If Nurses Don’t Buy Medical Supplies, Why Should Teachers Buy School Supplies? by Ann Marie Patitucci

Opinion School/Education
9 months ago

If Nurses Don’t Buy Medical Supplies, Why Should Teachers Buy School Supplies?

I have a friend who will be teaching fourth grade for the first time this school year. This means that she needs a lot to set up her classroom: books, curriculum resources, supply caddies, posters to decorate the walls, school supplies for kids who will come to school without them and more. Her school isn’t going to pay for these items; the county won’t supply them; the Department of Education won’t supply them. I’ve noticed that well-meaning family and friends (myself included) have pointed out sales and teacher discounts to her and other teachers in their lives. 

But lately this hasn’t been sitting well with me. 

When I see a good deal on surgical masks or medical gloves, I don’t alert my nurse and doctor friends, because they aren’t required to supply such necessities. And yet teachers are expected to provide very basic items for their classrooms to function and their students to learn. New teachers in particular must start from scratch. I’ve noticed teachers using crowd-sourcing sites and Amazon wish lists to raise money for classroom needs. 

One teacher friend shared with me: “It’s hard to ask people for help when you know everyone is working hard for their own needs. It doesn’t feel good to ask. It’s embarrassing. But we either ask or buy everything ourselves or go without.” 

Another teacher posted on social media: “One of the interesting things about being a teacher is trying to explain to your S.O. why we’re sitting in a Target parking lot waiting to buy math and literacy centers from a stranger. The best part is when he asked, ‘How can they require you to have them when they don’t provide them?’ which sums up a lot about teaching.” 

I can’t help but wonder: How did we get here? Is there a creative way to address this problem? How can we be a part of the solution? How can we support our teachers and schools? How can we hold policy makers accountable? I don’t have all the answers but I think we can start by asking questions. And for those of us who can afford our kids’ school supplies, maybe we can stop complaining about buying them. Maybe we can skip a latte at some point during the school year and buy a book or a pack of pencils for our child’s classroom instead. 

If there was a shortage of surgical masks and medical gloves at our local hospital, and if nurses (another group of amazingly angelic, hard-working people) were required to buy their own, something tells me that we wouldn’t stand for that; we would do something about it. But our teachers don't have enough pencils. Or paper. So they provide it themselves. And we have come to accept this. We have become complacent. I think we need to ask ourselves why. 

Our teachers, and our kids, deserve better.

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Elisa Schmitz
Preach, Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead ! You are so right! When did this happen, and why? I can't understand it. We just took for granted we needed to help our kids' teachers start the school-year off right with Kleenex, paper towels, markers, etc. But the fact that so many teachers are still buying these necessities is mind boggling. There should be funds set aside for supplies! "Maybe we can skip a latte at some point during the school year and buy a book or a pack of pencils for our child’s classroom instead." Love that line! Thank you for voicing this issue and let's see what we can do to help!
Ann Marie Patitucci
I agree about funds being set aside. I'd love to see that happen, Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds !
Tracey Hempenstall
Loved the article! So true that our teachers and students deserve better.

My first few years as a teacher in California - I was POOR. I bought a lot for my classroom, gave a lot to my students; I was living in an expensive city and working in a very underserved area. I was blessed to have friends who had high paying jobs and were willing and able to buy books for my classroom library.
Ann Marie Patitucci
Thanks for sharing this, Tracey Hempenstall . All I can say is that this seems like a very broken system to me. I know far too many teachers who have second jobs. We can, and should, do better for all of our teachers. They deserve it.
Katie Sloan
It’s so absurd! There should be district funded resources for teachers. Period.
Gina Pomering
I think there should b a warehouse like food banks and u donate to it either a gift card to buy the supplies or the supplies themselves. Then the teachers get to go shopping! I remember my small Catholic HS had a book store and you could always leave a lil extra or buy supplies for the teacher when u picked up your books. It’s like everything else people have always had it ,meaning the teachers have always taken their own $ and now it’s an expectation... that never should have been. I always buy extra when I can but there should definitely be a better way to do it!
Great tip Ann Marie!
This is something that has been bothering me so bad in the past year. I've always been aware of this and have done my part to provide supplies and any time I had something extra to give I would.
But something stuck out to me this past year that really bothered me enough that I can't stop thinking about it. E told me last year while standing in Home Depot that her teacher worked a second job there. Then I made a comment about how it makes me so angry that teachers don't get paid enough so they sometimes get stuck working a second job on top of everything else they do and my son chimed in to say he has 2 teachers that work second jobs as well. Add that with the fact that you guys already take so much out of your own pockets it has me wondering why are people not upset enough to make noise and start doing things to collectively make a difference? There are so many things that people are freaking out about that don't warrant the response given but everyone sits silent as teachers give everything they have to provide the best possible learning environment for our kids even though they may be going without at home because of it or over extending themselves just to stay afloat.
Ann Marie Patitucci
Mjaelaws : That's what I've been thinking about, how everyone has been silent, complacent about this. It's like we've just come to accept that the onus is on teachers to supply their own classroom needs. When did this happen? HOW did this happen?
Nicole DeAvilla
As individuals and as a country we must be willing to put our money where our mouth is. I don't understand why so many people are willing to accept this. It hasn't always been this way. At our schools district, the families raise large amounts of money for the public schools to help subsidize it. However, this creates an uneven playing field in the public schools because not all districts have communities that can support the schools, and thus the teachers.
Mike Prochaska
Truth. This all very true. Great post
Mike Prochaska
We actually brought more school supplies then asked for yesterday at supplies drop off just for this reason. I always send both my kids with more then they need
Lark Sontag
I have to focus in Early Ed to NOT by things to ask for reimbursement...to charge for my time. I just want to help and then I forget about myself. Yes people in education need to be supported in all ways, including financial.
I noticed this was originally posted 5 years ago, yet here we are. STILL. And the situation has definitely not gotten any better - I understand it's actually worse.
I'm not sure what teachers in the US are paid, but here in Alberta, Canada, our teachers are unionized, with their salaries dependent on their geographical location. Salaries range from $25.04/hr to $52.06/hr. They calculate the total # of teaching hours/year & divide by 12 so that teachers are getting paid for the 2 months of summer vacation, as well. Unfortunately, here it boils down to politics. Our not-so illustrious Premier decided to slash the Education budget. She can't do anything about salaries, but put a semi-freeze on hiring, and has cut back on classroom aides for the Special Education students, who are in mainstream classrooms. This, of course, puts an enormous strain on the teachers, causing ALL the students to get less than they deserve.
Our teachers have also been supplying many of their materials for years, especially if for a special project.
Fortunately, my city of 25,00 has many community and corporate folks that are willing to step up to the plate. Any of the stores that sell school supplies of any kind have huge boxes for supply donations, with the aim being to provide a fully stocked backpack for anyone in need. Even the churches collect - & boy - do we have a LOT of them! 25, last time I checked 🤯.
And our nurses? Yikes! Starting salary for an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) is just over $30/hr, plus shift differential, time and 1/2 and double time on holidays... And we've got a severe nurse shortage, post Covid.
We had FIVE registered nurses that made between $450 & 522 THOUSAND last year, because of massive overtime. The majority of the R.N.s make about $100k.
But the poor teachers... It seems to be an endemic problem. The politicians, from local to federal need to do better. Today's children are the next generation's leaders. Education is paramount. It is EVERYTHING!
And now that I've had a bout of word vomit 🤗 Ann Marie Patitucci, I ❤️ your article. It's a shame that we're having to revisit it again, 5 years later. Who was it that said "The more things change, the more they stay the same. "? I think whomever was indeed a very wise individual.
Ann Marie Patitucci
Thanks for sharing, Terry. It is a shame indeed. In my opinion, teachers are underpaid in the US, too. Their salaries are also typically spread out across 12 months. With few exceptions, all teachers purchase some, if not all, of their classroom supplies. In schools where children are in need, teachers also reach into their own pockets to provide students lunch money, snacks, book fair money, and more; I've seen it with my own eyes. We see people leaving the profession at an alarming rate-- and when we need good teachers perhaps now more than ever. More respect, better salaries, and more support could make all the difference in morale and therefore in keeping teachers in the classroom.

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