What Do You Wish More People Knew About Being A Teacher: The Serious

I wrote a long blog addressing all sorts of issues people need to know but I decided to refocus on just one thing. The one thing I want people to understand is that teachers have to spend their own money on school supplies and curriculum. Here is my experience.

The first semester I taught I didn’t have a classroom.

I had to move a cart the school gave me around from room to room to teach. I had no choice but to be super organized. I had two accordian organizers. One had the papers to hand out. The other was what I collected. I kept a pencil box of pencils, pens, and whatnot FOR ME. I couldn’t carry enough around for students.

If a student showed up without supplies for class then it was just too bad for them and I hated that.

The top of my cart carried my school issued computer (eventually) and projector. But I wasn’t even given an extension cord. I had to buy my own extension cord to plug in my computer and projector. Also, not every classroom had an available outlet. I had to be very careful about battery power because in some classrooms I had to rely ENTIRELY on battery power – which also meant I had to change my lesson plan for that period because I couldn’t run the projector.

My office was a large walk in closet that I shared with two other people who also had no classroom. We each had a desk and a chair and an outlet. Our carts had to be stored outside in the hallway.

For my office I purchased red pens and green pens and I scavenged a few pens and pencils from home. I also used my own notebooks and loose leaf paper from graduate school so I didn’t have to buy more paper.

I mostly used my own computer to teach because 1. I wasn’t given my school issued computer until week 6 of the school year and 2. my school issued computer didn’t have Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel for weeks after that. I didn’t even have my software for grades or attendance so I was forced to use my own computer for work. (I only got my required software after my principal stopped by to explain that attendance was a state requirement. She was horrified when I showed her my multiple emails explaining to the tech guy that I had no access to software.)

I made my 200 copies a month on the school copier and nothing more. The 200 copies a month were for class copies of everything only. Students were not given their own worksheets or exams. They couldn’t write on them. Worksheets had to be hand copied by each student into their own notebook (if they had one). Students could read the questions on the exams but had to write answers on a separate piece of paper.

I had to make the 200 copies a month stretch because I couldn’t afford to print more on my own nor could I complete lessons with the two weeks advanced notice to have additional copies made by the secretaries.

I purchased staples and a stapler. I used a staple remover from home. I found rubber bands in my old desk drawer and kept them in case I ever needed them. I splurged on dry-erase markers and an eraser for myself but I was only able to write on the board in two of the classrooms I borrowed. They usually had the board filled with notes and wouldn’t share the space.

I was required to attend a word wall training and was told I had to figure out a way to create a traveling word wall. I had to pay for it of course because I was not given money for supplies since I had no classroom. I came up with a clever idea of an erasable, magnetic word wall but found out that only three of the six classrooms I used had magnetic whiteboards. (Free instructions for these can be found in my TpT store.) I began sticking the words on the metal parts of my cart because my principal would pop in to observe me and ask me where my word wall was (a very unfair requirement since I HAD NO CLASSROOM!)

That was it. I had nothing else. There was no sense in buying more because I had no classroom and my office cramped and my cart fit basically nothing.

I had to cart around 50 textbooks on the bottom of my cart because not every classroom would allow me to keep a classroom set of my textbook in their classroom. One teacher had strict rules about what could be kept in the basket under the desk and she simply would not make allowances for me. Another teacher eventually told me to get the books out of the corner of her room because I couldn’t keep them in a nice pile. (I had six minutes to pack my cart, talk to students, clean what mess was there, walk to the next room, talk to students, setup for the next class, and be fully prepared to teach the second the bell rang. Sorry I couldn’t make sure the pile was exactly perfect. Also the textbooks were old and falling apart. Not my fault co-worker but thanks for understanding.)

When I finally was given a classroom, I maintained my minimalizism teaching because I was a first year teacher with student loans and couldn’t afford to buy anything fun. Despite it being the middle of the school year I was given $250 by the school to shop for supplies. It was like a million dollars though.

I purchased things like:

  • Tape and tape dispenser
  • More staples
  • Plastic drawer storage for pencils, pens, erasers for student use
  • Pencils, pens, erasers for student use
  • One set of decorative corkboard border (the previous teacher left her old border on the wall for ONE of the corkboards so I reused it).
  • Cheap, stackable letter trays for student work (two per class period)
  • A laminated world map
  • Push pins
  • More extension cords and heavy tape to keep students from tripping
  • A case of copier paper on sale after I figured out how to use the printer in my new room

I would have loved to purchase more. I would have loved to decorate and have a cute room. But I didn’t have the money and the school doesn’t actually supply teachers with what they need.

My second year teaching I was in the same classroom as before and this time my $250 was spent on:

  • Ink for the printer because NO the school wouldn’t supply that
  • Paper for the printer
  • Paper for students to write on (although usually I used the back of mistake print jobs and unused worksheets, exams, etc.)
  • Staples
  • A world map for advanced world history
  • Dry erase markers with color!
  • Electrical tape

That list has nothing thrilling on it. And that $250 doesn’t last all that long. Despite purchasing generic high-yield laser printer ink I still had to buy it two more times during the school year. I had to buy a case of paper two more times in the school year. Dry erase markers, if used often, like I did, only last about a week. Plus you are always combating students trying to draw on the board and not putting the cap back on (yes I taught 10th grade and yes students struggled to put lids back on the markers).

To do activities and projects in class I was finally able to utilize the teacher store and got myself a supply of markers, crayons, and colored pencils although the teacher store in my district frowned when high school teachers took those supplies.

But please think about this for a moment.

I was given $250 a year for school supplies because the school wouldn’t supply anything.

In my second year I taught 115 students (which was ridiculously low and I have no idea how I got away with that). That equals $2.18 per student.

$2.18 per student.

$2.18 per student to last 180 days.

Please explain to me how teachers have it so easy.


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