Should Teachers Acquire Funds for Classroom Resources?

Teachers, have you utilized donorschoose.org to fund supplies for your classroom?  Have you mused about launching a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign to fund technology for your students? If so, I understand where you’re coming from. But lately I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my brain around that reality. 

Teachers, have you utilized donorschoose.org to fund supplies for your classroom? Have you mused about launching a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign to fund technology for your students? If so, I understand where you’re coming from. But lately I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my brain around that reality. With all of the philanthropy in education today and funding of large scale changes to schools, I wonder why teachers are still in the position of having to seek out funding for basic teaching materials, like books, or else be stuck making major pedagogical compromises because funds aren’t available. What kind of system is that?

In my first teaching job I had only forty students and regularly spent my own money on class sets of novels I wanted to teach, as well as many other basic supplies. The process for buying supplies through the school was extremely nebulous, and the turnaround time could range from a few months to a year to never. The convenience of just going out and buying what I needed for tomorrow could not be beat, especially for a new teacher who was building new curriculum. Now I have 107 students and cannot afford to buy class sets of books. Not by accident, I also work in a school that prioritizes funding books and basic classroom materials and rarely use much of my own money.

I’ve been discussing the implementation of whole novel studies on Twitter (using #WholeNovels), and one obstacle that’s come up is that many teachers do not have class sets of novels that they want to teach, and their schools do not make funds available to acquire them. The ability for students to take books home with them is very important in building the habit of reading and in moving through a whole novel study in a reasonable amount of time. Having students read only in class chops up the experience and weighs down the pacing of the study too much to keep students highly engaged.

Thus, I find myself suggesting teachers seek outside funding sources, like Donors Choose, which connects donors who want to contribute directly to classrooms with teachers who need supplies. In some ways, the ability to make use of sites like this seems like an important skill for a 21st century teacher. At the same time, I’m so uncomfortable with the idea that our country, a first world nation, is funding new standards, the creation of new tests, purchasing test preparation tools and data systems–but not books and materials necessary for teachers to actually teach and students to actually learn?! How can this be?

From another angle, most teacher leaders advocate for teachers to have greater freedom to design and adapt curriculum to the needs of their students as well as their own pedagogical interests. If this means every classroom will need different materials, then who should be in charge of making these accessible? Should it be part of the individual teacher’s job seek out the materials they need for students OR should schools and districts facilitate these connections?

Related categories:
  • KrisGiere

    Catch 22

    That is a great question!  And a difficult one for me to answer.  Like in other areas of life, I feel that the only way for the decision makers to see the need is to not fund these things personally, but if that were to happen, would anyone look at the system as the failure?  Or would they just blame the teacher again?  I fear the latter.

    How do we impress on decision makers the value of these sorts of “little things” as some may think of it?

  • Karen

    Teacher Led Funding-Good, bad, or Maybe Both?

    You raise some provocative points, especially your last part on if teachers are responsible for deciding on materials, how should those be funded?

    I’ve used Donor’s Choose extensively for things from a magnetic white board (HUGE help in classroom management & student participation) to a document camera, to sets of novels for reading groups, to a tablet for our classroom.  In each case, families have donated, along with outside donors, because they think education is a priority.  They trust my judgement on what I think is important for me to do the best job for their kids.  But, is this the best way?  I think not!  There are text books sitting around that NEVER get used, but yet my novel get used so much that they’re falling apart!

    What if classrooms got a set amount of money to be used each year toward supplies/materials/equipment.  You bet I’d be a very good steward of the money in my classroom and plan carefully to maximize my resources.  This might work especially well in a BYOD environment, especially where digital resources could be purchased instead of textbooks.  This would allow for a combination of print (novels & other books) and electronic versions of things that need to be current (reference materials, non-fiction texts) or even digital versions of things that are currently done on paper (practice worksheets).  I can see the savings on paper, textbooks, copiers, etc. paying for more digital devices.  Food for thought!

  • arizonaaki

    Doner School Supplies

    Aloha Ariel,

    I have thought about “doner School Supplies” and how to get started. There are many classrooms at my e,ementary school who would appreciate such treasures! Has anyone in you area started such a need resource? If you have information on how to get started please share it with me…for my school.

    Regards,

    Arizona Aki

  • Clix

    Begging

    The last time our school purchased class sets of books for the English department was in 2005. There is only one teacher still in our department who was here for that order. I’ve gotten quite good at scrounging (there is a wonderful secondhand bookstore not too far away) and begging (hello, DonorsChoose!) but the truth is, I’ve also come to resent having to do so.

    Our sophomore classes have to share books – we have enough of each of the novels we teach for ONE class. This means that all reading has to happen at school, and teachers have to trade off who teaches which book when. It’s incredibly frustrating, and while I do the best I can with what we have, I’m angry about it. It’s not what’s best for our students.

  • wjtolley

    When needs must…

    In the recent post I wrote for CTQ in EdWeek’s Teach Ahead blog, this question came up after I suggested that sometimes teachers who want to effect change in their classroom design, “beg, borrow or steal” whatever they can to transform their classrooms. 

    I see the point of not setting a precedent of teachers scavenging for their resources, but I also don’t want to wait for Godot’s budget committee to get around to seeing the need for materials and upgrades in the same way I do.