In my early teaching career, I spent hundreds of pounds on classroom resources and items to affix to my classroom walls. It would seem that I am not alone. Teachers seem to have a natural compulsion to purchase stationery, and I am a self-confessed recovering glitter-aholic.
We make these purchases knowing that we will never claim for these items, which is fine if that is out of kindness rather than out of necessity. But perhaps it is time that teachers offer a better example to their pupils by using the resources available to them, not just the items we purchase to supplement our classrooms with from our own pockets, but school resources too.
Re-use & Re-purpose
In every primary school, I have worked in, the pupil’s sketchbooks follow them from Year 1 to 6 and are replaced when full. This is so everyone can see the progression of their work. But this is not the case with other books, and the school policy has always been to begin a new book at the beginning of the year, even if the previous year’s book is virtually unused – it breaks the heart to see this incredible waste of paper and money.
- Display backing must be reapplied termly.
- Old textbooks are thrown away every few years because of slight changes.
- Even the daily leftovers from school meals could be given away rather than thrown away.
Reduce & Recycle
It is very tempting to download ready-made resources to save you time and energy, but personalised items that you make yourself, or get a few pupils to make on your behalf, can make learning experience bespoke and give a real boost to engagement. You can also call out to teachers within your school and in the online community for items for you to adapt for your class.
Teachers often have a propensity for hoarding, because you never know when it will come in handy. This not only puts pressure on storage space but on tempers and marriages too.
Show some self-discipline and allot a specific space (oneself, one box etc) or a number of items and have a system of one thing in, one thing out and used.
Grand art and design projects are a great way of clearing out old items. If there are fellow hoarders in your school (and there will be) you may like to swap some of your items to have a more diverse array of tat.
Write down what you spend on your classroom to keep an ongoing record. Those few pounds here and there really amount up. Also, estimate how much you save the school each time you re-use or re-purpose something.
No one wants to see their class go without, but chronic underfunding will persist all the time teachers are supplementing their classrooms with essential items.
So spend wisely and up-cycle!