Magazine article Teach

The Cost of Caring

Magazine article Teach

The Cost of Caring

Article excerpt

When it comes to teachers and their money, one might well ask if teachers teach to live to teach. A survey conducted by TEACH magazine indicated that most teachers funnel back a portion of their annual income -- often between $100 to $500 -- into their classrooms. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association recently reported that their members spend an average of $356 on school supplies, a year. Below, several teachers from across Canada elaborate (and sometimes lament) on where their money goes and how to make it go a bit further.

Many teachers say they spend either out of necessity or to increase the educational experience of students. Sometimes, the line is a fine one. It can mean making a class more exciting for students and teacher alike or just make learning possible by feeding a student who hasn't eaten since the night before. It's a line that's crossed daily, especially by elementary school teachers who are typically responsible for everything inside their classrooms.

Shauna McHarg spent $2,000 of her salary while teaching on a reserve in Northern Alberta several years ago. She provided breakfast to many pupils each day, supplied the entire class with second - hand mittens, decorated the fairly blank room and had to personally buy many supplies and books. In part, her expenses skyrocketed, she says, because it was her first year of teaching and she had accumulated no resources. Although McHarg continued buying food for students when teaching at a socio - economically depressed junior high school in Edmonton, the next year, she believes the burden weighs heaviest on rural instructors. Others interviewed for this article agreed.

Now, McHarg is likelier to spend $10 a month on small gifts and stickers that pave her way as a supply teacher and help ease the trauma that some grade one, two and three students feel when their regular teacher is absent, she says. Longer term commitments, however, make for different kinds of spending. When working in the same elementary school class for most of last year, for instance, McHarg encouraged students to "read their way across Canada," marking their progress in mileage on a map and rewarding extensive travels by taking students out for pizza.

This got expensive," says McHarg, "but you could tell it worked because kids started being inspiredby one another and reading more."

Diana Bergmann, principal and the grade three and four teacher at Pike Lake School, in rural Saskatechwan, also spends lots of money to promote reading. For more than 30 years, Bergmann has invested $200 to $300 or more buying books. Her goal is to create lifelong readers. In the process, she aims to stock her classroom with a minimum of 200 books a year to be used daily during periods of free reading and at every spare moment.

Many teachers spoke of adding their own money to student book clubs, in the process helping pupils to earn more free books for their class. As for themselves, teachers seem to spend much on books of professional development, especially when they're teaching several subjects, some of them for the first time.

Whether or not teachers get reimbursed for their spending differs radically depending on the location. Whereas, McHarg has taught in elementary schools in Edmonton where teachers had to personally buy some or all of the paper used in class, Fernando Goncalves, of Scarborough, Ontario, gets reimbursed for 80 percent of his purchases. An elementary and middle school teacher for 23 years, Goncalves, who has worked for approximately eight principals, cannot remember ever being turned down for a reimbursement. He attributes his luck to both asking before he buys and to the policies of the Scarborough Board of Education. Although the teachers at his school do not have a specific figure to which they adhere, he says, almost all of the teachers do ask and get reimbursed. Such a policy applies not only to school supplies but to professional development books that benefit the entire staff. …

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