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