Thursday, July 09, 2015

Teacher Truth: We Shop 'til We Drop

 Go ahead, ooh and ahh for just a second:

Non-teachers might think that the goodies above have been purchased for a party, and in a way, they're right: the beginning of my 20th year teaching kindergartners occurs in August.  What they might not be aware of is the fact that ~every~ year I've taught I've HAD to make similar colorful, cute, usable, necessary, and SUBSTANTIAL purchases.  I had to build my class library.  I had to feed more than a few students.  I had to purchase items that a one hundred dollar classroom budget couldn't cover. There was a year I bought used iMacs so my students could have technology tools, and another where I created a housekeeping center from scratch.  Educational videos, music c.d.s, my own printer, laminator, storage tubs for organization, paint, colored pencils, google eyes, glitter... I've shopped 'til I've dropped.  

Hunting for and finding perfect classroom essentials can be a lot of fun, until you realize that it's your own wallet making purchases to support 16-30+ students, in addition to the children who may reside with you under your own roof.  We are never done shopping, trading, recycling or making, and as a result many of us become hoarders of:

Manipulatives, reading buddies (stuffed animals), markers, crayons, folders, pencil grips, paper, desk tags, ink, play dough, storybooks, paper towel and toilet paper rolls.  

Shoelaces, spare winter gear (scarves, hats, mittens) and coats, and NOT for dress up bins or dolls, because those, by golly, are kept in their own separate stash. 

Plates, cups, plastic food, puppets, sensory bin supplies, bulletin board trimmer, curtains, pocket charts, measurement tools and tape.  Lots of tape.

Cereal, snack bags, crackers, and juice which are stockpiled ~before~ "treat" purchases like Smarties or valentine lollipops.  Birthday pencils, gift books, supplies for parent gifts, paper, label packs and ink to print off name tags, anchor charts, and organizational signs. 

... and volunteer appreciation gifts, notecards, and "Welcome to School" postcards. 

Manipulatives wear out or disappear over time.  If you're a kindergarten teacher, you regularly encounter teeth marks, bends, folds, and tears.  Maybe you're stuck with a grade level or district-wide school supply list, and you're inundated with materials that you have no need for, but certainly don't want to go to waste.  Two-thirds of your students will come to school with the exact tools they'll need, but one-third won't even have a backpack. You will shop

The more you think about it, the less you see these items as "cute," "fun," or "sweet."  Your professional filter accommodates your utilitarian intentions.  You recycle, repurpose, and rethink furniture, toys, books, and your own child's outgrown clothing or shoes.  You find stores with teacher discounts, and learn to track down coupons and annual sales.  You use spray paint and a glue gun.  You accept any and all donations.  Every year that you're an educator, you'll buy before you teach a single lesson.






(Thrift store, Target)


Except for the star-shaped chalkboard tags, none of the items above were a "fluff" purchase.  Everything will be put to good use, right down to the last marker that will dry out prior to May, at which point I'll have my summer shopping list ready.

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