Like many teachers, I have been busily investigating best practices for reaching my students this coming school year. Inevitably, in the before-school rush that precedes each new school year, this includes heading to Walmart and the dollar store in a frenzy to purchase items I either don’t have or ran out of last year — items the students and I will need to perform various tasks and activities and to learn course material in the most effective ways possible.
I’m lucky in that I teach in a district that provides a handful of basic supplies to teachers each year: staples, sticky notes, pens, pencils, lined paper, etc. Unfortunately, the allotted number of supplies always dwindles fairly early into the school year as members of my department scramble to stock their rooms, and there is never enough to meet the demands of a busy classroom, not to mention nothing in the way of more expensive and unique supplies like large paper for collaborative graphic organizers and learning models; markers, scissors, glue, and other craft supplies for creative projects; classroom decorations and educational posters; a fan for when the air conditioning inescapably fails and a space heater for when the heat refuses to reach our classrooms; extra folders for students without; dry erase markers and erasers; tissues and hand sanitizer; and bookshelves, stools, and other classroom furniture for housing extra books and for sitting in from time to time as a much-needed break from the institutional desks and chairs littering the floors of classrooms, a decade’s worth of graffiti and abuse wearing them thin.
Aside from using funds I obtain for hosting student teachers from the nearby college and begging students and parents to consider donating items from time to time, I’m stuck using my own money to purchase these additional supplies, and believe me when I say the bill can run high, leaving me grasping at straws while trying to figure out a way to fund the things that I believe are necessary to a positive and productive learning environment.
I’m far from alone in spending my own money in the classroom, too. According to CNN Money , “…97% of teachers frequently dip into their own pockets to purchase necessary classroom supplies..,” and the teachers who do spend “…$350 on average from their own income on school supplies and instructional materials.”
Three-hundred-fifty dollars. That’s incredible for educators whose salaries, benefits, and school funding are rapidly decreasing while high stakes learning expectations are increasing. Think about it. That’s a car payment. A weekend away. A small home improvement project. And it’s being spent by teachers in an effort to do the jobs they’re supposed to get paid for doing.
Something just doesn’t seem right about that.
One of the many tactics I’ve implemented in my classroom in an effort to assist in teaching my students digital literacy skills is a teacher website whereby students and parents can subscribe to receive assignment updates, class announcements, and downloadable classroom handouts. My intent with this website was to include only educational material on the site, offering students and parents links to writing and grammar resources, blog posts detailing assignment information and reminders, and access to important handouts. The more I think about how much of my own money I spend on class resources, however, the more I contemplate monetizing my classroom by including advertisements on the site to recoup some of my own personal money I unavoidably spend throughout a school year.
Deep in my soul, I know this crosses some sort of ethical boundary. I mean, it does cross a boundary, doesn’t it? Still, I can’t help but wonder: Why shouldn’t teachers be able to monetize their classrooms through advertising? Students are inundated with ads on a daily basis — on billboards, the radio, television, and social networking sites. After all, we live in a consumerist, commercial society. What’s one more ad on a site they visit a few times a week? Would they even notice it on there? And why shouldn’t I be able to earn back revenue from something I continuously pour my own time and money into anyway? It seems only fair that, like thousands of companies and institutions across the country do, teachers should be able to monetize their classrooms as a way to supplement the cost of learning materials their school budgets don’t cover, doesn’t it?
I haven’t included these advertisements on my teacher website — YET. But I have to admit, I’m edging ever closer to doing so. As the state continues to toy with school funding and push merit pay on educators and the country continues its trendy teacher tenure bashing led by so-called reformists like Campbell Brown and talk show hosts on The View (I mean, if anyone’s an expert on teacher tenure, it must be the highly refined and informed mouthpieces of The View, AMIRITE?!), I find myself searching harder for reasons why I shouldn’t monetize my classroom.
What choice do teachers have anymore? I’m seriously asking because this spending is getting ridiculous and I’m all out of other ideas. If you can think of something better, I’m all ears.