How Much Does it Cost You to Go Back to School?

How Much Does it Cost You to Go Back to School?

There are many stories out there regarding how much money teachers spend out of their own pocket on their classroom. Of course, it’s not news to you! This also doesn’t account for all the “off the clock” time teachers put in to get the classroom ready!

The 1995-96 school year was my first year teaching fourth grade. I remember being so overwhelmed with so many things. I was not prepared for the culture shock of teaching in the low-income school where I was assigned, but I had a lot of foreshadowing so it wasn’t a total surprise. What I was really shocked about was the complete lack of supplies and condition of the building/classroom that I was to teach in. They do not warn you or prepare you at all in college for the complete lack of support you may receive for supplies!

The school I was in my first year dated back to 1928. For the years I was there 1995-1999, it was very aged and deep need of repair. The day I entered my classroom for the first time I was welcomed with 20 older metal desks, an old teacher’s desk with broken locks on the drawers, a single (empty) bookshelf, 2 smaller tables, and a very dated overhead projector on a cart all covered in dust!

After thoroughly cleaning I took stock of what I had to work with. The storeroom was supplied with some colored paper on giant rolls we could use for projects or bulletin board backgrounds, some pencils, student paper (that old very thin, brownish tinted kind). To get other supplies like scissors, pens, and other basic office supplies for my desk I was able to put in an order. Our school did not have any kind of a Parent/Teacher organization in place so there was nowhere to go for extra funding for anything else. Even with my sparse inventory, I was so excited to decorate and get my classroom ready to be a place to come together as a community and learn!

For the reading area, I bought a carpet remnant and scrounged garage sales and found an old chair and as many chapter books as I could find. The room had hardwood floors with big high ceilings so it wasn’t comfy and cozy and the acoustics were terrible!

Due to the income level of the area and district mandates we did not ask students to provide any school supplies at all. I went to Target’s back to school sales and bought up folders and other supplies the students would need. Of course, I emptied my checking account at the teacher resource stores on bulletin board supplies and classroom decor supplies. This was pre-TpT days before you could create and print any of this yourself on a computer with a colored printer so it was all that pre-made stuff which was not cheap!

A computer was not added to my classroom for a year or so. I was able to go to the Teachers Administration Building in another area of town and use a laminator that the district provided so that was helpful!

I was really proud of how nice my room looked, but my bank account was pretty empty those first days of school!

Throughout the year I tried to continue to stock the class library with $1 books from the Scholastic orders. I had a desperate need for chapter books. Our school only went up to grade 4 and sadly the school library was pretty small and very, very light on chapter books. My students did not have a high rate of public library use due to lack of access, so school was the place for them to get their hands on books. I wanted them to be reading age-appropriate books. I felt very strongly that you could not expect students to be reading at a 4th-grade level when all they had access to was 2nd grade and below books!

I also replaced folders and other supplies throughout the year and kept the class stocked in tissues. The district did not provide tissues at all, we were expected to use the coarse paper towels. This was not comfortable or very hygienic!

Over the course of that first year, I spent approximately $1400, more than a month’s pay, on supplies to make my classroom a place that was conducive to learning. I didn’t go fancy, I added the bare bones to make the shell of a room into a learning environment.

I still look back on that room with great pride. I do feel the school should have provided much more and there is still a little bitterness there, but I don’t regret spending the money I did on those kids. They deserved a warm classroom where they could learn. It just shouldn’t have been funded by someone being paid a mere $10,000 per year*!

For the years after that I didn’t contribute quite as much to my classroom since some things like carpet, the chair, bean bags, etc could be used again year after year. I continued to contribute for all that other stuff and it added up!

I see so often in the news about the cushy 9-month a year job of teachers and other disrespectful comments and it really burns me because I really don’t think the general public understands that my experience is replicated in classrooms all across the country every year. How many other jobs are workers expected to contribute one month’s pay a year back to their employer or clientele?

I know the state of finances for teachers has not improved over the years. Quite the opposite actually with legislation hurting or eliminating teacher unions.

Studies show that 94% of teachers spend out of their own pocket. This number actually surprises me and I find it low. I have never met a teacher that spends nothing, much less 6% of them! The national average is $479 for out of pocket spending by teachers. How does that compare to your experience? Do you receive much support for the basics? For extras?

Where do you find the best deals for the things that you buy for your class? Please share in the comments below your feelings about this subject and share any great deals you come across!

*My first-year contract consisted of a stipend of $10,000 and my tuition for my Master’s Degree paid at UNO. I was also not provided any medical or other benefits.


The Inspiration of Esperanza Rising

The Inspiration of Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or for literature circles in the classroom. Esperanza Rising was published in 2000 and has received numerous awards, including the Pura Belpré Award, an award honoring the excellent portrayal of the Latino experience in children’s literature.


Summary of Esperanza Rising*: 
Esperanza believed her life would be wonderful forever. She would always live on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home filled with servants. papa and Abuelita would always be with her.

But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California, where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for hard labor, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, and the lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick, and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances – because Mama’s life and her own depend on it.

from the book jacket

This is a great Depression Era novel to use in the classroom to help students understand the struggles of the era, especially the plight of the Mexican farm workers as they struggle to adapt and survive in the United States. A great novel that shows how perseverance will overcome adversity.

This is a great novel to accompany a study of:

  • Mexican Repatriation and how the Mexican Immigration Policy has been dealt with by the U.S. government in the past and present day.
  • The Dust Bowl and migrant workers.
  • The role of unions in the American economy
  • Incorporate with a unit during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-October 15)


See what people are saying about the Esperanza Rising Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!

The book also leads to an in-depth exploration of the character study of Esperanza as she suddenly falls from her comfortable perch as the beloved child of a wealthy landowner surrounded by family and servants to quickly becoming a servant herself among an extended family of immigrant farmworkers. The changes that Esperanza undergoes as she discovers herself and her strengths as she grows from a pampered child into a resourceful and responsible young woman are ripe for discussion and detailed study.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Esperanza Rising for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

You can purchase this novel study at the following locations:


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

The Answer to Lack of Social Studies Instruction More Tests?

The Answer to Lack of Social Studies Instruction More Tests?

I read a story in the Omaha World-Herald, called Teachers “Say Social Studies Suffers”, and it has me has me riled up.

As I was reading I totally agreed with the thoughts that Social Studies is being put on the back burner to focus more on the numerous amount of state testing that is done. I also agree wholeheartedly with the dire ramifications this will have on the next generation of Americans and what that means to the citizenship of our country.

Then I hit this paragraph, “Several board members agreed that social studies, which includes the study of history and geography, are being crowded out of the classroom. But the only way to put them on a level playing field with math and reading would be to require a state social studies test.”

Really? The answer to the problem is to throw more state testing at the students and teachers? Really?

Teachers and students are already so overwhelmed with state/standardized testing that true teaching and creativity is being lost!

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Every Child Succeeds Act of 2015, with the excessive focus on testing has depleted the schools of true learning. Teachers are so focused on meeting those test goals and focusing only on those narrowed skills that they don’t have the time to really teach and let students use their minds, imagination, and creativity.

Most states have added the Common Core Standards or standards that are similar but with a different name, creates a whole new dimension to the paperwork and hoops that teachers need to jump through. From various blogs and forums I read I see post after post of exasperated teachers that simply just want to teach again. They are so fed up with the testing and standards that are supposed to “fix” the system!

Also, in a climate of more and more budget cuts, schools simply can’t afford to spend on all this testing. Testing students cost a fortune for school districts (meaning YOU the taxpayer!)! Wouldn’t the money be better spent on additional teachers and smaller class sizes?

These educational bureaucrats are as messed up as Congress is. Sadly, it is the future generations of Americans that will pay for it. As an educator that upsets me, but as a parent that makes me very angry! I am sick and tired of these so-called “experts” stealing my children’s learning opportunities. How many of them have actually stood in front of a classroom for a school year and worked with children? It is outrageous!

The most successful teaching years I have experienced were when I had a principal with the philosophy that as college-educated certified teachers we were qualified to teach. Unless he saw a problem he stepped back and let us do our job as we saw fit. He knew that we knew these kids better than any administrator or board member and he knew we would strive to take these kids as far as we could. In those years my students blossomed the most and they achieved the most.

In my experience the more the board or administration gets involved the less the children succeed! Teachers are trained professionals. We have college degrees, many of them advanced. We take ongoing development courses throughout our career and we are there in the classroom every day, the closest to the student outside of their parents. We are educated, we are qualified. Let us do our jobs and teach! Save the taxpayers money and save the American education system by scrapping all this unnecessary and excessive testing!

Teaching a Fish to Climb a Tree

Teaching a Fish to Climb a Tree

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This a great quote that is often mistakingly attributed to Albert Einstein. He didn’t say this, but the quote is powerful just the same.

This quote is the premise of the book, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. The main character is Ally, a sixth grader, who hates school because she feels stupid and thinks she will never be successful. Ally has isolated herself and does not take any risks towards academic work or towards making friends. She feels everything is hopeless until a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, comes in as a long-term substitute. Mr. Daniels recognizes Ally’s talents as an artist and is impressed by her “out of the box” problem-solving skills. He leads Ally to admit her fears and helps her to take risks that lead to a diagnosis of dyslexia. Mr. Daniels helps Ally build confidence and realize she’s not stupid, she just learns differently, which opens up the world academically and socially for Ally.



This is a very inspirational book for all students to read, not just those that may have dyslexia. It showcases through the many different characters that everyone has a talent and everyone has value, sometimes it takes a little more work to discover!  Research shows that 80-90% of all students that are identified as learning disabled have some degree of dyslexia. In fact, it is hypothesized that about 20% of the population is afflicted with dyslexia to some degree.

This book gives those students hope that they are not alone and that there are ways for them to shine and learn. It also helps to build empathy among the students that may not struggle in this way so they can better understand their classmates and encourage kindness to all.



See what people are saying about the Fish in a Tree Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!

Fish in a Tree is a wonderful book to use as a whole class novel study or for literature groups and book clubs.

You can purchase this novel study at the following locations:

If you’re looking for a book that is for a little bit younger child dealing with Dyslexia I recommend trying out the Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver. The first book in the series, Niagara Falls, or Does It? is great for third graders who are struggling with learning challenges to help them know they are not alone and they are full of talent!

Book cover for Hank Zipzer Niagara Falls or Does It?

Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

How Does Copyright Affect YOU as a Teacher?

How Does Copyright Affect YOU as a Teacher?

You’re working in your classroom and doing the best you can for your students on a very limited budget most likely!  What’s the big deal if you take whatever you can find if it helps your students with a concept?  Most of the time as a teacher you do have a lot of leeway in regards to copyright, but where is the line that changes from just trying to help, to breaking the law? As teachers, we need to be positive, ethical role models for our students and to do this we must model the best ethical practices. If we ask them not to plagiarize and cheat from the internet, we can’t be doing it either!

How can you protect yourself so that you can stay compliant and still utilize every resource you can find?

In the classroom, a teacher is generally protected by the “fair use” guidelines of copyright. Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.

From the copyright.gov site, “Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.

So while you are in the classroom with your group of students you pretty much have free rein on what you can use to help them learn concepts. This means the use of books, lyrics, videos, etc. Of course, you will want to make sure the materials you are using aren’t themselves copyright infringements. You don’t want to benefit from stolen work! Make sure you use the original source, for example, a clip from a movie that you have legally purchased vs. a pirated clip from a website or a TpT product you purchased, not one that was improperly shared around the school for free.

So where does a teacher lose that fair use?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) states that you cannot place copyrighted work on the internet where it can be shared in a google search. So it’s okay to use within the walls of your classroom, but once you start to share it on the internet you are falling into a shady gray area that could hold some fairly hefty monetary punishments.

Any site that you upload to MUST be a password-protected site. You cannot create an open teacher/classroom webpage and start placing copies of resources (textbook publisher, TpT purchases, copies of novels for students to read, song lyrics, etc) there for students to access at home unless it is password-protected. If it’s not password-protected even if you aren’t linking to the site anywhere it gets picked up in general Google searches and is then available for the world. You’ve moved from a teacher with wonderful intentions to an internet pirate!

Most textbooks publishers and teacher authors have a Terms of Use (TOU) page within their resource that gives guidelines on how and where their work can be shared. It is always best to read these and abide by them to model good ethical standards for your students and to cover yourself from any unwanted legal and financial issues!

I know that 99.9% of the teachers out there putting items on the internet have no idea that they are making them available to the world. They think they are just uploading them to their personal classroom page and that only their students and parents will ever look there. Teachers as a group are generous and honest and want to make access as easy for their students and parents as possible. Hopefully, this post will help guide you so you can stay compliant and model the best practices for your students. In this world of constant teacher bashing, we need to be cautious to keep the honesty and integrity in the industry.