher, should have the right to get collateral for borrowed supplies.

Without requesting collateral for a pen, 99% of kids will not return it. But no kid will walk out of the room with your pen if you are holding his shoe hostage.

What you should do...Try "borrowing" supplies from the main office or even the principal. If they question you just say you ran out of pens to lend to students so you're borrowing from them. Be creative.

Northmoon said...

I'm not a teacher or a parent, but I have to say it shocked me when I heard that teachers have to pay for classroom supplies. I don't agree with this at all. If it's necessary for the kid's education, it should come out of the school budget, not the teacher's.

No other profession that I know of is like this. I work in an office, all my pens, paper, binders, report covers, staples, photocopying, etc. are supplied by my employer. They pay mileage if I use my car to go to a meeting out of the office, and will even buy a meal if it's an evening meeting after work hours.

Shelley said...

I don't blame you for resenting these expenses. I would as well. I watched the woman across the street sitting in her front room office grading papers every evening past 9 or 10pm and decided teaching was not ever going to be the job for me. That said, my best teachers from grade school through graduate school have always been my heroes.

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

It has varied for every company I have worked for. Sometimes they just make the process so difficult that you end up buying the small stuff yourself to save the hassle.

Regarding graph paper, I use this when I need some:


very easy and free. Wish I had it back in school, that stuff is expensive.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, just had to chime in with the "supplies being supplied by the employer" thing...School districts in some states have to put their budgets up for a public vote, which means an increase in budget to cover "non-essentials" may mean a rise in taxes. Hence, a "no" vote from the majority of constituents, who don't have kids/don't have kids in public school/are retired and their grandchildren live in some other district/etc. The school district will keep essential programs, like sports (with uniforms, lights for night games, etc) but will issue a directive two months before the end of school that they are out of paper, so there will be no more photocopies unless you buy your own. Just sayin'.

I buy paper, pencils, etc in the summer when they have them for a penny each at Office Depot or Staples, then use them all year.

Revanche said...

I know it's not the point, and it's not much either, but can I send you a box of pens? Do you care if they're blue, black or variously colored inks? Email me.