What is it like being a teacher right now? The nationwide network of DonorsChoose public school teachers knows better than anyone. Over 2,600 DonorsChoose teachers helped us answer that question by sharing some of the challenges they face, and what keeps them coming back to the classroom every day.
Classroom Costs On The Rise
This school year, teachers continued to reach into their own wallets to buy classroom supplies and resources for their students. On average, teachers have spent $687 of their own money in the last year to stock their classroom.
For a majority of teachers, spending has remained the same or increased since before the pandemic; 40% of teachers report they’re spending more on classroom supplies than they had prior to the pandemic, and 36% reported spending roughly the same.
These rising costs combined with low teacher salaries in many communities have driven teachers to seek out supplemental income from second jobs. One in four teachers reported working 10 or more hours per week at an alternate job to support their teacher salary, and 8% of teachers reported working more than 20 extra hours a week at another job.
These challenges leave some teachers choosing between their passion for the profession and the reality of supporting themselves and their families. One Indiana first grade teacher shared, “Teaching is the only profession I ever saw myself having, but with the increasing demands and behaviors with a small salary, I find myself trying to decide if remaining a teacher long term is an obtainable goal.”
Teachers’ Needs Go Back To Basics
Teachers most need the basics — both for learning, and for student wellbeing. 58% of teachers reported needing basic supplies like paper, pencils, and cleaning supplies. The second most common need among teachers was personal items for students; 54% said they needed items like snacks, warm clothing, and hygiene items for their students.
The other thing teachers need? More teachers. Three in four teachers reported that their school was somewhat or severely understaffed.
Nearly all teachers reported being concerned about teacher mental health and burnout, which often stems from teacher, staff, and supply shortages. A Connecticut pre-K teacher shared, “Teacher and staff shortages across subject areas make it difficult to meet everyone’s needs and causes stress on those who try to pick up the extra workload, leading to burnout and more teachers leaving the profession.”
Bigger Hurdles for Teachers of Color, Teachers at Historically Underfunded Schools
As part of our Equity Focus at DonorsChoose, we pay close attention to two groups of teachers who often overcome unique challenges in the profession: teachers of color, and teachers at “Equity Focus Schools” where 50% of students identify as Black, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, or multiracial, and 50% of student come from low-income households. Historically, Equity Focus Schools have been the most underfunded, and teachers of color continue to be underrepresented in the teaching profession.
Teachers of color and teachers at Equity Focus Schools encountered even greater challenges than the average teacher who responded to the survey. Teachers of color report spending an average of $714 of their own money on school supplies, and teachers at Equity Focus Schools report spending an average of $718 — both higher than the average of $687.
More teachers of color and teachers at Equity Focus Schools report that they’re spending more of their own money on school supplies post-pandemic.
Teachers of color reported more often than White teachers that they were working a second job to support their teacher salary, and teachers at Equity Focus Schools were more likely to be working a second job than teachers at other schools.
For Many Teachers, Passion Prevails
When asked how they’d describe being a teacher this school year, the most common responses were “challenging,” “stressful”... and “rewarding.” Despite a number of obstacles that continue to make teaching a challenging profession, teachers remain committed to their calling. 59% of teachers reported they planned to continue teaching for 10 or more years.
A high school teacher from Michigan shared, “I know that my passion for education is contagious, and it is the best gift that I can give.”
“Despite being overwhelmed, I love my job,” one Virginia elementary school teacher told us. “I love seeing my gems get excited when they have mastered content. It takes a SPECIAL person to be an educator!”
For many teachers, this joy keeps them going. According to an elementary school teacher from Utah, “I'm proud to be someone who gets to pour into this next generation and have an impact on the lives of our precious children. I love to see their joy in discovering something new! It's like nothing else when a child has worked so hard at something and the lights finally turn on for them. When they feel proud of their own accomplishments and celebrate those of their classmates, I know I'm doing something of value. It feels great!”
For so many teachers in the DonorsChoose community, having a project funded keeps money in their pockets and brings joy to their classrooms. A high school teacher from Wisconsin shared, “Having a project funded by DonorsChoose has been one of the highlights of this school year. I was amazed at how quickly a community member selected my proposal, and how easy the process was to complete. Not only did this experience boost my spirits, but my students were touched that a stranger went out of their way to help our class.”
According to a Louisiana middle school teacher, “It has been an expensive and stressful year with shortages in supplies. Getting help from DonorsChoose has helped relieve some of that stress.”
Even simple classroom improvements have students jumping for joy. “My most recent project for flexible seating got funded and I told the kids today,” shared a high school teacher from Kansas. “They were clapping their hands and jumping around, happy about getting some seats that feel comfortable for them.”
How Can You Help?
Interested in showing your appreciation for teachers? Start on DonorsChoose by making a donation to a teacher request that matters to you. You’ll hear directly from the teacher you help about how you’re impacting their students. And good news… your donations are tax deductible, and some donations are eligible for matches from our partners.
Are you a teacher looking to stock your classroom? Get started on DonorsChoose!