A third-grade teacher from New York who posts tons of different TikToks online showing off various nifty, cute, and cool classroom activities and decorations she sets up for her students recently revealed in an interview with Business Insider that she's spent a sizable chunk of her salary on classroom supplies, stating that the school's budget just doesn't cut it otherwise.
Nicole (@teachinglittlewonderz) told the outlet that since 2019, she's dropped at least $4,000 on educational materials for her classroom — she says that in the fall of 2023 alone she's spent around $400 on worksheets, bulletin-board kits, and letter tray.
In her interview with the outlet, she said that when she first walked into her classroom she saw firsthand that the district only provided teachers with the bare minimum: "When you first start, you have desks, you have chairs, and maybe a couple of bookshelves, and that's it."
Nicole says that out-of-pocket spending is a prevalent issue for teachers and that there are educators all across the country who are constantly dealing with this issue. According to her, there is a double-standard when it comes to teaching and other professions: folks in other vocations aren't necessarily expected to foot the bill for equipment/materials so that they can do their jobs.
"We don't ask other professions to try to do their job without the materials they need. I feel like a lot of teachers are expected to do their job without materials that they have or that they need," Nicole told the outlet.
So why are teachers willing to dig into their own pockets to gussy up their classrooms and pay for glue sticks, crayons, erasers, books, decor, furniture, construction paper, and a slew of other things they need to aid in student achievement? For Nicole, it's all about giving her kids the best educational experience possible.
"They don't want to be in a room that's just four walls and chairs. That's not going to motivate them or make them feel excited to learn. So all those extra things are essential to help them learn," she said, suggesting that there's a strong correlation between the extra work (and incurred costs) that so many instructors across the country take on to ensure kids are doing their best.
She went on to state that if her and other teachers only used the funds allotted to them from their respective schools that teaching would "be very difficult" and that she "would probably feel like [she] didn't have the tools I needed to teach my students properly."
Overall, Nicole believes that this problem would be rectified if schools would just give teachers more money to spend on supplies for their classrooms: "I think based on the amount of money teachers spend each year on supplies, resources, etc., school districts should provide teachers with more money:
According to the National Education Association, teachers will spend an average of $820 each of their own money on their classrooms for the 2023-2024 school year.
The same piece indicated that prior to the pandemic, teachers spent around $500 on classroom supplies, but ever since cost-of-living and inflation spikes since 2021 have sent tons of Americans scrambling to make ends meet, the cost of products have skyrocketed, including materials many teachers use for their classrooms.
Nicole has also uploaded some of her favorite classroom finds/purchases on TikTok, divvying them up between different retailers. Like this one post where she discussed her favorite finds she was able to locate on Amazon, which included her own "large mouse pad and keyboard" combo, a "Giant magnetic array set," that she says helps students with learning multiplication, and a variety of different folders and trays that help to keep the classroom more organized.
She also reviews certain items that'll help to make teachers' lives a bit easier, like this pencil sharpener that appears to perfectly sharpen pencils every single time and even if you aren't an educator, you'll probably appreciate this thing.
Do you know anyone in education who is experiencing a similar phenomenon in the classroom? Do they often mention how they have to dig into their own wallets to help ensure that their students are getting everything that they need to succeed?