I'll Gladly pay you Tuesday for Some Copy Paper Today

A recent article in Time Magazine shouting, "California Teachers Paying For School Supplies and More" made me wonder where the author has been and under whose rock she has been hiding. Why is this suddenly newsworthy? I mean, haven't we been using our own money on our classrooms for years?

I've been in education now for 26 years. At the beginning of my career, I remember spending hundreds of dollars (yes, even back then) for extra items when I wanted to do something with my class that wasn't "expected" of me. I remember buying books and tapes, LEGO Mindstorms, light-sensitive paper, etc. These days however, I truly must purchase my own basic supplies for even that which is expected of me; shelving for my room, copy paper, paper clips, staples, pencils, pencil sharpeners (even the hand crank one), etc. To date (this year alone), I believe I have more than $800 in receipts for which I will never receive reimbursement.

Publishers are making millions of dollars by selling their textbooks to school districts with the "21st Century" feature of having almost all of their textbooks, workbooks, etc. online in PDF format. This is awesome, until you realize that when you need the pages, you must copy them yourself. Let me make this clear though, I would like to have the option of having both (PDF and hard copy student versions of items of MY choice). Better yet, make the work interactive and reduce the PDF-type worksheets altogether. Young students do still need writing experiences though, so what's the harm in giving us all of it? Older students can use notebooks and take notes easily where elementary students take the bulk of their lesson time recording information in their notebooks. Having something pre-printed that they can work through and refer back to, makes a lot of sense. In the case of a science lab data record for example, my students took 45 minutes to record their observations in their blank notebooks and 10 minutes to do the same thing on a copied paper where I drew the data tables for them.

Teachers have always spent their own money on classroom items. Yet, I don't know of any other job where people do this. Those in the business sector don't seem to understand why we do this. My husband tells me all the time to just refuse to use what is not provided. He also tells me there's no point to doing anything if you're not getting paid for it. That includes blogging here or for PBS. It also includes presenting at conferences, even at ones where my expenses are paid in full. His business-brain tells him that "nobody buys the cow when the milk is free."

Where do you stand on all of this?

I'd love your comments and I'd also appreciate it if you would take my poll. Let's see if teacher-spending is unique to California after all.