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8 Unexpected Costs New Teachers Should Think About
Guest Post by Stephanie Lynch
Young professionals who choose to go into the field of education often enter with high optimism and idealistic expectations of changing the world by teaching one child at a time. And while many veteran teachers hold these same optimistic values and ideas, sadly, it often isn’t the case.
Because teaching is not just what we see in films and television programs, being a teacher is often grueling and an under-appreciated job. Let’s not even get into the pay!
And teachers aren’t just underpaid and under-valued — they often purchase at least a moderate quantity of classroom supplies each year, and pay for it out of pocket. The hidden costs of teaching are a burden on our educators both financially and emotionally, as the individual teacher is, depressingly, implicitly expected to shoulder the financial burden that will cover a lack in the classroom that the school district at large is unable or unwilling to cover.
In 2015, U.S. teachers collectively spent $1.6 billion in school supplies for their classrooms. The average teacher spends about $500 out of pocket per year, with 10% of teachers spending $1,000 per year — or more.
So what are teachers paying out of pocket for exactly? If you’re wondering what teachers pay for, here are eight common things:
#1 Basic school supplies
We all remember the annual fall pilgrimage to stock up on back-to- school supplies. We’d come home from the office supply store with pencils, notebooks, folders, backpacks, and more. Well, with the combination of flagging school budgets and a flagging economy leaving parents without resources, teachers are picking the slack and providing what these other sources cannot.
#2 Classroom organizational supplies
A good teacher needs good organization to keep their work effective — and to keep sane. But schools are often not paying for these items or not providing a wide enough variety. Therefore the teacher is left paying for their own totes, folders, filing supplies, and so forth.
Reading is fundamental, right? Every classroom needs a small library for students to select from during the day without having to go to the school’s main library — particularly if the school doesn’t have a larger library, as is the case in more and more underfunded schools theses days. So who picks up the slack? You guessed it — the classroom teacher. He or she provides a variety of developmentally appropriate reading materials for his students, and of course — foots the bill.
In addition to reading books, some teachers find themselves having to pay for textbooks as well or provide substitutes. This happens in underfunded schools that have no resources to draw upon, leaving teachers to scramble for basic education materials.
#5 Manipulatives and Other Teaching Tools
Teachers often need something to teach with. Sometimes that includes textbooks, but more and more, this can mean manipulatives (i.e., teaching tools used to convey concepts, particularly in the fields of mathematics and geometry) and similar teaching tools. These tools are very effective at helping students learning difficult abstract topics that can be applicable in real world ways, and some teachers are willing to invest in these tools themselves if the school cannot.
#6 Art Supplies
More and more schools are seeing drastic cuts in the arts. Teachers who know how important the inclusion of the arts in a child’s education will continue to offer creative opportunities to their students — and foot the bill for the supplies needed to make this possible. Paint, construction paper, brushes, water cups, crayons, and more are all sourced the teacher’s personal checking account.
Good teachers know that sometimes play is the best and the most effective form of learning. So they create games for their students to help convey concepts, and again, they pay the price for the supplies which may include counters, spinners, game pieces, and other related items.
It may seem like a trivial matter, but a classroom’s décor is an important part of the educational experience. We all remember the vividly decorated classrooms of our childhood, with colorful bulletin boards welcoming us back to school in September, and posters encouraging us and helping reinforce what the teacher was conveying in her lessons. Now imagine thirty students and one stressed out teacher in a plain grey cinder block walled classroom, completely bereft of color. It paints a bleak picture, does it not? Thank goodness for teachers who transform the institutional edifices of our schools into welcoming and nurturing atmospheres for our children.
These costs could continue such as contributing to a flower fund for a co-worker or picking up the tab for a lunch because of a weekly meeting. Regardless of the school district you’re in, there’s a good chance a teacher is spending a few hundred dollars, if not more, out of their paycheck.
About the Author:
Stephanie Lynch is a former teacher but now freelance writes in the comfort of her own home. She is the co-founder of Howmuchisit.org – a cost-helping database designed to help you find out what unknown things cost in life.