I logged onto Facebook.
That was my first mistake.
Every once in a while, I can’t resist the temptation to check in with far-flung relatives, so I log on. There were three messages waiting for me. I knew what they were without even clicking. Like death and taxes, there is another certainty, albeit much more modern: the unabashed request for people you hardly know to buy stuff they don’t need or want.
MLMs irritate me. Some of them strike a particular chord when people who are anything but masquerade as experts. But mostly, I ignore them.
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Interestingly, though, all three of these messages shared something in common. You know, besides the fact that I haven’t had an actual conversation with the sender in over a decade.
Each request to join their groups, come to their selling party, browse through their catalogue was sent to my attention for a special reason. They wanted to do something nice for teachers.
If you really want to do something nice for teachers, stop asking us to buy things.
If you can’t go that far, don’t ask us to buy things at the start of the year.
No amount of discounts, flash sales, and fake promo bundles (you mark up in order to mark down—I don’t even teach math and I know that) is helpful right now.
Because here’s the truth. My budget, like most teachers’ budgets, has been tugged so tight it looks like someone has run it through the saltwater taffy machine at the state fair.
Why? Because it’s the beginning of the school year.
I don’t ever need body wraps, diet tea, essential oils, or Norwex. I especially don’t need it now when I’m busy buying supplies, books, and food.
Statistics About Teacher Spending
The statistics are well known. CNN, CNBC, pretty much every media outlet runs a story that teachers spend about $500 on their classrooms. The US Department of Education even took the time to weigh in more officially. (You know, now that someone finally showed Betsy where the pencils are.)
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The gist is this: 94% of teachers report spending their own money on their classrooms, slightly more of them being elementary-level teachers than upper grades. The mean amount is $479; the median is $297. At least that is what gets reported.
Interestingly enough, in over a decade of teaching, no one has ever asked me. Or any of my teacher friends. More tellingly, though, is the fact that I don’t know a single teacher who actually bothers to keep an accurate total beyond the $250 tax deduction that most of us meet in the first few
months weeks days.
What I’ve Bought
I’ve been back in the classroom for three weeks. Here’s what I’ve purchased so far:
- Scholastic book order: $51 – My students get $50 to spend a month on books determined by popular vote after book talks.
- Used library books: $3.25 – I am a softy, and I’m always willing to buy more.
- Knock-off Play-Doh and Silly Putty: $5.00 – For kids who need fidgets based on their learning plans.
- Kleenex: $11.00 – It’s on the school-supply list but we collect through a particular class period. That class period has a lot of low-income students.
- Wipes for Chromebooks: $11.87 – Ditto the Kleenex.
- Hand sanitizer: $5.00 – Ditto the Kleenex and wipes.
- Boxes of birthday cards: $6 – I wrote them out my first year of teaching and one student whispered to me that it was the first time someone gave her a card. Now I will never not write them out.
- Jolly Ranchers: $22.70 – For birthdays or reading rewards or contests. Yes, I send home a permission slip and an ingredient list.
- Smarties: $4.28 – For the kids’ whose parents give them permission but can’t have Jollies because they have braces.
- Mechanical pencils: $10.90 – For the kids whose parents said no or would prefer non-candy prizes.
- Dry erase markers: $6.78 – We can request blue ones from our supply closet. I prefer multiple colors for writing lessons. And word work and grammar. Dun dun dun!
- Stapler: $5.56 – Mine disappeared over the summer. I put in a request for one but didn’t want to wait for the order to be filled.
Reflecting on Teaching Spending
Could I teach without these things? Sure. Would I want to? Not even a little bit.
There is no denying the research behind having a classroom library. If you want kids to grow up to be readers, you surround them with books. We are fortunate to be in a school that still has a library, and we have a wonderful one at that. But when it comes to reluctant readers, there is no substitute for putting a book directly in their hands.
Are positive incentives a bit controversial? Some years. But give me a smile and a prize basket, and I can move the world. Just ask Archimedes.
Do kids need Kleenex during allergy season? Do they need to be able to actually see what their Chromebook screens say? Do I want them to have hand sanitizer for the moments when they sneeze snot all over their hands because the Dracula Sneeze still hasn’t caught on?
It’s all optional. I know your teacher probably taught uphill both ways in the snow in a one-room school house, so she probably didn’t offer you books to read. You survived with germy hands. You certainly didn’t get any kind of reward for meeting all of your reading goals or having a birthday.
It’s optional, and I’ve opted in.
There will be plenty of other optional expenses throughout the year. More books, more supplies. Markers, both coloring and more dry erase. I will probably replace a few pillows. I might even have to finally replace one of my bookshelves that broke. Again. But the bulk of what I need, I’ve already bought throughout the first decade of my career. Bookcases, art supplies, books, furniture, lamps. Thousands of dollars spent that I will hopefully never need to spend again.
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I do these things because I want to, I need to, and I can.
So forgive me. Money is a little tight this August. It is every August. Maybe you didn’t realize when you sent me that message, asking me to send money up your pyramid scheme, dressed up as a pledge to do something nice for teachers.
I don’t need your Norwex.
I don’t need your essential oils.
I don’t care if they’re full price or on sale.
If you really want to do something nice for teachers, consider sending over a book or maybe a box of tissues. If you can’t do that, then support us with a smile and warm wishes for the start of a new school year.
But please, don’t ask me for more of my money. Not in August. I have better things to buy.