Finally reality has sunk in for parents who could never understand why teachers talked about how much they ‘invested’ in their classroom. Not once in all the years I taught did I spend less than $2500 for my classroom, of which very little was tax deductible as I did not ‘earn’ enough. Quite literally I single handedly funded or ‘found’ (think dumpster diving, garage sales, etc.) most of what went on in my science classes as the ‘kits’ we were assigned to use did not have materials for my whole class (larger than 20) and/or you had to re-order consumables each year. The only people who understood this craziness were other teachers….the rest of the known community thought I was nuts for wanting to have materials in my classroom for an authentic science experience (this basically means doing more than reading a textbook and writing answers).
In the five years of most recent teaching, parents were frankly appalled that I would ask for things such as printer ink, colored paper, baggies, etc. and yet had no problem if their child used, mis-used, abused my classroom supplies. To the line of thinking of parents, it was my job to supply such goodies (along with stickers, treats, etc.) to my students. I was more shocked at the parents attitude than the fact I was spending money out of my pocket that I would of loved to have used on a summer vacation, except I worked summers to have money to put into my classroom for the school year.
When all was said and done, I began to realize our consumer driven society had convinced parents part of an education was that all materials were consumable and students need not respect or use reasonable amounts of various school products in the classroom. It broke my heart to see the outrageous waste and lack of recycling but then I only had students a part of the day and could not undo what their parents had done to an extreme at home. I began to really see the annual need for getting new textbooks when students had written on, in and bore holes through books, furniture, etc.. all things which in years past was practically a sin. Getting a parent to pay for a destroyed textbook at the end of the year led to students not ‘graduating/promoting’ but it never actually led to sufficient replacement that the school district was not losing money.
Couple ‘instructional’ materials with the sudden run on everything being toxic at school and everything having bacteria, there just was not enough money to outfit my classroom to the standard parents felt was appropriate and balked when I asked for help. The beginning of the school year became a polite begging situation which I dreaded. I began to explain how students could conserve on using paper, etc. and hoped maybe it would stick to their mind.
What I never shook off was the concept that many parents believed it was my duty as teacher to fund their childs education – at a time when I had 90-120 students a day, grade papers, print grade reports, make copies and so on so I could be seen as a good teacher. When my classroom expenses began to cause worry regarding how we would do particular lab activities necessary to good science, I began to realize the real problem – I was supposed to provide a budget education, which meant use the textbook (counterintuitive to my graduate school training of doing lab activities). Some costs just can not be compromised with consequences – picture the difference between eating food with high fructose corn syrup (cheap) versus a meal with quality protein and carbohydrates and little fat, and you get the picture. This situation then makes sense regarding math and science scores dropping over the years as all teachers were being asked to make the same sacrifice – and we could not all equally afford to.
If parents want to be outraged, angry and make a difference, they should VOLUNTEER at their childs school, most especially with the historically high unemployment we are experiencing in this country. Parents should start to ascribe to a more moderate and less consumer driven life. I would guess that a student needs a good education far more than McMansion, but then this point gets into the whole debaucle of having algebra under your belt to understand affordibility.