I don’t normally write political posts on my blog but in light of our current union strike I knew I had to write this one. I have heard many times that teachers knew what they were getting into when they decided to become teachers so we should be happy with what we have. Part of that statement is true, most of it is not. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me when I began my teaching practicums and then transitioned into my own classroom was the amount of stuff teachers buy for their classroom out of their own money.
Many people have asked my why I buy so much stuff for my classroom when I teach in a public school that is funded by the government. Well, that is why I am writing this post. This year I am moving schools AGAIN (I have been teaching for 9 years and have moved 8 times) and thought this year I would take before and after pictures of my classroom to show what it is that I have purchased and what was in the classroom for me to use.
Here is what my classroom looked like on the last day of school before we went on strike (everything was left in hopes of a return before the actual end of the school year).
Lets go through my classroom section by section and you will see the major differences.
No baskets, borders, and only a few books left. Most of the books here are from a previous teacher but I included them because I didn’t buy them.
No alphabet line or posters.
No calendar or moveable carpet. I left the black paper up because it was from the school.
No bins or labels for organizing.
No number line or word work centres.
No magnets or posters.
No games for the kids to play on rainy/cold days.
No Math or Literacy activities to work on.
No comfy chair for reading in.
The top shelf has a few textbooks but for any grade below 3, there are no textbooks.
My before picture of this was too dark to see but here is the empty shelf behind my desk.
Once I packed up my teaching resources this is what is left. Three math textbooks, a binder with answer keys for one of the textbooks, cd player, and some random teaching units. Oh yeah and a hole punch!
I didn’t take an after shot of this but I wanted to include the rug I bought so my students didn’t have to sit on the floor while reading or doing work. Because of budget cuts, the floor only gets washed once a week (no fault of our great custodian) and the kids don’t want to sit on the dirty floor. Everyone was trying to cram on the blue carpet by the classroom library, so I gave them more room to sit.
These are just a few pictures of what I have spent my personal money on. They don’t include the shelves and shelves of resources I have at home or the many different art supplies, food for those hungry students, seat cushions for comfort, parent gifts (Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day), photo development, etc. which I have paid for.
So why do I do it and why will I continue to spend my own money (which could be spent on/with my son and husband), on things for my classroom and my students? The answer is two-fold.
Reason #1: I spend many, many hours a day in my classroom (another surprise going into teaching. Surprise no 8:30-2:30) and I want it to be an atmosphere I can feel happy being in. If I am not happy in my surroundings how can I be inspired to plan great lessons? If I was in a bland environment I would be desperate to leave and get outside. In my opinion, creating an inviting environment also welcomes my students and helps make them feel comfortable being in the classroom. They also spend a great deal of time here and they need to be happy/comfortable as well. I could go on and on with this point but I will stop 🙂
Reason #2: Students need to have engaging lessons and it is very, very difficult to do this by teaching strictly from the textbooks. If we have textbooks. Remember I said that for Kindergarten to Grade 2 there are no textbooks. I suppose I could say to my student day in and day out, “Okay, now turn to page ?? and we will carry on from where we left off yesterday.” Really it would make teaching and planning a whole lot easier, but WOW would I be bored and so would my students. To get around not relying solely on textbooks, teachers have to find materials elsewhere and this usually comes from buying resources or searching online for something that might work.
If we were just “greedy teachers” we would not be buying things for our classroom/students. Everywhere across B.C. and the country, teachers would be heard saying things like “I am sorry that you are uncomfortable sitting in that hard plastic chair but we only can get one cushion for our classroom.” “Oh you didn’t come to school with pencil crayons or scissors. Sorry, I guess you won’t be able to complete this art project.” “Yup, it is raining again. What can you do? Well there is paper. Draw again. Or you can read one of the 20 books we have in the classroom.” Again I could go on but will stop.
This strike action is more than just about teachers’ wages and benefits. It is about the government adequately funding our public schools and investing in our children, like teachers have been doing for many years.