Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wish I Could Buy A Soapbox

I've been on an email writing kick this week, writing to everyone from the local newspaper whose delivery person has a car that is way too loud for 4:45am, to the company that makes the seltzer I drink because their new caps don't screw on properly.  So, I wasn't surprised when I was compelled to write the following letter to a discount store that is offering 30% off to teachers this week.

As a teacher that isn't a reading, writing, arithmetic teacher, it would be hard for you to imagine what I think are important school supplies for my room.  And I think in 2015, this is the case with most teachers.  Many kids bring nothing to school or they bring things that have nothing to do with their age levels (protractors in 1st grade, for example) and schools only provide so much in the way of supplies.  Some parents are great about supplying the extras but it's often a last minute idea that pushes me to have to buy something myself that no one would think I would need or would deem necessary enough to give me the funds to do so.

So, here's my rant for the week:

I received your email about the 30% off for educators from my principal the other day.  I really appreciate what your store does to help teachers in the classroom and make our lives a little easier.

However, I take offense at the remark that things like sweatshirts, trash bags, hammers and other things that have "nothing to do with the classroom" are not covered.  I can't help hearing a little ha ha in the background from some bigwig who made the concession that we should get a discount... but not too much and not on everything...

Perhaps you haven't been in my 5th grade  classroom and watched the same sweatshirt walk in the door for 100 days in a row, every food and other substance imaginable spilled on it, reeking of cigarettes and who knows what else.  A new sweatshirt would do wonders for that child's well-being and the rest of us that have to see and smell it.

Or maybe you didn't realize that though the custodians do a little bit of cleaning in my classroom each day, they don't always take out the trash bags when they take the trash.  If they think the trash bag can be reused, they will leave it for another day.  Imagine that at the high point of cold and flu season.  Trash bags could really help me keep my students and myself healthier in my classroom.

Unless a person teaches woodworking, it would seem that hammers would certainly not be used nor would they be deemed safe in the classroom..  However, when a bookcase falls apart or a shelf falls off the wall and waiting for a work order to go through would just endanger everyone in the room, a secretly hidden hammer in the back of the teacher's cabinet can work magic and keep clothing from being torn or knees from getting ripped open.

What about school gardens that are popping up in many communities?  Trowels, buckets, gloves- all of those are things are actually essential in my  building as we have several gardening classes each week, but they are not considered essential for the classroom by the old standards of what was considered school supplies.
We do so much more in classrooms today than teaching math facts on paper with pencils.
So, while I appreciate the offer of discounts on so many items to be used in the classroom, in these modern times, paper and pencils are no longer all that we need to make classrooms productive and help our students find success.  Our districts and parents often cover supplies like pencils, folders, scissors or pens, but they do not cover things that we need like kleenex for runny noses, plastic ziplock bags for lost teeth or broken necklaces, or paper goods for the occasional birthday celebration when a parent forgets to send them in.  Things that are personal needs for each teacher, needs that have been determined by many years in the classroom, buying items ourselves without financial help from anyone.

Teachers are exceptionally creative when it comes to repurposing items or making do with improvised versions of more expensive items that they wish they could have for their classrooms.  As a teacher with 20 years of experience in the classroom, I could not begin to make a list of what my  neighboring teacher would consider things that have anything to do with the classroom.   I'm not sure anyone could.

In the future, maybe the sale could be shorter but could include everything in the store so that teachers can buy the things that we feel are important enough to spend our own money on. 

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