It may not feel like back-to-school time yet for you, but we're in full late-summer swing here in the Matthews household, where Robin is gleefully traipsing through the Sunday fliers looking for all of the one-penny pencil sales at Staples and Office Depot. This truly is Christmas in July for my wife, who not only is an Olympic-caliber shopper, but also a Mom, and - worst of all - a school teacher! To make things even worse this year, Robin is switching both schools and classes, going from being a special education pre-school teacher in Gaithersburg to being a regular ed Kindergarten teacher in Brookeville... that means having to outfit a whole new classroom for older children.
As gleeful as Robin is this time every year, as the spouse of a school teacher, it is a time of great anger and frustration for me. You see, while Robin does the shopping, I still pay the credit card bills... And when I see her spending literally hundreds (and, on occasion, thousands) of dollars each year on her classroom, I see nothing but RED.
Robin really doesn't have much choice... She really does need the stuff that she is buying, and there is simply no money coming from Montgomery County to pay for it all, whether it's materials to decorate her classroom with, or books for her reading center, or toys and games to entertain the children with when bad weather forces recess to be cancelled, or any number of other expenses.
Most parents have no idea how much money teachers pay out of their own pockets to support their classrooms. In fact, during the first two years after Robin became a teacher, she spent more money getting her classroom together than she brought home in her paycheck. One year, Robin needed a specific software program in order to create picture symbols for her special ed students... and after much fighting and pleading with me, we bought the program - for 250 dollars! I must say I admire my wife's passion for her work, even as I want to murder her!
Today, we nearly came to blows over an electric pencil sharpener. Being a kindergarten teacher, Robin needs one that will sharpen one of those super-wide pencils for little kids. The problem is that the model carried at Staples costs 45 dollars. I nearly bust a gut over it - why should I be subsidizing the education of children whose parents, in many cases, earn more money than my family does - even when I am working??? Robin managed to save the day by finding a cheaper battery-powered model in another store for about 8 dollars.
I've been told this is a common complaint of all teacher's spouses... Well, I don't know if any of those people have a blog, but I do, and I have a plea to make to you parents today.
Appreciate your child's teacher. Please realize (because many parents don't) that when your teacher asks you to send in Kleenex and hand sanitizer and extra crayons that your contributions are just barely scratching the surface of the classroom's needs. Before the school year is over, your child's teacher is going to reach into his or her pocket dozens of times to buy materials needed for lessons or to replace school supplies that your child used up or lost. If you want to make your teacher happy and earn his or her everlasting devotion, slip them a Staples or Target gift card from time to time. Believe me, that money is going to be spent in the classroom. If you don't feel comfortable donating cash or a gift card, ask your child's teacher what she'll be needing in the coming months, and then go buy it for her.
Who knows? You might just save a marriage or two!