Growing up with both parents teachers at an urban public high school in California, I saw first-hand the impact that education budget cuts can have on teachers. My dad taught graphic arts, and frequently dug into his own pocket to keep his classroom supplied with printing equipment, inks, paper, and later, even desktop computers. Funding for vocational classes like his all but disappeared as higher-ups decided every student should be on a college track. To get the funds to keep his class relevant, my dad worked weekends and evenings printing brochures, newsletters, flyers, and T-Shirts for local businesses, plowing the proceeds back into classroom supplies.
My first “job” was screenprinting thousands of T-shirts for a local housing developer; I earned minimum wage but the classroom gained two new computers. Even many years later my dad still runs into students who thank him for what they learned in his class. Some are former gang members, or recent immigrants who barely spoke English — not typical college track — but they’ve been able to find good jobs in printing or graphic design thanks to having learned real world skills on up-to-date equipment.
The “Great Recession” Erased Many Teachers’ Budgets for Classroom Supplies
So it comes as no surprise to me to hear that many teachers are responding to draconian budget cuts by using their own money to purchase classroom supplies. As school districts across the country (CA, PA, OH, FL, NY, GA, ID, VA, HI, KS, and more…) contend with reduced funding, few classrooms are fully equipped with essentials like books, office supplies, craft materials, games, paints, puzzles, science projects and more.
At the same time, despite the clear preferences of teachers to the contrary, many well-intentioned (and equally cash-strapped) parents spend money buying the kinds of trinkets and knick-knacks that are frequently marketed as the “perfect holiday gifts for teachers“. Teachers don’t expect to receive Christmas gifts from their students, but in many schools it’s a fun tradition and a way for students (and parents) to show their appreciation.
Give the Gift Teachers Appreciate Most
I’ve yet to meet a teacher who would prefer an apple trinket or yet another coffee mug to school supplies, books, project materials, or other gifts that would benefit their entire classroom. Giving classroom supplies as a gift is better than traditional “teacher gifts” in several ways:
This year, if you’re in the fortunate position to be able to afford to have your kids take a Christmas gift to school for their teachers, consider ignoring the cute gift shop marketing, and instead gifting something much more practical, like classroom supplies.
If classroom supplies don’t seem like the most exciting gift idea to you, try these tips to turn even the most “boring” holiday present like a gift card or a box of paper and pencils into something unique and personalized that is fun both to give and to receive:
Finally, if you support the idea of “Chalk, Not Tchotchkes”, please consider spreading the word by sharing this post on Twitter or Facebook or wherever your virtual friends hang out.
Most requested supplies:
See more of the most requested teaching supplies organized by grade level and subject area.
INFOGRAPHIC DATA SOURCES:
Special Thanks to St Louis graphic designer Blue Canary Design for the awesome art!