Teachers in B.C. public schools have started taking home materials from their classrooms in anticipation of a full-scale strike on Tuesday.
It's no secret that a lot of classroom material — from books to supplies to decorations — is purchased by parent advisory committee (PAC) funds, as well as by teachers themselves. But the magnitude of teachers' contributions is clear when they remove their belongings.
We asked teachers to send us before and after photos of their classrooms, and the differences are stark:
Most public schools can spend school supply fees and school learning resources funds to buy classroom items. Fundraisers by PACs supplement the purchase of additional equipment and materials.
“Teachers spend their own personal money to personalize their classrooms and make their classroom functional, organized, and inviting,” says Vancouver teacher Wendy Lau. “With only what the school board provides, the classrooms are very bland and cold.”
Through the years, Lau has purchased puzzles, storage containers, stickers, decorations, science project supplies, and dress-up clothes — until her husband, who is also a teacher, had to remind her of financial obligations like their mortgage. “There were years when I spent over $1,000,” she says.
“It's like expecting parents preparing for the first newborn in the family. The subsequent children get the hand-me-downs.”
That’s even including the fact that Lau’s school is in an affluent neighbourhood, which results in lucrative PAC fundraisers, as well as donations of toys and other materials in great condition.
“The start-up cost of setting up your ideal classroom is high. It’s like expecting parents preparing for the first newborn in the family. The subsequent children get the hand-me-downs,” explained Lau in an email to The Huffington Post B.C.
Lau says she tries to laminate sheets and reuse items until they’re “totally broken.” She also brings things home for her husband to Krazy Glue together or repair.
Megan Guenter, a kindergarten teacher in Vancouver, tells HuffPost B.C. that she has spent thousands of dollars since 2000 to make her classroom a “vibrant and amazing place” for her students.
Surrey elementary school teacher Zakkiya Keshani points out that not only does she provide the materials, she also uses her own time to set up the classroom and clean all the toys.
The teachers’ union and the province are locked in a bitter labour dispute over wages, class composition and size.
Check out photos of classrooms before and after teachers remove items they’ve purchased: