More on the Kinds of Things Teachers Buy for Their Classrooms.

Interested in seeing the kinds of things that I buy for my kids and my classroom? Here’s ONE month’s worth of charges from my credit card statement:

  • $21.48 – Book: Where Children Sleep – For use with my Kiva Club.
  • $32.88 – Magnets: For use in science labs.
  • $16.49 – Pyrex test tubes:  For use in science labs.
  • $11.72 – Bamboo skewers: For use in science labs.
  • $7.40 – Headphone/Speaker Splitter: For use in Skyping with homebound student.
  • $32.01 – New hoodie for student who needed one.
  • $42.95 – New backpack for student who needed one.
  • $16.93 – Food coloring: For use in science labs.
  • $7.54 – Vegetable oil: For use in science labs.
  • $23.98 – D sized batteries and gallon of milk: For use in science labs.

And that DOESN’T include the $50.12 I spent on books for teacher professional development, the $36.07 that I spent on Young Adult literature that I read so that I can make book recommendations to my students, the $79.00 I spent on a subscription for a Web 2.0 tool that we will use in class, or the $435 dollars that I spent on registration and hotel for a teaching conference that I want to attend in Philadelphia.




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What Kinds of Things DO Teachers Buy for Their Classrooms?

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  • MarciaPowell

    The Value Key

    Bill, I really respect what you are doing.  Heart in the right place, priorities towards  the kids, and yet…..if you just moved out of the classroom and into administration, then you would have a paid expense account for conferences, be able to bill out the expenses under ‘consumables, including toilet paper’ and have more autonomy.  

    Things like the one you write above here are so absolutely common among great teachers and simultaneously inspire and depress me.  What are positive ways we could make a difference in the profession to increase our autonomy and/or budgets?  

    • billferriter

      Marcia wrote:

      Marcia wrote:

      Things like the one you write above here are so absolutely common among great teachers and simultaneously inspire and depress me.  What are positive ways we could make a difference in the profession to increase our autonomy and/or budgets?  


      They are depressing, Marcia — and more importantly, they are maddeningly frustrating.  I can’t find the money to send my own daughter to gymnastics, but I’m spending $200 a month on supplies for my science classroom.  

      No wonder people leave the classroom!

      I’ve never wanted to do anything but teach — and I have no desire to be a principal — but I can’t say that I’m not fed up with this profession.  Hate to be the gray cloud in the room, but when the rewards are so small and the barrriers to being successful are so great, can anyone REALLY be surprised when teachers quit?


  • Gary Hensley

    The Funding Equation

    Saw your post on twitter. I hear you! Having been a Science teacher I spent hundreds of dollars on equipment for my students. Have you ever tried crowdfunding? A little self promotion, I know, but it could be an option to get the community to support the great work you are doing in the classroom.

  • SusanGraham

    It’s not just the money, it’s the mindset!

    It bothers me:

    That teachers often spend their own money for basics because purchasing procedures are so complicated that it’s just easier to go buy it

    That technology companies and others offer “special teacher professional discounts” because “we appreciate your contributions to our children”

    That every fall big box stores run TV ads that feature and earnest teacher “saving money” while purchasing supplies for her classroom, because “every penny counts”

    That I’ve attended new teacher orientations where a practicing professional educator recommonds that emergent teachers to “visit garage sales to find some great bargains to equip your room and build your classroom library”

    That the expectation is that teachers are responsibile for soliciting and collecting basic supplies like pencils, crayons, gluesticks, tissues, hand santizer from parents

     That teachers are often pressured by their school administration to register their classrooms as a charity with organizations that solicit a “class sponsor” with a compelling story of  how the class would benefit if only someone would become their “patron” so the kiddies can have some colored markers and construction paper and maybe even a map or a microscope. (And, by the way, act as the purchasing agent for any funds which reduces the purchasing power for the classroom but produces income for the organization.) 


    • billferriter

      This is a brilliant comment,

      This is a brilliant comment, Susan!  I hope you won’t mind if I turn it into a separate blog post at some point in the future.  


      Thanks for articulating so well the challenges I feel.

      Rock on, 



  • PaulBarnwell

    Buy myself or getting bogged down in bureacracy?


    Sometimes I go and buy things my selft–sometimes reimbursed, sometimes not–because it’s SO much easier.  I don’t have to use the district contracts, and I can actually have the product in hand within a day instead of 3-4 weeks.  It’s ridiculous how many obstacles we often  have to deal with when trying to get basic supplies for the classroom!

    • billferriter

      I’m with you, Paul — but for

      I’m with you, Paul — but for me, it’s choosing between buying something out of my own pocket or begging parents to make more donations.  

      There’s literally no budget for most of the things on my list. Our entire science department gets $1,800 for supplies — which is parsed out to $600 per grade level.  

      Ever tried to supply consumables, replace broken glassware, or purchase interesting material kits on $600 a year?  That money goes QUICK.



  • Alison Collins

    How can we create systemic change?… and a short term solution.


    I really appreciate this post. It gets at the heart of why teaching is a challenging profession. It’s never the kids. The system makes it difficult. I taught in the classroom for 10 years at the middle and high school level in urban public schools where the majority of my students were English Language Learners from low-income households. Many of my students came with poor academic and social skills and struggled with the challenging curriculum I offered. I have been yelled at, cussed at and “called out of my name” more times than I can count. Nonetheless, I never once thought of leaving the profession because of my students. Serving them was my passion.

    After I had twins, I realized I was not able to balance my family’s needs with the stress of managing the horrible working conditions at my site. Lack of administrator leadership when it came to managing student behavior, lack of supplies (I’m talking staplers and scissors) and lack of respect for our profession from colleagues and “superiors” led me to leave the classroom. Looking back, very few of the colleagues that I started with are still in the classroom for the similar reasons.

    (And we’re not even talking about money! I am lucky that my husband works in another profession and can “subsidize” my career.)

    That said, the system won’t change if we continue to “enable” it by spending our own money and giving up precious family time to volunteer at our own schools. 

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I think it involves parents. This post is important because it illustrates what many non-teachers don’t understand: resources that used to exist when we were in school are not there anymore. Now that I am working part-time, I have become heavily involved in school-governance and parent organizations at our school. As a parent, I have a stronger voice in lobbying for support of our teachers, students and families. As a parent, I can call up the Board of Education to advocate for more resources, where as a teacher I could not (without seeming like  a “problematic teacher”.)

    You may already know about this, but a short-term solution I would like to suggest is which has allowed several teachers I know to get valuable resources for their classes. One teachers recently bought an iPad this way. It takes a bit of time to post, but with your online network, I am sure that you could easily raise money for some of your larger projects. If you posted the link on this blog, I’d certainly donate.



  • Geraldine Smythe

    Mindset…system change…inspiring the change we all want

    Bill, Marcia, Alison, Paul and Susan…

    I was searching for what teachers spend money on on google and found this post. I am a former teacher turned entrepreneur with a desire to bring a solution that can help reverse this awful trend and “fix” the system, starting at the individual learner level- this includes both our young students AND us professionals who are still interested in solving this issue, rather than becoming swallowed and spit out by it. No small feat, as we all know. I’ve been called crazy but…

    The mindset is the thing! Alison mentioned it quite clearly.

    “That said, the system won’t change if we continue to “enable” it by spending our own money and giving up precious family time to volunteer at our own schools.” Enabling or feeding a beast grows it; starving the beast and going around it kills it. We have an answer to starve it but it starts with ourselves, every day, being willing to think a little differently. Before tuning me out, please read on…

    Love her or hate her, Ayn Rand predicted all this and in a very practical manner, I hate that kids are ultimately the ones that in the US today get the short end of the stick as the massive system we’ve continued to feed burns out great teachers over and over. We HAVE to be better in our mindsets to overcome this.

    Would any of you as a result please please please give me some time (I know that’s asking a lot) to look at, review and poke holes in a  simple to use and fun program we’re developing to help once and for all get to the heart of the “mindset” issue that is plaguing our education system and reverse this dire trend we’re seeing? We’re trying earnestly to build something that if it works, I think can be incredibly powerful for our nation’s future adults…and therefore us as we age.

    If you’re interested, please visit our web site at and email me at so I can get you 100% access to our materials this summer while you’re hopefully taking a moment to recharge and get in some R & R time.

    I have no idea if we’re going about our model in the wrong way, but we are very keen to see whether teachers can find what we’ve built to be valuable enough to adopt easily and en masse. We know the programming works brilliantly for the kids and teachers who have used it in our tests but we need honest feedback about how to get some customers to support our efforts if we’re to keep the project alive and make it thrive for future users. This is totally grass roots so your sincere feedback is most appreciated.

    Thank you for your time and this valuable and inspiring post.




  • Taya Tayler

    Amazing, you are doing a

    Amazing, you are doing a great work here by providing your students the facilities they need, customer reviews can be a great help to your students to get a better work at home,thanks for sharing the article with us.