Teachers’ wages have been an ongoing issue across the United States, and in Berkeley, many argue that people playing such a central part in our community deserve to be paid more fairly. But another less discussed issue is how many teachers end up having to spend their own hard-earned money on supplies for the classroom. Expecting teachers to pay out of pocket for necessary classroom supplies is both unfair and unreasonable.
Students need everything from binders to art supplies. Every year, teachers receive a grant of around $300 or $350 to spend. Maia Wachtel, a Universal Ninth Grade English teacher, says that every year she uses the full grant. While she tries not to spend too much of her own money, usually no more than $100, she does rely a lot on parent donations. Being able to provide enough supplies can also directly affect how students feel in a classroom.
“It creates an environment that feels much more supportive, much more welcoming, and much more conducive to learning,” Wachtel said. “If they feel like even if they show up unprepared, there’s still a safety net for them to have what they need in order to do the learning activities.”
Teachers should be able to provide that environment for students without dipping into their own money. Furthermore, certain classes differ in needed supplies, an example being more technology-heavy classes like science and math.
“If they lose their calculators or a lab equipment breaks, then not replacing that would mean that there would be a lab group that wouldn’t be able to do the lab,” Wachtel said. “I think it would make sense for teachers who are new to Berkeley High School or new to the profession to have larger stipends than more veteran teachers because they are starting with less. A lot of my materials are leftover from last year and the years before, but I remember my first year or two, I had to stock my classroom from scratch.”
It’s clear that the school should give larger grants to at least some of the teachers. Without the ability to fully provide students with everything they need, teachers won’t be able to teach to the best of their abilities, and students won’t be able to learn as much as they could.
Some may argue that school resources should be directed towards more urgent issues, but this overlooks the fact that this is an urgent issue of its own. The problem of classroom supplies is not a hypothetical, it is a reality. There is certainly a lot of work that the school needs to do in terms of problem solving, but that doesn’t mean that this issue should be ignored. The urgency of this particular topic lies in the fact that it already affects teachers and students. It needs to be included as a priority among the school’s agenda.
Evidently, classroom supplies are incredibly important to the productivity and flow of a class. It’s the school’s responsibility to ensure that teachers can provide an environment where students will have the best learning experience possible. More resources should be given to teachers so that both them and their students never feel like the class is lacking in any way. Students shouldn’t feel like they have less access based on their teachers, especially when it comes to an issue that can disproportionately affect less privileged students and teachers.