The (High) Cost of Teaching

Every August, I have two major worries. First, I worry about the students. Will they be well-behaved? Will they have basic skills like letter sounds and addition mastered? Will they need intereventions? Will I connect with them easily? These worries go on and on. My second biggest worry every August is money.

After December (due to holidays and travel) August is my most cash strapped month! My students start back the second week in August and I need to get my classroom in order. I teach at a Title I school. A Title I school is an extremely low socio-economic school (SES) that receives extra funding to rasie student achievement.  One of the big challenges at my school is lack of school supplies. Every year, I give my parents a supply list and every year I am fortunate to get about 50% of my families bring these supplies in.  Now before I go on, I will clarify that I do have a $200 budget a year from my school to buy supplies.  However, after buying big ticket items like printer cartridges, computer paper, overhead light bulbs,and electric pencil sharpeners, there is not much left. So who is responsible to acquire necessary supplies for my room? Well, I accept that responsibility. No one forces me to do it and no one says I have to. I just don’t know how to run a successful second grade classroom without crayons, scissors, construction paper, glue, and various learing manipulitives and posters. I tried one year to save money and make things myself. The time and effort this took was not worth the money saved nor did those hand-made materials last.

This year I am a little more worried about money! For one, my salary has been cut this year by 2% so I have less. Also, my district has cut student spending from $212 a student to $32. Plus, I know times are still very financially difficult for my families. My students still need a quality education and supplies aren’t getting cheaper. So, I’ll keep working my part time job to supplement my income so I can keep my classroom well-stocked. I’ll also keep working with various businesses and even my own family to see what I can get donated. (This part of my profession always makes me feel like a begger! Who else has to go out and “beg” for money or supplies for your job?)

Classes have not started yet this year and I have already spent over $200 of my own money at Target, Big Lots, Office Depot, and the teacher stores. I do save my receipts and am allowed to deduct up to $250 off of my taxes at the end of the year. One year though, my total expenses added up to just under $3,000. That’s about one-tenth of my salary. Is there any other profession that you have to spend so much of your own money to do your job well?  Every time I hear someone say that teachers should just be happy with our pay because we have summers and holidays off, I just remember how much I have spent for my job and wish that they only knew how much teachers give back.


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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