I’ll be honest, before I became a room mom, I rarely thought about the teacher, her needs or the needs of her classroom.
Okay, that sounds really really bad as I type it out. But it’s true…
Then, as I got more involved at school, I learned that many teachers dip into their own pockets to buy supplies for their classroom and for class projects. Wait, what?! I was shocked!
It’s no secret teachers are way underpaid for the amazing work they do. But, I never imagined they would have to take from their own pay to provide better experiences for their students.
I recently found out about a website that is working to bridge this gap. What I love about this is that parents can help a teacher without the commitment of in-person volunteering, which lots of parents don’t have the opportunity or just don’t have the time to do each year.
I invited a teacher friend of mine, Robyn Thompson, to share about her experience with underfunding and how we can crowd-fund teachers in need:
What Does Underfunded Teaching Actually Looks Like?
Each summer, while kids are taking a break from school, teachers are scouring brightly colored dollar bins for basic supplies, collecting used books to fill their classroom libraries, and even renovating old furniture to create a more inviting space for students to learn and grow.
They work hard to collect what their students may need to help them start the school year prepared and excited.
As teachers watch each student walk through their classroom door, they hope their students will:
- feel welcomed
- grow beyond measure
- feel safe and loved
- have wonderful experiences that last a lifetime.
But teachers face a reality that not every student arrives equipped for the day. Some need snacks and meals, others need one on one help, and some just need basic supplies.
Money from school funds often provide some supplies for students, but it is not always enough. More often than not, teachers have to dip into their own pockets to pay for what will help them best serve their students.
But Don’t Schools Receive Money?
Yes, schools receive funds, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. There are different accounts allocated for different types of spending. There are funds for:
- professional development,
- club funding,
- federal and state money, and more.
Funds can be further divided by grade level, subject, and department.
Also, there are multiple factors considered for how much money a school will receive. Something as simple as a small decrease in student population can take funds away from a school and even cut teacher positions, leading to larger class sizes and smaller budgets.
Teachers want their students to have a fair start. But how can this happen when students are missing basic supplies?
Giving children their best chance shouldn’t be an uphill battle!
Teachers are truly remarkable in their planning and creativity for their students. They are in tune to what their kids need. They know what will spark curiosity, increase their creativity and help set them up for success.
This is where learning is written on the hearts of each child, as teachers find what works for them and what excites them about life!
A Unique Way Parents Can Help a Teacher
What if you could be part of the solution for these hard-working teachers? What if we could give them an amazing start to their school year? One that exceeded their expectations?
Perhaps you are thinking, ‘I work full-time, I can’t volunteer. How else can I help?’ I recently found a unique website created specifically for teachers to post about materials, supplies, and projects they need funding for — DonorsChoose. It’s basically a GoFundMe-style website, but it’s exclusively for teachers.
And it’s completely free for teachers to use! 👏
On this site, teachers can request exactly what they need for their students, classroom, field trip, etc. A community of donors who want to support teachers, funds these projects — that’s YOU! You can see exactly what and whom you are supporting and to where in the country it’s heading.
DonorsChoose actually purchases the items/supplies themselves and ships them directly to the verified school. This maintains integrity on their platform so you know your dollars are going directly to the project you chose.
How to Choose a School Project on DonorsChoose
Is there a subject that holds a special place in your heart? You can search for those projects.
Would you like to help feed and clothe students in your area? Select that category!
Do you feel that art and music are underfunded? Check the Music & the Arts box and specify the sub-category!
Scroll through the search results and choose a project that speaks to you. It’s that simple. This is a unique investment; one that allows you a personal connection to a teacher and his or her students’ dreams and goals for the year. Oh, and it’s 100% tax deductible. 🙌
In addition to being able to select the content area you’d like to support, you can also select:
- grade level,
- special needs populations,
- projects under or above a certain price range, or
- even have the site choose a project for you if you can’t decide.
Popular Projects on DonorsChoose
There are 14 main project categories which teachers can choose from when setting up a project on DonorsChoose. Here are a few of our favorites:
Even the most basic supplies can make a world of difference in a student’s learning experience. This category covers everything from simple binders, spiral notebooks, book bags, crayons, and paper.
Food, Clothing & Hygiene
More often than you’d think, students show up to school on an empty stomach. I was really happy/surprised to see this category on DonorsChoose. Projects in this category include requests for snacks for reward drawers, cleaning supplies, Kleenex tissue, hand sanitizer, and even rain ponchos for students who walk to school in the rain.
Yes, believe it or not, children still read books! And many teachers are in desperate need of books for their classroom libraries. Stories help children expand their vocabulary while learning important life skills like compassion, empathy, imagination, and creativity.
Gone are the days of every classroom being stark rows of evenly spaced desks. Many teachers these days try to create a classroom environment based on flexible seating.
With flexible seating, students can sit and learn in comfortable (and fun) furniture in different areas of the room. This actually lends itself to a more impactful learning environment.
Computers & Tablets
As technology advances, many underserved schools are left behind due to the lack of supplies. For this reason, computers and tablets are one of the most popular categories on DonorsChoose.
Matched offers are projects that select donors have chosen to match every dollar donated to the project. I love this concept because you get to instantly double (or triple!) your donation at no extra cost to you.
If you love this idea and want to make giving to teachers a habit, you can sign up to give a monthly classroom gift. You will get to handpick the projects you want to support each month. This is a good way to consistently give back to the teaching community! Since DonorsChoose is a non-profit organization, all donations are fully tax deductible at the end of the year.
Help a Teacher while Investing in the Future Generation
One high school English teacher, whose project was funded last year, said “It was fulfilled much quicker than I anticipated. It’s always surprising how much people want to support you but don’t have the time (understandably so). Donors Choose makes it easy to support someone from a distance. Thinking of it more as an investment in educators, and DonorsChoose is like Wall Street.”
If you don’t have the TIME to invest as a volunteer, I hope you will consider investing in teachers who need supplies in your community. And if you know a teacher who is spending his/her own money on supplies, please invite them to create a project on DonorsChoose!
Resources for Room Moms
- New to Room Parenting? Get access to the Room Mom Resource Library filled with tons of free templates & printables to help you throughout the year!
- 7 Room Mom Duties to Know (Before You Sign Up)
- Plan Your Entire Year as Room Mom with this Calendar Cheat Sheet
- Planning a class gift? Learn How to Write a Room Mom Letter to Parents Asking for Money