Later today I will retrieve a cranky laptop from the Apple store. It will cost me a little less than $150 to have it inspected and a couple of buggy things repaired. However, it is not my laptop; it belongs to my school. So why am I paying for its upkeep? Simply put: because if I don't, no one will.
I don't know if other schools operate this way but mine does. They sometimes acquire new technology but then fail to budget for its upkeep. Our school has keyboards with missing keys, monitors which work but CPUs that don't, overhead projectors without lightbulbs, ELMOs without cords and a slew of other technological embarrassments.
People seem to understand that teachers spend money on their classrooms but I fear they have no idea how extensive and expensive it really is. I've taught for more than five years now and every single year, I have documented spending more than $3,000 a year. What do I buy? Technology you know about already but I've also spent money on clothes, food, art supplies (big one), trips (frequently), photo development, copies and classroom supplies (almost weekly) such as notebooks, pencils, white board markers, staples, erasers, paper towels, tissues, baby wipes, clips and paper (copy and construction).
Sometimes my friends are shocked by this amount. I am mostly numb to it. I do what I have to do to keep my students focused, motivated and excited about learning. But once in a while I look at another student, one who is paying the price for my generosity, and I feel sick. You see, my daughter has had to go into debt to pay for college. She is almost in debt for the exact amount that I have spent on my class over the course of these many years. Money I spent on other people's children for their educational benefit is not available for my own child. I guiltily shake my head as I write this because I know I'm supposed to put my daughter's needs first but as a teacher, those other children - someone else's children - often feel like mine and I want great things for them, just like I want them for my own girl. And the fact that they don't have gloves and hats in the winter or that they come to school hungry bothers me and all of a sudden I've spent the money.
In two hours, I will head out to pick up my classroom Mac. Last year the bill was more than $300, not including new software. This year I guess I got off easy. I wonder if my daughter sees it that way.