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5 Ways to Find Teaching Resources on a Budget
Budget cuts. Moratoriums on spending. Dwindling supplies. Teachers often have to reach into their own pockets to pay for supplies, so it's necessary to find teaching resources on a budget—now more than ever. Thankfully, there are ways to get materials, books, and other resources for your classroom without constantly spending your own money. Here are some tips to help you find teaching resources on a budget.
Make Use of Crowdfunding
If you teach at a public school, DonorsChoose.org should be your best friend. DonorsChoose is a wonderfully easy way to get what you need for your classroom. As a teacher, you register on the site, post a proposed project, and shop for materials from the DonorsChoose shopping site. Then you describe your students and explain how the project will positively change your classroom. Once DonorsChoose approves the project, you can post it on social media and share it with friends. Those who donate receive a tax deduction, and in many cases, DonorsChoose has matching offers.
I'm very fortunate that my friends, former students, and even complete strangers fund my projects, and my students have benefited so much from their generosity. In just a few years, I've had more than 70 projects funded through DonorsChoose. My high-poverty students have received thousands of dollars in supplies, books, DVDs, and computers. We've gone on field trips and brought in guest speakers. I even got an air hockey and ping pong table for my after-school program.
Enter Yourself or Your School in Contests
You'll have to do a little hunting to find contests you're eligible for that will benefit your school. Companies like Quill, which sells classroom supplies, or Dremel, which sells 3-D printers, have frequent contests. I've entered many contests and even struck gold a few times. Just recently, Scholastic posted on Facebook asking teachers how they use Scholastic magazines in their classrooms. The writer of the winning post would receive a $200 gift certificate to the Scholastic store. As you probably guessed, you're reading an article written by the $200 winner!
Apply for Grants
Grants are worth looking into because they can cover more expensive needs. A grant from a trust in California has funded my school's Culture Club, Rock Ensemble, and Book Club for the past 11 years. Each year, the trust gives my school a check for $15,000 to cover the costs of the clubs, including teacher stipends.
There are also grants for professional development. Three times a year, The National Education Association awards grants to public school educators to enhance teaching and learning. Right now, they're also offering opportunities for teachers to become global ambassadors through targeted online training, international teaching experience, and global collaboration. There are other subject-specific grants out there, especially in the STEM fields. For example, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics lists several grants on their website.
While grants take a bit more time to actually write, they are fairly easy to complete by filling in the blanks and answering a series of questions. Knowing your school's "profile," which is available on most state department of education websites, also helps make it easier.
Leverage Your Social Media Contacts
A few years ago, I started a Future Teachers Club at my school. My high schoolers went to a local middle school each week to work with younger students. We had several "stations" set up, including music, physical fitness, and homework help, but I had no equipment. I posted a request on Facebook, asking if anyone had any musical instruments they might want to donate. In two weeks, I had several brand-new electric and acoustic guitars, a practice drum set, and several sets of keyboards. People can be incredibly generous, so whether you need sports equipment, art supplies, or props for a theater production, rally the troops on social media. You're bound to get something out of it.
Sometimes, all you have to do to get tickets to a theater or museum is ask. Some organizations put tickets aside for low-income and high-poverty schools, and an email or phone call is all it takes. One time, students in my Mysteries class asked if I could get world-renowned criminologist and Northeastern University professor Jack Levin to speak at our school. I knew a speaking engagement by Professor Levin would be thousands of dollars, but I took a shot and emailed him. He invited my students to Northeastern's campus for a private lecture—for free! Not only did my students get to hear a riveting talk by one of the nation's leading authorities, they also got to visit a world-class college campus.
These are difficult times in education, but if you are creative and determined, you can find teaching resources on a budget. Comment below if you need guidance with any of the above suggestions!