Getting a classroom ready for the school year requires more than just pencils, notebooks and glue sticks. Posters, books and decorations enhance learning, but can come at a high out-of-pocket cost.
It's no wonder why many local teachers are turning to the internet and social media to get the word out about their shopping lists and hopefully raise enough money to clear them.
The Twitter hashtag campaign #clearthelists has spread around the country and teachers are sharing their online Amazon wish lists with hopes of having all the supplies needed purchased. There is even a GoFundMe account called "Clear the lists" that, as of Friday, raised more than $59,000 of its $75,000 goal. The account can be viewed at www.gofundme.com/f/clear-the-lists.
Shelby Criswell, a second-grade teacher at Golden Oak Elementary School in Shafter, learned about the hashtag from a friend. After she shared her wish list, she bought a few items for others teachers, such as pencils and Post-it notes.
"It can be overwhelming just to buy all these supplies for your classroom on your own," she said.
Her wish list includes cushions in the shape of wooden logs, cutout decorations of tents and trailers and a happy camper doormat, which add to the classroom in ways that positively affect her students.
"My biggest thing is having happy campers. I want them to feel it’s a safe place. ... For many students, it is the only safe place they have," she said. "If they’re in the library, those stumps, the little fire-looking pillows I have in the library, they get so excited. They can lay down and read. It takes the excitement of reading to the next level."
She shares her wish list frequently on Twitter and has encouraged other second-grade teachers at Golden Oaks to do the same. Her wish list can be viewed at www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/4DBP5QAWTEDJ?ref_=wl_share, and she said she has received a few items.
When she was a first-year teacher, she received bins and chairs from outgoing teachers and a $100 budget from the school's parent-teacher organization. Since then, the school helps by providing basic supplies, but she still spends about $400 to $500.
The school also has provided a spending budget of $100 in previous years, but "it just goes so fast," she said.
"We don’t have parents bringing in supplies because it can be a financial burden and we don’t ask them to," she explained. "I’ve provided little homework bags. ... I even had one student tell me they didn’t have pencils at home."
Individual districts and schools have different budgets they provide teachers for supplies. At the Bakersfield City School District, first-year teachers receive $200 for materials and others receive basic supplies for their students, and some school sites have an instructional materials classroom with items they will need for the year, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Mark Luque explained. The Norris School District provides parents with a list of what to buy for their children and the classroom as a whole.
April Davis, a third-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School, said the supplies she has received from the district are a big help, but they don't include books for a classroom library or decorations. She has spent around $500 in the past, and this year she decided to take advantage of DonorsChoose.
DonorsChoose connects teachers in high-need communities with donors who want to help. Titled A Culture of Literacy, her fundraiser included a list of 45 books to build a positive classroom culture with a social-emotional learning focus.
"I tried to find diverse and inclusive books that would help touch on the norms and issues students might face daily," she said. "Students don’t know what other students are going through so if we can connect to others they can understand each other better."
Davis received happy news Thursday night when her fundraiser totaling $760 was fully funded.
In the past she has reached out to friends, family and local businesses to help supply her classroom with used books, clothing items, fresh sets of toothbrushes and toothpaste and healthy snacks.
Another way teachers are preparing their classrooms is by utilizing the BCSD Curriculum Lab to create decorations and instructional materials. The lab is free to BCSD employees, and parents and out-of-district users are charged for all materials used as well as an equipment fee of $3 per day.
"This is to create resources and an inviting environment for classrooms that adds to the curriculum," said clerk Brenna Smith.
Materials available include laminators (25 cents per foot), poster makers ($3 for small posters and $6 for large posters), a variety of paper options, a button maker and cutout machines.
Longfellow Elementary School kindergarten teacher Stephen Medina was laminating and cutting out word lists for his class Thursday, while Bessie E. Owens Primary School GATE second- and third-grade teacher April West was laminating prompts for a STEM and project-based learning wall.
"It's fantastic," she said about the Curriculum Lab. She has been teaching for 15 years and comes by every summer to prepare her classroom.
With costs increasing yearly, fundraising online might be the way of the future for teachers who want to do what they can to provide for their students.
"The more we have material, it creates a more comfortable learning environment where the kids have what they need. There’s barriers for us to get through to reach them, and if we’re missing those things or our budget doesn’t allow us to get those things, there’s more of a struggle for us to feel successful," Davis said.