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?

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