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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The High Cost of Caring for Someone Else's Child

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.


  1. Do we work at the same school? Students don't show up for another week but today I shelled out $240 for the ink cartridge that will allow the laser printer a private school donated to me (when they got a color one) to print on the paper I usually buy because my school runs out all the time. We use the laser printer because the printer the school supplied has been waiting for a replacement part for slightly over 18 months.

    My son started college this week and the kid wants to be a high school English teacher. Maybe you could discourage him;he's not listening to me when I tell him it is a losing proposition.

  2. Please go see an accountant. It's not as fun as complaining -- but it will actually solve some problems.

  3. Also, please Google "free computers for teachers," or "classroom donations," or simply type "free stuff for teachers."

  4. Children's literature, new and replacement, so my students have books to read. A color printer and ink cartridges for my classroom. Hats, socks, gloves, breakfast bars, so the students can focus on learning. Pickles and pretzels as reading rewards. Art and craft supplies. Basic supplies like paper, pencils, erasers, spiral notebooks, crayons, whiteboard markers, rulers, scissors. Math manipulatives. Seasonal small gifts and party supplies like fruit, water, and cheese. I spend between $1500 and $3000 on my students every year.

  5. You've probably tried this, but it's actually worked for me. When I called the DOE Help Desk Number on the MacBook laptops (even though our warranty is technically expired) they sent someone to not only reformat computers but also to replace hard drives (two so far). It generally takes them a week or two to come in.

    The iBooks are a lost cause though if you have any of those and also no luck with battery replacement.