Well, it’s that time of year again…..back to school! I’ve seen the displays in the stores since right after the 4th of July, which I believe is way too early. When I was younger, school didn’t start until late August, or sometimes (depending on where I was living), after Labor Day.
Getting school supplies was always a high point when I was a child. I would take them home and organize them, and my mother would write my name on everything, in her beautiful handwriting. I remember taking my own children to get their school supplies, and letting them pick out their notebooks, folders, pencils, lunchboxes, backpacks, etc. Excitement was in the air!
As an educator, I still have to buy school supplies. I usually wait for the tax free holiday to save some extra money. You see, I teach in a title school, and most of my students can’t afford supplies. I buy extra, and try to stock up during the back to school sales, to get through the whole year…..extra boxes of crayons, glue, paper, scissors, pencils, erasers, highlighters, dry erase markers, folders, 3-ring binders, tissues……and so on. That doesn’t include the trips to the teacher supply store, buying new charts and classroom decorations. Elementary school teachers need to make their classrooms appealing, inviting, fun, and colorful. It needs to be a happy, friendly environment for our students. I could easily spend $500 on this. Then throughout the year, I have to replace these items, and buy more supplies. I can spend over $1000 every year just on my classroom.
Here’s the problem….in case you aren’t aware, teachers don’t make a lot of money. Currently, my district has yet to settle on our contracts for the year we just finished, and now we are going into another year, working on a contract that is two years old. This is quite normal, so I’m not criticizing just my district. It’s the whole establishment. With increasing insurance premiums, some of us make less money each year without our cost of living raises. I’ve been in this profession for 27 years, and currently make what I made 20 years ago.
Times are hard. I saw a teacher on the news this week who took to the streets with a sign (much like homeless people do), requesting funds for her classroom. I thought it was a brilliant idea, but why should we have to swallow our pride, and stand out in the 100 degree heat to have enough money for our classrooms? We are college educated professionals. It shouldn’t be this way.
My district pays us in June for the whole summer. We won’t receive another paycheck until September 15th. If there are any unexpected expenses throughout the summer, it can set you back, and leave you short of funds. In my case, I have had health issues the last two summers, resulting in medical bills not covered by our insurance. Where will we find money to pay for our living expenses? House payment? Car loans? Medical bills? Utilities? Oh, and then there’s those school supplies that everyone expects us to buy….. We don’t have it.
I once had a school board president tell me that teachers are not the “sharpest tools in the shed” because if we were, we would have chosen a career that paid better. He inherited his position as president of a manufacturing company, and I was apparently sharp enough to teach his son, but he didn’t have any respect for me or the profession! This was one of the most disrespectful comments I have ever heard when it comes to educators, and from a board president, no less.
I won’t go into detail of how packed our days are at school. That would take entirely too long. My day starts at 4 AM, and it’s an exhausting day! Let’s just say if we were paid what we are worth (education, experience, professionalism), none of us would be struggling financially, or begging for supplies or financial assistance. And maybe we/I wouldn’t have health problems if I weren’t worried constantly about finances. Yes, we get our summers off, but a lot of us are working 2 or 3 other jobs during this time to make ends meet. And, with health problems, it makes it hard to work another full time job in the summer.
Something needs to give when it comes to teacher salary. The powers that be need to start respecting the profession, and those who have dedicated so much of themselves to educating our future. My bank account can’t afford this, and neither can my health.