Just before school started this last fall Teresa Danks, a third grade teacher from Oklahoma, panhandled for classroom supplies. At an intersection in Tulsa, she waved a sign: Teacher needs school supplies. Anything helps. Thank you.
During the time it took the light to change twice, Danks collected $55, well-wishes, and encouragement.
One woman told Danks, “I’m alive today because of a teacher like you.”
Since then, social media, the national news, and a GoFundMe page, have all helped Danks raise more than $28,000 for classroom supplies. The funds will be channeled through a new foundation.
Like Danks, I joined many teachers in my district in turning hundreds of our own dollars back into our classrooms each year.
We bought pencils and folders and even classroom sets of books. We paid field trip fees for students who couldn’t and bought food for hungry kids. And during budget cuts, we hauled in our own copy paper.
But what I enjoyed more was buying what didn’t disappear. Here are some of my favorite classroom investments:
- Crazy clocks to invite students to wonder. They’d look at my Salvador Dali time warp clock and I’d ask them, “Which is longer, a morning with a root canal or a day at Kings’ Island?” They’d look at my counter-clockwise clock and we’d talk about how sundials catch the sun clockwise in the north and counter clockwise in the south. And they’d wonder why the north won with the clocks.
- A folding stool to pull up next to students. Conversations with students changed, I found, when our eyes were level. When I stood above their desks, I could talk to students. When I sat beside their desks, I could talk with students. And sometimes, we didn’t talk. Sometimes, all students needed was for me to be near them.
- The No Yell Bell to save my voice and reduce the nag factor, a high priority for middle schoolers. Each sound—a space alert, applause, a bugle call, an alarm, chimes, and clanging—has a different meaning. The bell made signaling pleasant, not intrusive.
- Art prints to absorb emotion. I especially liked hanging Kandinsky in the back corner of my classroom, a spot I often used for students who needed emotional space. Kandinsky, the pioneer of abstract art, used only color and form to show emotion. I often saw agitated students captivated and then calmed by Kandinsky.
I didn’t panhandle like Teresa Danks. And I sometimes groused inside about buying paper and pencils. But I didn’t begrudge buying clocks and bells and stools and art prints, the dividends being so high.