Teachers have a lot of stuff. Then again, these days everyone has a lot of stuff. It’s coming out our ears. We no sooner acquire something and the next new thing is coming out. So we acquire it too. As a child, I would think about what happened to my stuff once it was no longer mine. It was sold at a garage sale, given to charity, or just thrown in the trash, but where did it go? Would the world be so overcome with STUFF one day that we would have to store it say…on the moon? Plenty of room there. But teacher stuff is…different.
My mom started teaching when I was 11, and I would go to her classroom every year in August to help her set up. At that time, I didn’t notice how much stuff she actually had. When I became a teacher, I began to notice. My mom started throwing materials at me faster than I could pick them up: books, folders, posters, borders (oh, the boxes of borders!) Then her teacher friends started to hand down stuff to me as well. When I set up my first classroom, most of the stuff I used was second hand. Though as any teacher will tell you, there is always room for new stuff! I purchased containers, buckets, plastic drawers, CDs, books, whiteboards, magnet letters, calendar pieces, bulletin board paper, more borders(!), and more teacher resource books than I can count. All were purchased with my own money, because as we all know, schools have “limited funds.” When my mom retired three years ago after 23 years of teaching, it took about three days and about six dumpsters to move her stuff out of her classroom. Most of what survived the dumpsters resided in my parents’ garage for the better part of three years, minus what I took to teach. She wryly quipped that she had enough stuff to keep three or four teachers equipped their entire careers. She has finally made a dent in it and hoped to turn that part of the garage into an art studio. But stuff remains…
I have moved my stuff to a different school or classroom three times and each time I make the promise to myself that I will never buy another teaching material—knowing all the time I’m lying to myself. Teachers have to buy stuff. It’s not a requirement. But to do all the things we are expected to do, we need stuff. And school districts do not always provide what we need. This year my district spent thousands and thousands of dollars on technology, specifically for grades 3-8. Meanwhile in kindergarten, while we received a pinch of that technology, we were left begging parents for donations of glue sticks, white board markers, and crayons. The stuff we receive from the district is more expensive than ever—but the little things we need and use day to day aren’t being provided.
This year, I will be teaching the new Transitional Kindergarten class at our school. The requirements of TK include dramatic play, hands-on exploration, and socialization. And this means more stuff. Puppets, sand trays, blocks, discovery centers, play kitchens, and much more stuff I don’t have. My district is making steps towards supplying things to the TK teachers, but will it be enough? How much of my own money will I spend to give my students the educational experience they deserve? More importantly, will the district take the steps to helping the TK teachers get the stuff they need? I certainly hope so. Because there are teachers, like me, who still hold on to some of the “old-fashioned” ideas of kids painting, playing kitchen, dressing up, using their imaginations in school and not just their fingers on a mouse. I remember this from my own kindergarten experience. Why are we holding it back from students now? Transitional kindergarten is the perfect opportunity to bring back these socialization activities. IF teachers can get the stuff they need.
Meanwhile, while I wait to find out what my district will provide, I will be shopping, trolling Pinterest, and looking for more stuff. The cycle continues!
Tell us about your experience with teacher “stuff.” How do you make it manageable? Share your thoughts in the comments!