That supply budget seems to vanish very quickly. After ordering pencils, pencils, pencils, and more pencils, there is nothing left for all of the projects that the students enjoy so much. And, after ordering some paper and glue stick for 125 students over ten months, there will probably not be anything left for high-interest technological gadgets. Unless the teacher is willing to have a daily struggle over students bringing a pencil to class, meaning the pencils will be taking up much of the budget, there is going to have to some creativity, sharing, and give and take involved in the ordering process.
Most teachers have about $250.00-$500.00 to spend on supplies for the next school year. This figure does not include books or computers, but it does include items like bulletin board decorations (which no longer seem to be reusable, since over the course of the year students feel they can write on them and rip them down when the teacher is absent), paper, pens, colored pencils, poster board, videos or DVDs, machines on which to present the videos or DVDs, overhead transparencies, markers (dry erase, overhead, and washable), erasers, chalk, portfolio folders, file folders, printer toner. $500.00 may look like a lot of money at first, but ten boxes of 144 pencils costs approximately $120.00. If a teacher in middle school sees 125 students a week, and 50 pencils are “borrowed” a week, then in around 30 weeks, there will be no more pencils, and that is figuring low, because the student is not going to bring that pencil to class all week.
The average teacher puts about $500 of his/her own money into the classroom per year; that is according to a 2002 report. That is a personal choice, by a dedicated teacher who wants to add a little extra to whatever is going on in the classroom, whether it is for rewards, supplies, or trip fare, whatever. Some teachers bring supplies that are at home to the classroom, such as older televisions, educational games their own kids have outgrown, and other items, such as computer disks or software, electric fans in places where none are supplied. Some teachers will not spend a dime in the classroom or bring anything in either. This is also a choice.
Teachers need to look into sharing with each other. Perhaps if four teachers each have $25.00 left over, that is $100.00, enough for a Math Safari that can be shared (and devise a schedule for students to use it). Share televisions and DVD players. Bring the antiquated digital camera from home to liven up lessons. Also, look into what DVD’s are available at the public library and determine which teachers are teaching the same topic at that time. Arrange for a mass showing of the DVD. That is another $20.00 saved! Have students work in groups, rather than individually, to save on art supplies, and also work in conjunction with the art teacher so skills can be incorporated or not repeated.
Teachers tend to work in isolation and this should not be. This year, when ordering, collaborate. Someone may lend you the $1400.00 digital microscope you need for just one class period.