"You're rich. You're a teacher." Many, many times over the last 17 years of my teaching career, I have heard students make those comments. Whenever I tell them that teachers are far from rich (unless their spouses are rich...), they think I'm just kidding.
"Teachers only work 9 months a year, but you get paid all year long" is another misconception that many people have. In Alabama, there are three categories: 9 month employees, 10 month employees, and 12 month employees. Most teachers fall into the 9 month category. In Alabama, we are contracted to work 187 days, and we are paid for those 187 days only. However, our salary for those 187 days is divided over 12 months so that we don't go three months without pay. (And believe me, most of us put in enough hours outside of the 8-3 school day to equal close to 12 months worth of work. All of those extra hours are done free of charge.)
In the past, the Alabama State Department of Education has provided teachers money for classroom supplies, materials, software, etc. In the time I've been teaching, the amount has ranged from about $200 up to $545. This year because of proration, the ALSDE wasn't able to provide us with any teacher allocation money (and I'll be surprised if they have any to give us next year.) Somehow, our system found enough money to give each certified person $180. That doesn't go far. Even with the state allocation money, there have been many times when I have spent hundreds of dollars a year buying supplies out of my own pocket. Either I have run out of printer ink and didn't have time to wait on the turn-around for a purchase order, I have seen something that I just had to have for my class, or I've tossed in a pack of pens, correction fluid, notebook paper...things my kids often run out of...into my buggy at Wal-Mart.
When John and I first married, he could not understand why I would buy supplies for my classroom. He would ask why I didn't just go to the office and get what I needed. He had worked in the medical field for years, and whenever he needed pens, tape, staples, etc. for the department, he would fill out a requisition, send it to purchasing, and it would be delivered to the department, usually by the next morning. Sure, he had to figure those kinds of things into the departmental budget, but still, all he had to do was ask and it appeared. I finally got him to understand that it doesn't work that way in the field of education. Whenever we fill out a purchase order, it will take a week or so to work its way through the process and get back to us. Then WE have to either order it ourselves or go to the store to get it ourselves. And more than once, the price on the PO didn't match the price in the store because the price on the PO was a sale price. So sometimes it is just as easy to toss that pack of pens in the buggy when I'm shopping.
You're probably wondering WHY in the WORLD I'm talking about this. Well, let me tell you. :)
A few months back I was getting ready for work when I heard a segment on the news that caught my attention. The segment was about how teachers could get FREE stuff for their classrooms. Uh, yeah...free stuff...I'm ALL about that! LOL
donorschoose.org is an online charity for public school teachers. Teachers can create projects, and then people can donate toward projects. If the project is fully funded, the teachers get all of the goodies they asked for. FREE to the teacher!
Another teacher had seen the segment too. She and I talked about it and decided we wanted to check into it farther. She did her project first, and within months, it had been fully funded and delivered. She is a Spanish teacher, so she wanted a digital video camera and all the extras--bag, tripod, battery--so that she could do pod casts for her classes. In just the last couple of weeks, my project was fully funded and I received my supplies. Granted, my stuff wasn't quite as exciting as Karen's--3x5 and 4x6 index cards, pocket folders, ink cartridges, and flash drives for the research projects--but everything is necessary for doing research. And since so many people in our community have been faced with the loss of jobs recently, this was my way of trying to help students who might have parents who are currently unemployed.
Creating a project does take some time, depending on how complex the project is, but it really is not difficult. When I first checked into the charity, I noticed that projects ranged from class sets of books to trips. Different teachers in different disciplines have different needs and wants.
So, my whole reason for this post is to share this wonderful opportunity with anyone else who might be a teacher. If you aren't a teacher, I'm sure you know a few and maybe you could pass this information along to them. And maybe, hopefully, somebody will feel compelled to donate.
Take a minute. Go to www.donorschoose.org. See what is being asked for. Create a project if you are a teacher. Donate to a project if you can. Make a difference in the life of a child.
And have a GREAT Thursday! :)