The first four years of my teaching career were spent in a high-needs school. Most of the kids were under the poverty line. The kids needed more of everything and there was never enough to begin with. Not enough books or pencils. Not enough paper, not enough time. Everywhere I turned things ran out too soon or weren’t available to begin with.
So we made do. Teach 35 kids with 10 books? Handled. Teach a kid with a third grade reading level using your tenth grade text? Done. Learn to teach without running copies? No problem.
And when we didn’t make do we supplemented. Every kid needs a pencil to take the standardized test? They aren’t that much anyway. Make copies of my final exam? If I just buy one ream I can make a class set. Teach a new novel? I wonder how much they are used on Amazon.
It isn’t a secret that teachers shell out their own money to get the things they need in their classrooms. This study found that teachers spend 1.3 billion dollars of their own money for their job. Ten percent of teachers spend over $1,000 for their students. This seems crazy. I am a teacher and $1,000 is nearly half of my monthly take home pay. Why would someone do that?
Because they have to. Because there isn’t any other choice. Because schools are designed with the understanding that parents will be able to contribute and when there are no parents who are able, the teacher has to step up.
Let me introduce you to what I call teacher math. (Even English teachers like myself do teacher math.) You automatically multiply what you need for each kid times the number of kids you have. A lab in biology that costs 50 cents per kid seems totally reasonable. Until you realize you have 35 kids in each of your 5 periods and running this lab will cost you $87.50. Many a projects are scrapped because of teacher math. You just can’t afford to do some cool stuff in your room.
Enter parental help. See, I don’t work at a high needs school anymore. All I do is tell the kids we are about to do this cool thing and tell them what to bring. Then they bring what they need and we have a grand time. My teacher math days are over.
But Juliet’s teacher doesn’t have parents that can help. At least not very many. While our neighborhood is very safe and very clean, it isn’t wealthy. Many of our neighbors are barely making ends meet. You can’t ask parents who are already stretching their food budget as far as it will go to contribute snack for 22 little mouths about once a month. They don’t have it. And you certainly can’t expect 22 four-year-olds to make it through a 7 hour school day without a snack. Not if you want to avoid face-melting tantrums (Y’all it is a pre-k class, I am sure there are more than enough face melting tantrums happening without tiny hangry children.) What is a teacher to do?
Buy snack herself.When pressed (by my nosy self) Juliet’s teached admitted that In past-years she and her paraproffesional have provided snack every day for 180 days, for 22 children. If each day only cost 10 dollars, we are still looking at almost $2,000 in snack cost. This seems a little crazy to me. Mostly, it seems unfair. This teacher is already teaching a program we know for a fact does a huge benefit to the community. Why does she also need to pay to feed her students?
Well, governement feeding programs don’t include snack. And hungry kids don’t learn very well. The reality is that not all of Juliet’s classmates will be eating every night at home. The hungriest kids are also, usually the ones already further behind academically. A packet of goldfish crackers may not seem like a deal maker for education in America, but you would be surprised at how much it can help.
Christian and I checked our grocery budget, and while we have the resources to provide snack about once a month, we also don’t have the means to cover snack everyday. Often my very generous readers ask me how to help when I talk about education. Here is one way to help. I started an amazon wish list with appropriate snacks for Juliet’s class. All you have to do is click click click and these items will be delivered to our house. We will be sure to pass them on.
I am hoping to get all year covered. With just an announcement on my Facebook page I already have a month! I know that the fruit packets are a little bit more expensive, but I also know kids in poverty don’t get enough fruits and vegetables. If you have the means, those would be great.
(If we get more than we need I am going to share with the other pre-k teacher who I am sure is in the same boat. If we cover both classrooms all extra will be personally delivered to The Dream Campaign, a non-profit in Savannah that serves underpreivileged kids and is always in need of after school snacks.)