Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Classroom Project

I am blessed to have a community of people who are constantly on the lookout for unusual items for my students to recycle or a great deal on supplies to help supplement my secondary visual arts classroom. It isn't unusual for a random box of doll parts, wool pieces or games boards to be dropped off. And it is always a pleasure to see my students come up with creative solution in how to use these supplies. The hard part is knowing that there are a lot of other supplies that my students still need and that it will be difficult for them to attain unless I purchase them. I often pay for items out of pocket, just like every other teacher in my district and across the the country. I know I am not alone in this. I consider myself pretty lucky that my husband doesn't get angry when he notices as I toss something extra into the cart. He just smiles and asks what or who is it for this time. I wouldn't even want to guess how much I have spent this calendar year alone, but I know it is more than the $250 allowed on the federal income tax form. I spent that before school even started. And like most teachers, I don't mind spending a little here or there, but at then end of the year it all starts to add up.

The monies available to my classroom come directly from the supply fee that students pay. It stayed the same for over 10 years despite increased costs in materials but was recently reduced to help offset the financial burden to our students and their families who can't  afford fees. It is also for the district because they compensate if a student can't pay so then no student is denied a class because they can't afford the fees.  Before the reduction, we were able to purchase every supply our students needed, but now to offset the reduction, many of the supplies we used to purchase with the student fee have to be supplied by the students instead. It is difficult when half of the students don't have erasers in an art class during the drawing unit. At the end of every year we are recycling as many supplies as we can that some of the students throw away or forget like binders, brushes, paper, sketchbooks, pencils, color pencils, rulers and paints. We put out recycling tubs but often hit the maintenance room at school to do a little "dumpster diving" on the last day. I know I am not alone in this because many of my colleagues are in there with me digging as well.

My students deserve the same technology opportunities as other districts have, but I can't purchase those items. Often times because the arts aren't considered a core subject I can't get updates in technology or supplies like digital cameras, document cameras or tablets. I know that technology is a huge advantage for my students if it is available. And I know that my students are not prepared with 21st century skills in the art when they leave.  Some of the basic expectations for my students entering college in the arts field are simple photo editing opportunities, photo manipulation,  basic Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator skills and the use of digital drawing tablets. Digital portfolios for college applications are difficult for my students to complete and puts them at a disadvantage in comparison with other students.

As teachers, we have been continually asked to do more with less and we have accommodated these requirements, but with new standards and requirements, new evaluations and new common core connection but no new monies it becomes personally quite expensive. I am thankful for my creative colleagues who help to develop creative ways to solve our problems, my community for their donations and I am thankful for the opportunity to apply with The Classroom Project for much needed funds.


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