Today, I went to my local teacher store. Even after my many trips to Walmart, Target, and Staples, there were some things I still needed for my classroom. Just a few things like three rolls of colorful fadeless paper for three bulletin boards, desk name tags, several different borders matched to several different subjects, sticky tags for labeling the 25 shoe boxes waiting in my car trunk, cut-outs for my bulletin boards, letters that I need to pop out, and. . . well, lots more! Let's just say it wasn't a cheap trip. These were all the things my seriously cut school budget money just couldn't buy. That money was spent on frivolous things like pencils, paper, tape, file folders, and other much needed items. So, that leaves me to buy "the rest."
Well, it leaves me and the crowded store full of other teachers with overflowing baskets and carts to buy "the rest." It leaves us and the thousands of teachers in each and every state to buy "the rest." And, how do we buy the rest? With our own hard-earned money. Money that, here in New Jersey, people seem to think we teachers are overpaid with. Money that doesn't buy groceries for my family, money that doesn't pay my electric bill, money that doesn't go in my 403b account that I have to have because my state has ceased paying their mandatory contributions to our teachers' pension fund. It is with my hard-earned money that I choose to purchase school supplies for my classroom each and every year.
And despite how it may sound, I do not buy these things begrudgingly. In fact, I do it with a smile on my face. Why? I know that these supplies will help to create a warm and welcoming environment for my friends. I know that these supplies will help me organize and execute the learning plans I develop for my friends. I know that these supplies will be available to my friends who are in need. So, I don't buy them grudgingly. I buy them happily, knowing they will be used well and assist in the learning that happens in my classroom.
I was prompted to write this when two things happened while I was shopping today. This was the first time my mother had ever come with me on one of these back-to-school teacher shopping trips. She looked around the crowded store in awe at all the teachers buying bags and bags of supplies. It was with total amazement that she looked at me and said, "You really buy all this and pay for it with your money every year?" Yes, mom. I DO! WE ALL DO!
As we were leaving, there were two teachers in front of us, each with full bags in both hands. One was holding the door for the other as they both struggled to squeeze through. As one balanced her bags, she looked at the other and said, "Well, there goes our first paycheck!" And you know what? We all laughed a resigned, knowing laugh. YES, there goes a huge hunk of our first paycheck.
But, we do it anyway. We spend our money to purchase those items that our ever decreasing school budgets can't buy. We do it for the greater good. We do it for our little classroom friends. We do it because learning is our priority. We do it because we are teachers, and teachers actually do the stuff others just like to legislate.