The Typical Elementary Teacher's Classroom

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Teachers are a wise and crafty bunch. We are continuously told that we need to have a wide variety of books and materials for the children to work with, and yet we are never provided with these materials. I cherish a walk through observation form written up by my then vice principal. Under the heading variety of materials she wrote "WOW!".

I go to yard sales, garage sales, dollar stores, thrift stores. I beg for materials from friends whose children have out grown things like blocks, Legos, and Mr. Potato Heads. There is a private school in my area that continuously collects gently used books, and then offers them to other teachers for free. But when push comes to shove, I spend my own money.

My brother and his family live in central VA. I love visiting with them, and try to do so at least once or twice a year. When I go around the 4th of July, it's primarily to see them, of course. Secondarily, it's so I can go to Wal-Mart, which is about 10 minutes down the road from their house, versus a 30-40 minute drive for me here in NJ. The first time I went, my SIL was with me, and she asked the question that most everyone asks a teacher:

"Doesn't the school/school board/school district give you this stuff??"

Simple answer is NO.

Now, those of you with children will know that yes, you can spend $1.00 and get crayons for a dollar at the Dollar store, but do they really last as long as Crayola? Do they color as nicely as Crayola crayons do? Nope. So when Wal-Mart has 24 count Crayola crayons on sale for 25 cents a box, I stock up on them! I buy 30 my first trip to start the school year out with, and every trip afterwards, I get more to give away at Christmas and at Easter. If we want children to produce quality work, we need to give them quality materials to work with.

One of my pet peeves is newsprint paper. I HATE it. I do not allow it in my classroom. I buy beautiful heavy duty, white, lined paper for my students to write on. I make my own writing journals out of Hammermill copy paper and card stock for the covers. I buy copy paper by the case.

We send home a letter to parents on the first day of school, asking parents to provide certain materials for their children to use: crayons, pencils, colored pencils, composition notebooks, 2 pocket folders, and Kleenex!! In all of my years of teaching (36), no school has EVER provided the classroom with Kleenex. I buy it in bulk from Costco.

And this is just the basic supplies.

I asked my SIL, "When the girls (my nieces) were in grade school and you went to Back to School Night and Report Card Conferences, did you notice the classrooms? Were they colorful and decorated? Were bulletin boards put up, and was there a nice reading center with maybe pillows or stuffed animals around?" She said, "Yes, of course!" I asked her, "Do you really think the school gives each teacher those things? Each teacher bought those things because, 1. They want their classroom to be as nice as possible for their students, and 2. Each teacher is judged by how their classroom looks, regardless of whether or not materials are given to them by the school.

Last year I was given a 12" x 12" x 12" box that had 1 box of staples, 1 box of paper clips, 1 roll of scotch tape, 1 roll of masking tape, 1 blue pen, 1 red pen, 1 box of broad tip dry erase markers, and a variety of other miscellaneous "office supplies". Each thing eventually came in handy, but was it what I needed? No.

I went to Lakeshore on Monday. Lakeshore is to Teachers as Toys R Us is to Kids. It's a teacher supply store. If you know a teacher, and there is a Lakeshore store near you, TRUST ME, get them a gift card for Back To School, Christmas, their birthday, or as an end of the year thank you. You'll make their day!!

I bought: glue sticks, chart tablets, hall passes, pencils, fine point dry erase markers, sticky wall fasteners (best thing to use to put up displays with!), bulletin board paper, bulletin board borders, bulletin board displays, calendars, lesson plan and record book, birthday display, new sight word display, birthday stickers, birthday awards, note cards, computer paper, and knowing me by now, everything had a theme. You'll never guess what it is! OWLS!! Hoot! So, I'm poorer now, but happy that my classroom will be clean, neat, and well decorated for my new group of First Graders.

Every teacher that I know does the same thing. It's what we do.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Oh man, the memories your blog brought back are just flooding in. In my former life I taught...preschool for eight years, 1st grade for one, and fifth grade for fifteen. (Every night when I taught first grade I would pray to God and ask for help in helping me teach those sweet babies to read! Wow, what a responsibility...thankfully prayers were answered!)

    Every day we move further along in society where "things" can matter most...where some one lives, what they drive, which phone/device each kid has, what teams they compete for seem to have too much relevance...Sadly, you and I both know that the single greatest gift we give our children is the love they need to go out in the they are ready and able to learn! When children learn with the very best teachers, they are inspired to learn for the rest of their lives. Problem solving and critical thinking are the gifts that keep on giving. Above all else, the ability to read is one of the single greatest indicators of a child's self esteem, for until they can is such a struggle. Today I volunteer and teach adults who never got the reading gig; many dropped out of school, spent (or are spending) time in jail or prison, are fighting addictions, or are new to the country and desperate to learn English. The need for resources and amazing teachers truly spans the spectrum, yet learning while young is key and truly pivotal in determining the path in life that many will take.

    As you prepare for a new school year, I thank you for sharing your time, talent, love, and resources with the children in your community. Teachers are in a league unto themselves, for they truly give all that they have...on so many levels. There is nothing quite as exciting as the first day of school, I do believe that good beginnings can lead to happy endings! I also know it is daunting to prepare your room, curriculum, and your teacher legs...all the best as you start a new school year, deb

    2137 days ago
    We are so lucky to have such great teachers like you - you are amazing and thank you!
    2137 days ago
  • GRACED777
    Thank you for your work in making the classroom an attractive place to be, and for sharing what's involved. Have a good year!
    2138 days ago
    emoticon Teaching is not a job, it is a calling.
    2138 days ago
    Wow, I never thought of all that teachers put in to my education besides the actual teaching....thank you!!!!!
    2138 days ago
  • JANET552
    I think kids feel better about themselves when they use quality materials. I loved your blog!! I spent gobs of money to outfit my classroom because I cared, and yes because I would be judged on it. Love the idea about the gift card for a teacher supply store. Your point about Kleenex is well taken too. I remember one year having to beg for a spray cleaner. I wanted to disinfect after seeing a sick kid so I wouldn't be spreading the sickness to others. That too just doesn't seem important enough.

    I hope you have an awesome school year!! First grade is such a wonderful grade to teach. I used to team teach a language class in the first grade room when I was working. That's no longer allowed or possible -- my position, once full time, is now about two days a week.
    2138 days ago
    wonderful--absolutely WOW is the right word.
    my MIL taught second grade, and like you, she was always on the lookout for classroom materials. like you, she was a wonderful teacher, committed to her students and determined to give them a good start up the educational ladder.
    and if I could reach out and hug you I would--when I read what you said about newsprint. it is the worst excuse for paper on the planet. I love beautiful paper and I remember very well as a kid, laying my hands across the sheets of manila (we thought the name was vanilla since it was the color of ice cream) paper. the look and feel of that beautiful paper as it covered the top of my desk always made me happy. I can still see it in my mind's eye and remember the way it felt and the sound my hands made running across it. and you are quite right--for a child to produce something beautiful and of high quality they need quality materials to start with. the materials in and of themselves can be inspiring and contribute to the source of pride in the finished product. its so very important to show a child that they CAN produce something of beauty and something they can take pride in--it is a learned thing--not an innate one.
    your kids are so lucky to have you for a teacher. you will remain in their lives forever.
    2138 days ago
    2139 days ago
  • no profile photo CD2704340
    So true! People have no idea unless they're really close friends/family of a teacher. Your students are lucky to have you. Have a fabulous school year!
    2139 days ago
    At the end of the school year because I was the room mom, I called each parent and asked if they would contribute to a gift for the teacher. If asked, I suggested $5 because a simple card costs nearly that much. We presented the teacher with $150 gift certificate at a local teacher's supply store. The teacher was flabbergasted but oh so pleased. It's one of my fondest memories as a room mom.
    2139 days ago
  • no profile photo CD14575754
    What a great testament to you and your fellow teachers, as to the lengths you will go, to give your students the best possible experience while learning. I say 'BRAVO'
    BRAVO'... I really liked your suggestion as to giving Lakeshore Gift Certificates to a teacher you may know. emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2139 days ago
  • no profile photo CD14643906
    I helped my sis-in-law set up her classroom once when I was a kid. I was so thrilled, and got to see how much went into it. You really seem to love it. Lucky you, and lucky kids to have you!
    2139 days ago
    Wow you are dedicated is amazing the school does not help with this. MORE OF OUR TAXES SHOULD GO FOR THIS, EDUCATION IS VERY IMPORTANT TO OUR FUTURE.
    2139 days ago
    This sounds very very familiar! I especially relate to the crayons!
    2139 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12183607
    Thank you for writing this! I teach third grade in Texas and we have the same experience. I stock up on stuff all summer long. Our kids have a supply list but half of them don't bring anything. Few bring everything on the list. I ask for donations of things from parents but rarely get them. I love dollar tree! I hope you have a great year!
    2139 days ago
    Yes, it is astounding to me the out-of-pocket $$$ that teachers expend to stock their classrooms.

    We Mom's always "hit the sales" for supplies so we could help out. It felt good!
    2139 days ago
  • no profile photo CD14212757
    Yup...we take more out of our own pockets and many don't realize that..the schools are suffering so in order for teaches to get what they need, we spend our own is sad but not many teachers would go without!!
    2139 days ago
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