Cultivating Curiosity: Enriching Education through Diverse Learning Experiences

The realm of education is a tapestry of diverse settings, each with its unique teaching challenges and opportunities. In public schools, you encounter a wide array of student backgrounds, calling for adaptable and inclusive teaching strategies. Private schools often offer more leeway in curriculum choices, providing opportunities for a more individualized educational approach, but come with a heavy cost for parents. Charter schools blend the structured environment of public schools with innovative teaching methods found in private settings and can often be a good option for parents looking to have more involvement in their students’ education. Recognizing and adapting to the specific nuances of these environments is crucial for maximizing student engagement and educational effectiveness. Your role as an educator in shaping the school culture and responding to the educational ethos of your environment is indispensable in creating a meaningful learning journey for your students.

In this guide, we’ll explore a few key elements for creating a dynamic learning environment in your classroom, including adapting teaching strategies to diverse student needs, fostering a culture of inclusivity, and blending traditional and innovative educational styles.

The Challenge of Standardized Education

Standardized education, focusing on uniformity and consistency, poses a significant challenge in addressing the unique needs and learning styles of each student. Within this system, you as an educator have a unique opportunity to innovate and personalize the learning experience by integrating diverse teaching strategies, such as differentiated instruction and project-based learning; you can enliven the curriculum.

For example, tailor reading assignments to the student’s level, showing them that they are being challenged, but their specific needs are still being met. When engaging in group projects, allow students to choose their own groups and assign roles that meet each student’s area of expertise, titles can include; leader, researcher, designer, thought provoker, and reviser. Lastly and if possible, utilize various assessment designs that can help alleviate the stress that comes along with rote memorization and comparison-based assessment.

These approaches allow you to cater to individual learning styles, making education more engaging and meaningful; leading students into learning with the use of empathy rather than standardized cookie-cutter rigor. This helps students connect with the material, see its relevance in the real world, and foster a more interactive learning environment.

The goal is to transform the constraints of standardized education into opportunities for enriched and dynamic learning experiences, rather than disregard it and forfeit the opportunity to make changes to your individual classroom culture.

Valuing Student Agency and Identity

Embracing each student’s unique identity in the classroom is pivotal. This involves more than acknowledging diversity; it entails integrating students’ personal histories, experiences, and cultures into your curriculum. This requires you to engage with each and every student on a personal level, but in a classroom of 25+ students, this can turn into a laborious task.

Consider making a survey to give to your students at the beginning of the year. Ask about their hobbies, family traditions, favorite music, etc. Making a class Spotify playlist can be an anonymous and fun way to bring each student’s personality into the classroom and can help make downtime more personable. Lastly, consider having your students make a dream board, showcasing their personal and academic goals for the years, and find a space in the room to make a collage. This is an easy way for other students to learn more about one another and helps you get to know each of your student’s specific thoughts surrounding their individual academic journey and capabilities.

By using these simple, yet effective techniques, you can create an environment where every student’s background is recognized, valued, and seen as an asset to the learning community. This inclusive practice not only enriches the educational experience for all but also fosters a sense of belonging and mutual respect. It also encourages students to engage deeply with the material and their peers, enhancing their learning and social skills. By tailoring your teaching to address these varied identities, you help build a classroom where differences are celebrated, and all voices are heard.

Integrating Formal and Informal Learning Approaches

The integration of formal and informal learning approaches in your teaching strategy is a dynamic process. Formal education lays the groundwork with its structured curriculum and defined objectives while informal learning adds richness and flexibility by emphasizing student-centeredness and experiential learning.

Here are a few techniques to cultivate creativity in your classroom:

Consider an approach like “Creative Fridays.” Every Friday, set aside time for students to work on a project of their choice that reflects their interests, whether it’s art, science, writing, or building something. This not only nurtures creativity but also allows students to explore and develop their passions, enhancing their engagement and motivation in the classroom.

Group discussions: These conversations can be rather mind-numbing and predictable. It is often the case that dominant voices are heard, leaving little room for other voices to build a collective narrative. For example, a history teacher could instead have students debate historical events assuming political or ideological perspectives. This requires students to assume positions that aren’t their own, provoking critical thought and engagement.

Hands-on projects: Science can often be a daunting subject area for students as topics are complex and at times extremely nuanced. An effective way to help students engage with the material could involve science experiments that bring theory to the visual sphere. One example could be to ask students to make prototypes or replicas that demonstrate an understanding of biology, physics, earth systems and chemistry.

Real-world problem solving: Helping students connect their learning to the real world helps them understand that learning is not confined to the classroom. Encourage students to identify problems in the community and work with neighbors and local community organizations to draft projects or develop educational campaigns.

Each of these approaches caters to different learning styles and keeps students engaged by connecting classroom lessons to everyday life. Effectively integrating these approaches, you create a vibrant, adaptable learning environment that fosters creativity, critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Creating Inclusive and Culturally Responsive Classrooms

In today’s diverse educational landscape, creating a culturally responsive classroom is crucial. This involves more than just acknowledging the cultural diversity of your students; it requires actively incorporating and celebrating their varied backgrounds in your teaching.

By selecting materials that reflect the cultural richness of your student body and designing lesson plans that are inclusive and representative, you foster an environment of mutual respect and understanding. Consider choosing literature from backgrounds that aren’t exclusive to the American experience. You can also show students videos that highlight and celebrate different cultures and languages, invite guest speakers into your classroom, or hold a cultural showcase to introduce students to various global perspectives.

Before you design your classroom or create your lesson plans, encourage your students to share their own cultural experiences and perspectives. This helps to enrich the learning experience for everyone by promoting empathy and broadening worldviews. As an educator, your commitment to cultural responsiveness plays a key role in preparing students to thrive in a global society.

Empowering Students through Personal Agency

Empowering your students involves more than facilitating knowledge acquisition; it’s about nurturing their sense of personal agency in the learning process. This can be achieved by creating avenues for student-led exploration and decision making in their educational journey. Let’s break this down by subject area to offer more practical techniques.

Math Teachers: Offer students a pool of problems to solve that they can choose from rather than assigning the same ones to each student. Encourage students to connect math to the real world, such as creating budgets, connecting geometry to architecture, using fractions to understand recipes, and statistics to understand probabilities in sports. Student-led learning can be a great way to gauge your student’s abilities, as well as leverage peer-to-peer learning. Encourage students to constantly reflect on their learning process and to check in when they need help.

Science/STEM Teachers: Science is an excellent subject for equipping students with personal agency as the scientific method is inquiry-based and requires curiosity and self-exploration. Rather than telling students about scientific processes, encourage them to develop a hypothesis before the information is presented, and then reflect on the accuracy of their hypothesis after the lesson. For example, before teaching students about tides, encourage them to predict how the moon could affect our ocean systems.

English Teachers: As an English teacher, encouraging students to find joy in reading and writing can often be onerous. Find time to provide students with free-reading choices and decorate your classroom with cozy corners. Develop a class magazine or newspaper that can help students engage with class material as well as reflect on important themes and dialogue taking place in books. Lastly, breaking the routine of standardized writing and replacing it with creative writing can be an effective way to show students that writing is a personal expression.

History Teachers: Getting students out of the textbook is a viable way to take learning from the past to the present. When discussing complex subjects, create a working timeline in the classroom using a wall. Allow students to use paper, sticky notes, and pictures to represent their understanding of historical events. This visual aid helps students understand how history affects the future. When historical events lead to emotional reactions in the classroom, develop space for educated and informed debate to help students understand the power and importance of sharing and considering differing perspectives.

By incorporating student-driven projects and choice-based learning, you enable your students to pursue their interests and learning in ways that resonate with them. Such an approach not only enhances student engagement but also fosters independence, critical thinking, and a deeper investment in their learning. As a teacher, guiding and supporting your students in this journey is key to developing confident and autonomous learners.

Building Mutual Respect and Understanding

Fostering a classroom atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding is pivotal in the educational process. This environment is nurtured through clear communication, empathy, and the acknowledgement of each student’s unique perspective. Establishing clear behavioral expectations and practicing consistent, fair conflict resolution are key.

By incorporating these practices in your classroom, you can create a supportive and positive learning environment where students feel valued and heard. As a teacher, your role in modeling and reinforcing these values cannot be overstated. Such an environment not only enhances learning but also prepares students for respectful interactions in their broader lives.

Shaping the Future Through Balanced Teaching

The essence of your role as an educator goes beyond the traditional scope of teaching. It involves striking a balance between various educational approaches to create a comprehensive and dynamic learning experience.

This guide emphasizes the importance of adapting to different educational environments, valuing student identity, blending formal and informal learning methods, fostering cultural inclusivity, empowering students, and building a classroom culture of mutual respect.

These elements are not standalone; they intertwine to form the fabric of effective teaching. Your adaptability, creativity, and commitment to inclusive education shape not just the academic journey of your students but also their future as well-rounded, thoughtful individuals.

As you apply these principles, remember that your influence extends beyond the classroom, preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.

Classroom Management Strategies: Practical Advice for First-Time Teachers

Teaching is a noble profession that brings immense joy, but it is not without its daily challenges. Picture this: a classroom buzzing with students, each with their unique personalities, backgrounds and learning styles. Although it is a beautiful mosaic of diversity, it can also present a multitude of classroom management hurdles that can bring learning to an abrupt standstill.

For example, let’s step into the 5th grade classroom of Ms. Anderson, a second-year history teacher who has prepared an engaging lesson, eager to excite her student’s curiosity. Within minutes of starting the lesson, the classroom dynamic takes an unexpected turn. A group of friends begin chatting, Noah is doodling in the margins of his notebook, and Maria, usually an attentive student, is gazing out the window lost in thought. Ms. Anderson’s heart sinks, as she is walking the tightrope between capturing the minds of her students while simultaneously ensuring classroom order — pause. Ms. Anderson begins doubting herself. She wonders if she is cut out for this profession and begins critiquing the hours of thought and preparation she put into planning for the day.

Although this can feel like an isolating roadblock, there is no need to self-sabotage. This dynamic is not unique to Ms. Anderson’s classroom. If you peer down the halls, chatter resounds from each and every classroom, teachers can be heard pausing their lesson plans to address behavior and teachers in the school district miles away share in the sentiment of finding themselves at a loss for furthering each child’s education while remaining attentive to their emotional needs.

In this blog, we invite you to join us on a journey of empowerment, as we strive to equip you with not only theoretical knowledge but practical, actionable steps and resources that can make a tangible difference.

Classroom Dynamics

Education consists of multiple curricular narratives, and depending on the school, managing behavior is approached with nuance. For example, the traditional curriculum, or “back to basics”, positions you in an authoritative, top-down position of instruction. Students play a passive role in their learning and engage in rote memorization of material, are tested via standardized means and are expected to adhere to pre-established social norms. The traditional curriculum is what should come to mind when you picture a room full of students, seated orderly in rows, busily scribing the lecture and studying for tests that show individual advancement and progress.

On the other hand, we find the progressive curriculum, which scaffolds you as a supporter to help kids take power and control over their learning experience. This model decentralizes you as an authority figure, instead leveraging you as a co-creator; encouraging kids to learn from the world around them, collaboratively with their peers, and outside the boundaries of formalized testing rituals.

Creating Community in the Classroom

At the beginning of the school year, working with your students to establish community classroom rules exposes them to fairness and gives them direction over compromising acceptable and unacceptable behavior, rather than forcing their identities into social compartments. These rules can be documented in a student handbook that includes student artwork, appropriate jokes, encouraging quotes and important dates for homework, tests and countdowns to breaks from school. It is also helpful to keep students in the know regarding the content that will be covered in class. This can build excitement for lessons, engaging students long before the material is delivered. It can also provide you with feedback as to which subject areas students are curious about.

While these student engagement strategies can create classroom cohesion, it is also important to understand the needs of specific students. Students with disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Autism can have a particularly hard time engaging in group work, but failing to understand their individual needs can ostracize them from reaping the benefits of a healthy classroom community. Incorporate mental health awareness in your classroom and curriculum by offering students opportunities for movement, access to fidgets, and modifying materials to include visual, audial, or tactile components can help curate inclusion for students from each and every background.

Seating can also play a critical role in students’ motivation to learn and offering seating that meets their individual preferences can be a viable solution, so long as it doesn’t create more distraction. For example, rather than organizing your classroom in a uniform fashion, provide students with multiple options and orientations; part of the classroom in rows for kids who would like space, a collaborative circle for students wanting to engage with one another and yoga balls or adaptive chairs for kids seeking movement.

Another crucial component in developing effective classroom management caters to identifying, recognizing and celebrating diverse identities. Students come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, political backgrounds, religious backgrounds, have different personalities and different interests. Incorporating these elements into lesson plans and classroom materials helps each student feel connected to their education, bringing the birds eye view to a personal connection. A crucial recognition in this process is that you may not be the expert on specific components of identity, but finding experts, parents and community members who can bring a more personal, relatable and memorable component into the classroom can be an authentic step to show care and consideration to your students.

Managing Behavior and Building Rapport

Behavior is inextricably linked to a function. While Ms. Anderson had the best intentions of delivering her history lesson with enthusiasm and care, her student’s attention may have been waning due to the lack of collaboration and control they had over their circumstances. Each of the disruptive behaviors had a function, whether it was chatting, doodling, or daydreaming, but each also had one thing in common—they gave the student autonomy and directive in a rather restrictive environment.

Considering you go through at least four years of university before teaching, most would think you receive extensive training on managing behavior, but this is far from the truth. In an analysis conducted by RethinkED, the results validated that about a third of teachers are effectively trained to manage challenging student behavior and more than 40% of teachers think they are not fully prepared to efficiently manage their classrooms. As a result, you may rely on trial and error for managing your classroom, which can leave an open door for unexpected disruptive and occasionally violent behavior.

The worst-case scenario is students physically fighting, threatening one another, or harming you. A recent study published by the National Center for Education Statistics found that more than 80% of U.S. public schools report the pandemic has negatively impacted student behavior and socio-emotional development. Teachers across the country have seen a substantial increase in student misconduct, rowdiness outside the classroom, acts of disrespect towards staff and prohibited use of electronics. While these are unintended consequences of a global developmental and emotional delay for students, the remnants of COVID are increasingly infiltrating classrooms at the same time that the U.S. is seeing a record number of teachers leave the profession.

Allowing students to do as they please is not the answer and will only lead to stress and burnout, but if students do not feel safe to express their individuality in the classroom, learning will always be placed on the back burner. Developing rapport with each and every student is a crucial first step in establishing effective classroom management, and though it takes time and consistency, it will pay off in the long run. Acknowledging that students are a walking tapestry of their experiences allows more space for collaborative learning.

In the midst of major life interruptions, proceeding as normal often adds fuel to the fire. Students more than ever need reassurance that their emotions are valid, and although the pandemic has receded, you must leave room for repair. For students to have the space they need; you need to have the proper resources to restructure the curriculum to include breathing room. As a resource, there are many online modules that can equip you with the foundations for managing challenging behaviors as well as teacher forums that provide you with empathy, encouragement and motivation in this universal struggle.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Even on your best days, finding the patience and care to manage student behavior can be overwhelming. As such, teacher self-care is of paramount importance as it directly impacts classroom management. When you prioritize your well-being, you are better equipped to handle the diverse challenges that arise in the classroom.

Your emotional and physical state significantly influences your ability to maintain patience, empathy, and resilience. At the same time, practicing self-care sets a positive example for students, teaching them essential life skills related to self-awareness and stress management, ultimately fostering a more harmonious and conducive learning environment.

While there are professional boundaries that need to be respected, encouraging students to share their emotions in the classroom, utilize social emotional learning check-ins when they enter the room, or taking learning breaks when emotional needs are interfering with teaching are all valid strategies and reactions that simultaneously bolster a student’s perception of safety and acceptance within their learning community.

Engaging with Parents

Student behavior starts at home and it is rare that parents are unaware of the triggers and tension spots their children are experiencing. While students may act differently in school than they do at home, parents are the ultimate resource for understanding students and developing actionable plans when the aforementioned strategies are falling on deaf ears and idle hands.

For behavior to change, it must be reinforced in each and every environment a person finds themself in, and if this is not the case, students learn how to become expert code-switchers which will become a major deficiency to them the further they trek into their educational and professional careers.

Although many parents are often passive in their child’s education, providing them with check-ins via phone or email can establish a relationship that transcends the classroom. Rather than waiting until problem behaviors erupt, notify parents with positive feedback, warranted praise and questions about their child to help bring outside information into the classroom.

This element adds a personal aspect to teacher-student relationships that doesn’t leverage authority as a strong-arm demanding attention, but engages the child and parent with empathy demonstrating a genuine desire to help the student succeed and feel supported.

Utilizing Technology

Technology is an ever-evolving entity that has become a powerful tool and a distraction all at the same time. Students are using laptops, cellphones, tablets and video game consoles on a daily basis. Many schools have implemented technology free zones which bring students into conversation, provide them space to rationalize, collaborate and explore while also giving them a much-needed break from the 5-7 hours of screen time they average each day. Not to say technology doesn’t have a place in the classroom, but assuming the invasion of technology into our personal lives must coexist in schools may contribute to poor classroom management.

Digital textbooks make materials more accessible, collaborative games such as Kahoot! and Quizlet bring excitement and informality to usually mundane tasks, and in downtime or earned free play, technology can be a great reinforcer.

As a teacher, AI can be one of your best allies. You can establish individualized student plans which can take the after-hours workload off your plate while still prioritizing student needs. AI tools can also help you to develop engaging lesson plans, create one-of-a-kind resources and expose students to the utility and futility of machine learning.

The bottom line

In the dynamic world of teaching, where daily challenges often feel like a maze, you are not alone in facing these hurdles. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just embarking on your teaching journey, the classroom landscape is a diverse terrain, filled with students of varying backgrounds, behaviors and academic levels.

For instance, envision Ms. Anderson’s 5th grade history class, where the daily quest for engagement and order often feels like walking a tightrope. These scenarios are not unique to her classroom; teachers worldwide grapple with similar challenges. By implementing some of the strategies above, like establishing classroom rules collaboratively with students to recognize and celebrate diverse identities, you can foster inclusive and effective classroom management.

In a time when student behavior is influenced by technology and the lingering effects of the pandemic, it’s important to remember that as you invest in your students’ growth, taking care of your own well-being is equally crucial to set an example of self-awareness and resilience.

Alongside these strategies, effective communication with parents can provide valuable insight into your students’ lives outside of the classroom and help create a cohesive support system. At the same time, nurturing student autonomy allows them to take ownership of their learning experience. By giving students choices, encouraging their input in setting classroom expectations and providing opportunities for self-directed learning, you can establish a sense of responsibility and independence in your students. This approach not only promotes engagement but also helps in managing behavior by giving students a sense of agency in their educational journey.

Together, you, parents, and students can navigate the intricate landscape of teaching, ensuring that each student’s unique tapestry of experiences and needs is woven into a successful learning journey.

The Cost of Teaching: Examining the Paychecks of America’s Educators

Monday morning, the alarm clock sounds… roll out of bed, start the coffee maker, gather your things. Are you ready for the morning? Are the lesson plans done? How are the kids going to show up today? The life of a teacher is one of adventure, but the uncertainty is often undermined by the demand. The extensive demand of educating America’s youth; accompanied by pending resource allocation, scanty compensation, and an expectation of overtime. All considered, the beckon to work summoned by the morning alarm clock can quickly become a woe for help as teachers across the country are overworked, underpaid and reliant on the sympathy of top-down administrative acknowledgment. Enter burnout.

The average starting salary for teachers in the United States is around $40,000 coupled with nearly 60-hour work weeks. While teachers do not work year-round, accounting for holidays and extended breaks, their contracts usually require 180 days. After tapping a few buttons on the calculator, one quickly finds that teachers are provided roughly $21 per hour. A salary comparable to that found in entry-level minimum wage positions in many states.

Todd Smolden, a former teacher from Alaska, connects this salary deficit to a teacher retention issue, expressing that new teachers quickly discover the expectations cast upon them do not match fair compensation, and after a while, an open door may feel like the only option to escape burnout.

A closer look at U.S. teacher salaries

If you dive into the statistics of teacher compensation in the U.S., the wage gap provides a compelling argument for change. The wage gap refers to the percent difference teachers are paid compared to their college-educated counterpoints. While this varies state to state, the Economic Policy Institute provides a helpful breakdown which highlights states with larger disparities.

For example, in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Oregon and Utah teachers are paid on average 30-40% less than their non-educator counterparts. Schools nationwide require at least a bachelor’s degree to assume the position and compared with professions in mental health, engineering, science and technology—the return on a 4-year collegiate investment for teachers is miniscule.

In comparison, the 4-year return on a computer science degree can total nearly $110,000. To add to the dissonance, geographic location can drastically influence teacher salaries as educational funding is a byproduct of voter agendas. Choosing a state with higher wages can be a workaround for novel teachers, but if relocation doesn’t float your boat, masters educated teachers can accelerate their income.

How do teachers feel about what they’re getting paid?

In a recent report released by the Colorado Education Association, nearly 60% of surveyed teachers are considering leaving the position in the near future. Low pay, high stress, political divisiveness, rising violence and staff shortages are among the top issues pressing teachers. The report highlights that the industry isn’t facing a staffing shortage in the sense that there are not enough qualified individuals in the job market, but rather, “a deficit of educators willing to work in untenable conditions.”

Regardless of these issues, many teachers with passion and devotion to the field are finding ways to stay positive. Keri Gordon, an elementary teacher in Denver, expresses this sentiment through teaching students to read, claiming, “their eyes light up, and I tell them that learning to read is a gift… and you know they feel it, and you know you were a part of that. That’s the best feeling ever.”

Although there are many good moments, it doesn’t change the fact that many teachers leave the classroom wondering how they will make ends meet at home; how they will pay their bills, afford their mortgages and find time to spend with their families without having to work supplemental jobs.

True passion is one of the most delicate and bold aspects of the human experience, and when true passion is found, humans will go to extreme measures to nurture it. When passion is recognized in employment, the outcome is a win-win for the employer and the employee, but when passion is normalized as an industry standard, moments of validation and recognition are scant. The impact this has on teacher morale is explicit as more and more teachers leave the profession, sacrificing their passion for their mental health.

Who decides teacher pay?

Public education in America is a governmental entity, meaning resource allocation and teacher salaries are largely a byproduct of local and national governmental policy, influenced by taxpayers. In addition, many teachers rely on “steps” and “lanes” to gain salary increases. Steps refer to teacher seniority or receiving annual raises which encourage retention. Lanes refer to salary increases scaled by newly acquired expertise, such as the pursuance of a master’s degree.

Teacher salaries are dependent on school districts operating revenue, pooled entirely by state and local sources. As such, the amount of revenue within a given district is variable leading to unpredictable allocation. In reaction, if school districts are experiencing shortages, they may prioritize new teacher pay, diminishing or docking pay from veteran teachers. This is where unions can be helpful, but weighing the pros and cons of opting in are important.

Although unions provide teachers with resources and a voice of advocating for higher pay and better working conditions, annual wage dues can total nearly an entire paycheck. On one hand, unionized teachers make on average 13% more than their non-unionized counterparts, but this offset may be leveled out by annual union dues. Opting out of a union is a matter of personal preference and values. The collective bargaining power which accompanies union membership can be enticing, but personal negotiation can produce similar outcomes that may better align with your individual goals and needs. Ultimately, the lack of attention education receives on the legislative docket is one of the reasons awareness has remained stagnant. To drive this point home, between 1996 and 2021, public school teachers have seen a $29 weekly increase in their wages compared to a $445 increase for other college graduates.

The future of teacher compensation

Teacher strikes are a potent way to raise awareness surrounding educational fallacies, but 37 states and Washington, D.C. have bans in place to keep teachers from walking out of the classroom. Without the option to protest, many teachers must rely on internal negotiation and rely on seniority benefits which take years to kick in. While teachers remain underpaid nationwide, awareness surrounding teacher burnout is making waves on social media. Hand in hand, education has been a hot debate targeted by identity politics bringing educational issues to not only local but also national legislature.

A recent article published by Education Week claims that under a new federal bill, teachers would make at least $60,000 per year. The American Teacher Act would not only raise salaries in K-12 schools, but it would also guarantee that future teacher salaries are adjusted to keep pace with rising inflation.

As technology advances, its power in the classroom is felt by all. Artificial intelligence has changed the educational landscape for better and for worse. It has significantly reduced the time needed to complete menial tasks, has pioneered creative ideas for educational delivery and instruction and provides teachers with substantive pivot points when attention in classrooms is waning. Merlyn Mind has found a helpful way to provide teachers with a personalized AI to aid with classroom learning while organizations like Khan Academy are working on personal student AI tutors.

While the emergence of new technologies can create fear, AI could be a plausible intervention to aid with teacher burnout, stress, dissatisfaction, and retention rates. If AI in part can help close the productivity gap, teachers could possibly spend less of their time outside of the classroom planning for the next day, and more time doing the things they love.

What can you do?

Teachers are the backbone of support for America’s youth, and as such their demand is crucial to uplifting democracy and equipping students for a life of success. With 60% of U.S. teachers considering quitting the profession, change can be found in the surplus of voices. Since teacher pay is a stagnant entity without proper legislation, educational campaigns are crucial to educate the population on the need for increased wages.

Teacher blogs highlighting teacher stories and frustrations are an immediate way to advocate for change. There are also websites such as Teachers Pay Teachers where educators can profit off their innovative classroom materials. Further, incentivizing teachers to optimize their professional development or pursue continuing education would not only benefit the professional cohort as a whole but might offer teachers the support they need to strengthen their competence and demand fair compensation for new skills. We Are Teachers is a great resource for educators who are seeking this option and includes many free resources along with tips to upgrade lessons with modern components.

While much of the burden for teacher advocacy has fallen back on these overworked professionals, it is time that society emerges in the wake of a crowd with tired voices. Strength is always found in numbers, and the more parents and members of the public we have walking alongside teachers, the faster a call for change will cease to fall upon deaf ears.

The bottom line

Compensation is not a teacher issue; it is a human issue. Whether you are an electrician, a journalist, a chef, or a mechanic; without fair compensation industries will shatter. The American educational system is on the verge of crisis as tired teachers are collapsing from overstress and a lack of pay. Rather than offering teachers verbal support, it is time that parents, students and members of the public hoist the picket signs in place of the teachers who can’t.

Change happens slowly, but without proper education, advocacy is a lost cause. This article demonstrates a start, an exposition of lived experience, an examination of the fallacies, but a glimmer of hope for a better future.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, and power as such demand’s responsibility. Responsibility which needs to be awarded not only fairly, but generously. Rather than waiting around for the next policy maker to propose boosted wages, we can all start by showing care for our teachers, supporting them financially and educating students on the sacrifices teachers make in the classroom to ensure each one of them can see a bright future. 

Unpacking Top Issues for Teachers

Teachers are faced with one of the most difficult jobs in the country. Not only are they responsible for keeping children safe on a day-to-day basis, but they are the backbone of American literacy. When you consider the daily responsibilities teachers are tasked with followed by an ever changing curriculum, a 40-hour work week can quickly turn into a 60+ hour work week, and many districts fail to compensate teachers for additional hours.

As a result, many teachers are working multiple jobs to compensate for the paltry return on their arduous commitment to their classroom communities. While many of the demands are eminent in the classroom calling on teachers to conjure their creativity in lesson planning, they are also tasked with integrating new technologies, managing classroom behavior, communicating with parents, and maintaining their own mental health. All considered, this is a shared struggle, and those who feel deeply called to teach can share respite in the empathy emanating throughout the school hallways.

Whether you are an elementary, middle, or high school teacher, the semblance of hope in unity surrounding these issues can provoke a call for change.

Compensation

One of the most influential components people divert their attention to when seeking a job is compensation. After all, the economy is an ever-changing entity that without careful consideration can leave some checking the couch cushions for spare change. While all jobs share some level of inadequacy with pay scales, teacher salaries encompass one of the largest disparities when considering demand and complexity.

For example, Chelly Brown, a high school teacher in Pennsylvania, highlights the extra unpaid responsibilities teachers undertake, such as coaching and participating in extracurricular activities. She expresses this sentiment stating, “You’re being asked to do a bunch of extra things and you’re not getting compensated for that.”

Unlike other fields where seniority and performance are the determinants of pay, education relies on inter-district primacy. Therefore, the longer you stay at the same school or within the same district, the higher the pension you are qualified to receive. As such, many teachers feel constrained to remain in the same geographical location which can have significant effects on their future plans and commitment to the profession.

Working Conditions

One of the most complicated aspects of being a teacher is the incalculable variation found within schools. School funding has always been an area of contention and the underlying economics which fund schools rely on taxpayer contributions to provide students with a state-of-the-art education.

Schools around the United States have adopted multiple models of classroom integration to make up for incongruencies in funding systems. One of the most common examples is “floating teachers”, where students remain in the same room as teachers rotate in accordance with subject expertise. While this system maximizes space and fosters rapport between students, it often leaves teachers scrambling to maintain order with their materials and can quickly lead to teacher burnout.

For humans to be comfortable, it is crucial to feel directive over our space. Walking into school on a Monday morning and having a room to place your things, decompress, and prepare for the day ahead not only positively contributes to teacher mental health, but it also helps prepare for the unpredictably that ensues when 20+ humans share a space together.

Classroom Resources

Finding time to lesson plan can often be laborious, but since many teachers understand this shared struggle, there are numerous online resources to pull completed lesson plans, find engaging ways to encourage students to participate with subject matter, as well as equip your classroom with supplies to make it through the year. While these resources are plentiful, teachers are often financially burdened with wanting to diversify curriculum by adding their own tasteful flare.

For example, if a teacher wants to use a certain book to teach a unit, but it is not a book that school has in stock, they will often have to fundraise or use their own money to provide enough copies to their class.

The integration of technology can be a useful stimulus to keep students engaged but is costly and often out of scope for many districts as it requires extensive training and is ever changing. As such, many educators rely on the resources provided to them by their districts, but the need to outsource often overwhelms their financial, mental, and physical equilibrium.

Classroom Management

One of the most demanding tasks of being a teacher is keeping your classroom on track. Curriculum is mandated from the top and handed down for implementation without much training. Ultimately, educational instruction is at the forefront of teaching, but what happens when the classroom becomes dysregulated, and your attention has to shift to student behavior?

Students come into the classroom each day as an extension of their lived experience, or to say, they enter the classroom with a backpack carrying their emotional health, their physical health, and their mental health. As such, there is an unprecedented level of unpredictability that follows each student through the door and as a teacher, many aren’t sure what the day will bring.

Students emulate the experiential rainbow, encapsulating everything from depression, anxiety, physical abuse, addiction, learning disorders, and previous encounters with the criminal justice system. It is already difficult enough teaching a diverse room of students, but often behavioral episodes convolute the delivery of pertinent material. In reaction, there are multiple models of behavioral intervention ranging from social emotional learning (SEL) to crisis intervention plans and individualized education plans (IEPs), but few teachers are properly trained or equipped to deliver these interventions in the classroom.

Parent-Teacher Communication

In modern education systems there is a natural disconnect between teachers and parents, partly due to the demand to retain jobs for familial stability. As such, a substantial part of childhood development is passively extricated to teachers.

In education there is a Latin reference known as “in loco parentis” or “in place of parents”, in which teachers assume some function of parental roles in the classroom. This can be an area of contention as some parents may find difficulty in relinquishing delegation of influence for their child.

Week to week, teachers may find themselves enveloped with antagonistic emails from parents regarding their child’s performance, behavior, or demeanor. In some cases, parents are involved with the school through volunteering and these discords can be addressed with ease. In other cases, parents have little understanding of their children’s composure in the classroom and can assume a stance of defensiveness calling for the teacher to do better.

The bottom line when addressing parent-teacher communication relies on the amount of support the teacher is given, and whether or not they can find balance managing matters on their own versus knowing when to involve the school administration.

The bottom line

Teachers occupy an arduous niche of the workforce which is often looked upon with deftness. Each day, teachers wake up, commute to school, and rely on their lesson plans to equip kids with an education that will stipulate their qualification for the workforce. Aside from their occupational requirements, teachers are constrained by the institutional norms delegated by their chosen institution. This encapsulates everything from pay scales, curriculum, classroom orientation and resource availability to classroom management, student behavior, parent-teacher relationships, and teacher mental health.

While much of what has been discussed in this article exposes inevitabilities of teaching, it is crucial to equip yourself with a toolbox of resources to be able to show up for your students and yourself without dreading the morning bell. Whether you spend time exploring teacher forums, participating in workshops, finding moments for breathwork or to stretch, or placing yourself in a district with an emphasis on work-life balance, you can rest assured that teachers across the country are treading the waters of delivering quality education in a chaotic world.

SMART SAVINGS Teacher Discounts on Travel

In the world of education, teachers tirelessly dedicate themselves to nurturing young minds. But taking time for yourself to relax and explore is just as important as your day-to-day responsibilities. However, the reality of a teacher’s budget often means that dreams of travel and adventure can seem just out of reach. Luckily, many travel and hospitality brands offer exclusive discounts for educators. With these special rates on hotels, resorts, and car rentals, the opportunity to rejuvenate, explore new cultures, and experience the wonders of the world becomes more accessible. Gaining access to these discounts is often as easy as showing your teacher ID when you check into a hotel, or verifying your status on platforms such as ID.me.

In this guide, we’ll explore how you can take advantage of these deals as well as other ways you can save on your next vacation.

Educator Discounts on Travel and Lodging

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago provides Illinois teachers and homeschool parents with free access to the museum.

HOW TO REDEEM: Complete the Educator Admission Request form using your current school ID or Illinois Education Association card to receive your free entry voucher.

GOOD TO KNOW: This exclusive free admission is limited to Illinois educators and cannot be used for student tours or group tours.

Caesar’s Family of Casino Resorts

Caesar’s welcomes teachers and students with year-round discounts, offering up to 30% off on your hotel stay.

HOW TO REDEEM: You can verify your status through ID.me and book your stay via the Ceasar’s website to take advantage of this discount.

GOOD TO KNOW: The discount excludes Caesars Rewards loyalty member offers, room packages, and promotions that include room add-ons or inclusions, such as show tickets, food credits, or resort credits.

Disneyland

Teachers planning a trip to Disneyland in California can benefit from 2% cashback on their travel expenses.

HOW TO REDEEM: Verify your teaching status through ID.me to enjoy these savings on your vacation.

GOOD TO KNOW: The use of coupons or promotional codes not associated with ID.me may void the cashback offer. Additional restrictions may also apply.

Disney World

At the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan resorts in Florida, teachers are offered a 25% discount on their room rate at the time of booking.

HOW TO REDEEM: Book your stay at either the Dolphin or Swan resorts and present your teacher photo identification at check-in to redeem this offer.

GOOD TO KNOW: This discount is specifically for room rates at the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan Resort and is subject to availability.

Expedia

Educators can take advantage of special hotel and vacation coupons on select Expedia purchases.

HOW TO REDEEM: Sign up and verify your status as an educator on the Expedia website to discover these exclusive offers.

GOOD TO KNOW: These deals are curated and can range in saving amounts. Deals change regularly so checking the discount page often is recommended.

Explorica

Specializing in educational trips, Explorica offers teachers financial assistance, personal fundraising, and a variety of resources to make student trips enriching and accessible. With Explorica, planning an educational excursion is made easy and affordable.

HOW TO REDEEM: Visit Explorica.com to discover available tours and prices tailored for educational groups.

GOOD TO KNOW: Explorica offers monthly payment plans for trips with rates as low as $149 per month.

Hyatt

Hyatt offers a 15% discount to teachers at its more than 1,300 hotel properties nationwide.

HOW TO REDEEM: Use ID.me to verify your teaching status and receive this discount.

GOOD TO KNOW: A minimum stay of two nights is required to qualify for this offer.

Marriott Hotels

Marriott Hotels offers educators up to 25% off their stay at select locations.

HOW TO REDEEM: Book your stay and present your photo ID with proof of your teaching status on it at check-in to redeem this deal.

GOOD TO KNOW: This offer is available at select Marriott hotels only and certain restrictions may apply.

Local Activities and Attractions

You can unlock a world of exploration and enrichment in your own backyard by taking advantage of discounts at local museums, parks, theaters, and other attractions. Many cultural institutions and recreational venues show their appreciation for educators by offering special rates or free admission. Whether it’s a day of learning and inspiration at a museum, a relaxing afternoon at the park, or an evening enjoying a live performance—these local outings can provide you not only with a budget-friendly escape but also a rich source of personal and professional enrichment. To make the most of these opportunities, regularly check the websites of local attractions or sign up for newsletters, as many places periodically update their discount offers and special events for educators.

Group and Off-Peak Discounts

Traveling with fellow educators can have significant advantages as well. When you take group trips with other teachers, you can often benefit from group rates, which can be substantially lower than individual booking costs. These shared journeys also offer a unique platform for professional networking in an informal setting, adding more to your travel experience beyond just sightseeing.

Choosing to travel during shoulder seasons can be another way to find more affordable rates for flights, accommodations, and even attractions. Not only does this help stretch your travel budget further, but it can also mean less crowded destinations, allowing you a more relaxed and immersive experience. Whether it’s a summer break getaway or a winter retreat, strategically planning your travels can lead to both financial savings and a more enjoyable journey.

Tips to Save Money on Travel and Activities

Plan trips during school breaks for better deals

Traveling during school breaks can be a smart strategy for great savings. These periods often align with off-peak travel in many destinations, allowing you to snag better deals on flights, accommodations, and travel packages. Planning your vacation during these times also avoids the rush of peak tourist seasons, leading to a more relaxed and enjoyable trip.

Always ask about educator discounts

Never hesitate to ask about educator discounts wherever you go. Many places, including hotels, museums, rental services, and even some restaurants, offer discounts for teachers. Always carry your teacher ID with you and ask about potential savings – you might be surprised at how many places value and reward educators with special rates.

Explore local, lesser known attractions

Venturing to local, off-the-beaten-path attractions not only adds unique experiences to your travels but can also be more cost-effective. These hidden gems often have lower entrance fees compared to more popular tourist spots and can provide a more authentic glimpse into the local culture and environment.

Consider staycations or day trips

Staycations or day trips can be an excellent way to break your routine without the cost of extensive travel. Exploring local landmarks, parks, or new activities in your city can be refreshing and budget-friendly. Plus, it eliminates the need for pricey accommodations and long-distance travel costs.

Join travel deal newsletters 

Subscribing to travel deal newsletters from sites like Going and The Points Guy can keep you informed about the latest deals and travel tips. These resources are fantastic for staying updated on discounted travel opportunities, special promotions, and practical advice on making the most of your travel budget.

Enjoy your getaway

As a teacher, you truly deserve the chance to unwind and explore the world around you. By traveling in groups, during off-peak times, and using the variety of discounts available to you, you can turn your travel dreams into reality. Remember, these journeys are more than just breaks; they are opportunities for personal growth and rejuvenation, allowing you to return to your classroom refreshed and inspired. So, take advantage of them and embark on your next adventure with confidence!

Teachers Savings: Technology

Technology has transformed the way we teach, becoming as fundamental to the classroom as textbooks and blackboards used to be. Interactive software, digital whiteboards and online resources have become more than just a helpful tool, they’re necessary to create a dynamic learning environment that can cater to anything your students may need. But these tools often come with a hefty price tag and many educators have to buy these tools themselves. Bringing the best technology to your classroom should be about providing the best education to your students, not about draining your bank account.

There are many companies that offer teacher discounts and savings programs for their products and services. To register for these discounts and programs, you often just need to prove you are an educator. Many companies use platforms like ID.me and others simply have you sign up with your school issued email.

Below we’ve put together a list of teacher discounts on classroom technology from top tech companies as well as some other ways that you can save on technology for your classroom.

Educator Discounts from Tech Companies

Adobe

Get 60% off the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan as a student or teacher.

How to Redeem: Choose the student and teacher option at checkout to redeem your discount.

Good to Know: Your proof of eligibility must be a document issued by the institution you work for with your name, institution name, and current date on the document.

Apple

Save on an eligible Mac or iPad with Apple’s education discount.

How to Redeem: Visit the Apple Education Pricing page to view current discounts and instructions on how to verify your educator account.

Good to Know: Apple offers payment options, free shipping or pickup, and special discounts on various products.

Bose

Bose offers a special discount to teachers and educators on orders over $199.

How to Redeem: Verify your teacher status with ID.me to redeem your discounts online.

Good to Know: Some restrictions may apply and coupons or promotional codes not on ID.me may void cash back.

Canva

Canva allows both teachers and students to create personalized lesson plans, infographics, posters, videos, and more for free with its Education subscription.

How to Redeem: Sign up with your education email address and ID at Canva.com.

Good to Know: This offer remains 100% free for K-12 educators, their students, and qualified institutions.

Dell

Earn 10% off certain products as a member of the Dell Educator Marketplace.

How to Redeem: Join the Educator Marketplace on Dell’s website and verify your teaching status to redeem this discount.

Good to Know: Coupons for this company are valid with select offers but cannot be combined with other coupons.

Google

Educators can explore technology training and resources for free with Google for Educators.

How to Redeem: Access free online training courses for basic and advanced skills across Google tools at Google for Educators.

HP

Get up to 40% off your purchase by creating an account on HP’s website.

How to Redeem: Become a member on the HP website to gain access to special offers and exclusive discounts on HP’s highly-awarded products, supplies, and services.

Good to Know: Your teacher ID is not required to create an HP account.

Lenovo

Save up to 62% off as a teacher with Lenovo’s educational discounts.

How to Redeem: To redeem this discount verify your teacher status with ID.me on Lenovo’s discount page. 

Good to Know: If you qualify for the Lenovo discount on laptops, you are eligible for a 5 to 20 percent discount.

Microsoft

Earn from 5 to 10 percent off on select items from the Microsoft store.

How to Redeem: Enter your email address associated with your personal Microsoft account. If you’re eligible, you will be approved right away and you will automatically see the best discounts on eligible products.

Good to Know: Students and Teachers can get Microsoft Teams for free with a valid email address.

Samsung

Teachers and administrators can enjoy up to 30% off with Samsung’s Education Offers Program. 

How to Redeem: To join this program, sign up with an eligible email address and complete the ID.me verification process on the Samsung website.

Good to Know: Benefits for this offer include instant trade-in credit when you upgrade your devices, 0% APR financing, free no-contact delivery, and easy returns.

Affordable Alternatives and Open Source Tools

A great way to stretch your budget is to look for products that are more cost-effective. This doesn’t mean settling for less; it’s about finding the best value for your money, balancing quality and affordability. Chromebooks, for example, are much more affordable than other laptops, and they come with all the necessary features for your classroom.

Using free open-source software is another great way to save money in the classroom.  Online graphic design software like Canva allows you to create and edit presentations, photos, videos, and much more for free. Google has many free applications too that you can use for general school work. For more advanced coursework, computer-aided design software like FreeCAD allows you to model 3-dimensional structures and designs. Using a free open-source design software is a great way to provide your class with diverse learning tools without breaking your budget.

Another advantage that technology gives to us is the ability to connect, and the online platform Teachers Pay Teachers takes full advantage of that. Teachers Pay Teachers is a unique marketplace where teachers can buy, sell, and share their original educational materials, from lesson plans and worksheets to interactive activities. This community-driven site not only empowers teachers to find creative and diverse resources tailored to their specific classroom needs, but it also allows them to earn income by sharing their original materials with other teachers who may need them.

Subscription Bundles and School Licenses

If you are wanting to integrate new technology into your classroom without the financial burden, tech grants and platforms like DonorsChoose can offer the support you need.

Numerous organizations and foundations provide tech grants specifically for educators. These grants can be a game-changer, offering the resources needed to get new hardware, software, or develop tech-based curriculum enhancements to enhance student learning.

Similarly, DonorsChoose is an impactful crowdfunding platform where teachers can share tech-specific classroom project needs and individuals and organizations can donate to projects they are passionate about. This platform empowers educators to bring their tech dreams to life, from getting the latest tablets for interactive learning to setting up a fully-equipped digital lab.

Tips to Save Money on Technology

While discounts and special offers are fantastic, the true art of saving begins with smart and strategic planning. Sometimes doing small things can get you some big savings. Here are 5 tips to help you incorporate technology in your classroom without straining your budget:

Regularly check for software updates

Regularly checking for software updates can save you from having to purchase new versions. Many times, updates are free and can significantly enhance functionality, keeping your existing software in line with current standards.

Utilize your cloud storage

Opt for cloud storage solutions like Google Drive or iCloud to minimize hardware costs. These services often offer free or low-cost plans and provide the flexibility of accessing your files from any device, reducing the need for expensive physical storage devices.

Attend tech expos or conferences for discounts

Attending tech expos or educational conferences can be a goldmine for discounts and freebies. These events often feature the latest in educational technology and companies are eager to offer special deals to educators.

Network with your fellow educators

Keep in touch with other teachers to stay informed about new deals and discounts. Teacher forums, online communities, and professional networks can be excellent resources for sharing and discovering cost-saving tips and strategies.

Consider trying pre-owned devices

Don’t overlook refurbished or certified pre-owned devices. These items often come at a significant discount compared to brand new products and usually include a warranty, making them a reliable and budget-friendly option for classroom technology.

The bottom line

Technology provides endless opportunities to teach your students in new and exciting ways, but too often access to new tech can be limited by your budget. Thankfully, many companies and organizations are stepping up to help provide this technology to students and teachers just like you. With these discounts, platforms, and other tools at your disposal, you can provide all that your class needs at an affordable price.

SMART SPENDING: More Teacher Discounts

Life as a teacher comes with an extensive list of responsibilities. Often, on top of your teaching duties, one of those responsibilities is for you to purchase your own classroom supplies. Having to stock your classroom with supplies can quickly turn your finances into a balancing act between personal and classroom needs. Supplies like pencils, folders and notebooks are the bare essentials for teaching and you shouldn’t have to break the bank to provide them for your students.

Many companies have programs for teachers to provide discounts on select items. Signing up for these programs is often as simple as presenting your valid teacher ID or verifying your credentials through a platform such as ID.me.

We’ve made a list of discounts for teachers on classroom supplies from top retailers along with other ways to help you save money on your classroom expenses.

Educator Discounts at Classroom Supplies Retailers

BLICK Art Materials

Teachers, as well as students, can get a 10% discount on in-store purchases along with other benefits from the BLICK Preferred Customer program.

How to Redeem: To qualify, you must present both a valid Preferred Customer Card and a current school ID card in store.

Good to Know: This discount applies only to non-sale, in-stock items and cannot be applied towards catalog, internet, or special orders.

Joann Fabrics

Get 15% off classroom supplies when you enroll in Joann Fabrics’ Teacher Rewards Program.

How to Redeem: Shop in-store or online to redeem your discount. After registration, you will receive your JOANN Teacher Rewards digital discount card to use at checkout.

Good to Know: To enroll in this program you must fall under one of these three categories: be a certified, credentialed, or licensed teacher; a documented homeschool teacher; or have a current credential, license, or certification issued by your local, state, or federal government as a childcare provider.

Michaels

Enjoy 15% off your purchase of classroom supplies, including sale items, when you sign up for the Michaels’ Teacher Discount Program. You can also connect this program to your Michaels Rewards account.

How to Redeem: For online and in-store purchases, provide your Michaels Rewards phone number at checkout. If you do not have a Michaels Rewards account, simply show your educator ID for in-store purchases.

Good to Know: This offer may not apply to certain items. This program will automatically sync to your Michaels Rewards account once you join.

NEA Magazine

National Education Association members can get discounts up to 85% off the cover price of select magazines.

How to Redeem: Create an account on the NEA Member Benefits website, then go to the NEA Magazine Service site to access this discount.

Office Depot

Get 10% off qualifying purchases, both regular and sale items.

How to Redeem: You can use the printable savings pass when shopping in person, or you can use your mobile device when shopping in-store and online.

Good to Know: You must present the coupon or savings pass during in-store checkout to receive the discount.

Pencils.com

Pencils.com offers a 10% discount on all purchases with their Educator Discount Program.

How to Redeem: Apply and enroll in the Educators Discount Program directly on Pencils.com.

Good to Know: You must have a Pencils,com account in order to use the Educator discount program.

Staples

Get 5% back in Staples Rewards as well as 5% back in Classroom Rewards for when you sign up for the brand’s Classroom Rewards program.

How to Redeem: Download the Staples Connect app and present your in-app code at checkout.

Good to Know: You can view rewards you earned and those received from others on the Staples Connect app. Earned Classroom Rewards, which you can donate to another teacher or school, expire after 90 days of inactivity.

Target

Enjoy discounts on qualified classroom supplies through the Target Circle Teacher Appreciation program.

How to Redeem: Join Target Circle for free by verifying your status with your school ID. Discounts are available for both in-store and online purchases.

Good to Know: Pricing, promotions, and availability may vary by location and on Target.com.

The Container Store

Enjoy discounts from 15% to 25% when you join the brand’s Organized Insider Program.

How to Redeem: To start saving, enroll in the Insider Program and get $10 off your first order.

Good to Know: For in-store purchases, you may be asked to present your teacher ID. If you don’t have a school ID, you can provide a teaching certificate or other proof of your current teaching status.

Seasonal Sales and Buying in Bulk

Taking advantage of seasonal sales is a great way to stretch your classroom budget further. Back to school sales can offer great price points, and later on, stores often mark down items to clear out inventory. Both of these times present the perfect opportunity to snag your classroom supplies at a much lower price.

Buying supplies in bulk is another opportunity to save when stocking your classroom. Retailers often offer significant discounts on bulk purchases, and while the initial price might be higher, the per-item cost is drastically reduced. Plus, buying items in bulk ensures that you will have a steady stock of supplies throughout the school year, and perhaps for years to come.

Crowdfunding and Donation Platforms

In today’s digital age, there are more options to save money beyond just looking for discounts while shopping. Platforms like DonorsChoose and AdoptAClassroom have made it possible for educators to connect with donors who are willing to support their classroom needs. By creating a personalized campaign detailing the items you need, you can get both financial and material help from donors across the country who understand the importance of supporting educators. These platforms not only let you advertise your specific needs, they also allow donors to see exactly where their donation is going. In addition to classroom supplies, you can also raise money for field trips, technology, and even specialized training courses. We know asking for help is not always easy, but with platforms like these it’s one more way to alleviate the financial pressure you may face as a teacher.

Reusing and Recycling Materials

How you treat used classroom items can have a great impact on the amount you spend on new supplies. Often enough, items are thrown away before they are fully used. Notebooks with only a few pages left, pencils that have run out of lead, and old out of date textbooks all have opportunities to continue being used. Old notebooks can be kept for class scratch paper, buying refills of lead for pencils is much cheaper than buying new pencils, and old textbooks can be cut up for decoration or art projects. Make sure you get the full use out of all your classroom supplies and consider repurposing them once they are done.

Another way to extend the life of your unused supplies is to see whether one of your fellow teachers could put them to good use. What might be unwanted in one classroom could be treasure to another. Creating a sharing system such as a “sharing shelf” at your school provides an opportunity for you to find a new home for your old supplies. You may also find supplies from other teachers that you can use, too. This is a great way to keep your classroom stocked and get the full value out of any supplies you no longer use.

Tips to Save Money on Classroom Supplies

Trying to buy classroom supplies at a low cost can be challenging, but with a few smart strategies, you can make each shopping trip a little more budget-friendly. Here are some tips to keep your classrooms well-stocked without stressing your wallet:

Encourage students to donate unused items

Many students have extra supplies left over at the end of the school year. Asking students to donate these leftover items can help you get ahead of your needs for the upcoming year.

Collaborate with fellow teachers for bulk purchases

As we covered earlier, buying items in bulk is a great way to save money, but the initial cost may be too expensive for you on your own. Buying these items with other teachers can help both of you save money.

Use digital resources to minimize paper use

The digital age offers a wide variety of resources that can minimize your need for supplies such as paper and pencils. And not only is this option easier on your budget, it’s also eco-friendly.

Seek donations from local business

Local businesses often enjoy supporting educators in their area. Asking these businesses for donations could save you money as well as create a positive connection between your classroom and your community.

Organize a school supply drive

Getting your community involved can have many benefits. Organizing a supply drive encourages more people to donate items, which not only stocks your classroom with supplies but also strengthens the school and community bond.

The bottom line

In the ever-changing landscape of education, one constant remains: the need for resources. When creativity meets necessity, amazing things can happen. Whether it’s finding the best discount, rallying community support, or sharing with other teachers, there are endless ways to ensure your classroom has everything you need. By adopting smart spending strategies and fostering a spirit of community, you can provide everything your students need without worrying about the cost.

SMART SPENDING: Teacher Discounts on Apparel

Dressing the part plays a significant role in the world of teaching. Not only does it set a positive example for your students, but it also upholds the standards of your role as an educator. Some school districts are strict with their dress code, while others are a little more relaxed. No matter where you teach, you should be able to look your best without emptying your wallet.

Being a teacher often grants you access to exclusive deals, both online and at physical stores. To take advantage of these savings, verification is typically required. This could be as simple as showing your school ID at a retail store or verifying your credentials online using platforms like ID.me or SheerID.

Below we’ve curated a list of discounts for teachers on apparel as well as some helpful tips to help you achieve a polished look without the premium price.

Educator Discounts at Apparel Retailers…

Adidas

Save 30% on all Adidas purchases when you verify your eligibility status before checkout. Shop the brand’s teachers shoes collection for easy to wear styles to keep you comfortable throughout the school day.

How to redeem: You can shop online or find an Adidas store near you to take advantage of this promotional offer. Don’t forget to verify your eligibility with ID.me before checkout.

Good to know: Factory outlet stores offer a 20% off discount, as opposed to the 30% off coupon presented for in-store and online shopping at adidas.com.

Ann Taylor

Get 15% off full-price merchandise purchased in store with your valid school ID.

How to redeem: Visit the Loft Loves Teachers website to find a Loft location near you. Show the cashier your school ID during checkout to receive your 15% discount.

Good to know: This offer is only available in stores.

Bonobos

Bonobos offers college and K-12 teachers a 20% discount for up to five orders over the course of a year. Be sure to verify your eligibility status at ID.me.

How to redeem: To claim this offer, shop at Bonobos.com or in-store, and follow these steps before checkout to verify your status. You will immediately receive your code, valid for up to five purchases, once your status is confirmed.

Good to know: This discount cannot be combined with other offers or applied to previously purchased items. Purchases at Bonobos outlet stores are not eligible for this offer.

Champion

After checking your eligibility and verifying your teacher ID, you can receive 10% off your purchase on the Champion website.

How to redeem: Follow the steps to verify your status with ID.me, then shop Champion.com and apply your discount code at checkout.

Good to know: There is a limit of one code per order and it can only be used once. The coupon cannot be used for taxes, shipping and handling, or other charges.

Eyemart Express

Unlock 20% off designer frames and prescription eyeglasses when you purchase in store.

How to redeem: Get your educator discount at Eyemart Express by showing your valid school ID badge at checkout.

Good to know: This discount only applies to optical eyewear and sunglasses. Immediate family members can take advantage of this offer too as long as you are present with your ID while making the purchase.

Fruit of the Loom

Enjoy 20% off all Fruit of the Loom purchases when you verify your eligibility status at checkout on Fruit.com.

How to redeem: Shop Fruit.com and follow the steps at checkout to verify your status with ID.me. You will immediately receive your offer once your status is confirmed.

Good to know: This discount may be greater during promotional timeframes. It can also be combined with other on-site offers that are not greater than 25% off.

Hanes

Get 10% off your purchase for the whole family on the Hanes website when you verify and get your discount code online.

How to redeem: Shop Hanes.com and follow the steps to verify your status with ID.me to receive your coupon on your next order.

Good to know: This promo code is a single-use discount and cannot be used for taxes, shipping and handling, or other charges. Limit one code per order.

Tommy Hilfiger

Save 15% on your purchase at Tommy Hilfiger retail stores or on Tommy.com.

How to redeem: Shop Tommy.com or use the brand’s store locator to find a store near you. Verify your status with ID.me to receive a discount code that you can enter at checkout.

Good to know: Each discount code may only be used once. Only one code may be provided per week on Tommy.com. These offers are not redeemable for store credit and cannot be combined with other promotions or discounts.

Under Armour

Take 20% off all purchases by verifying your eligibility with ID.me. You can use your exclusive discount every time you shop on UnderArmour.com, the Under Armour app, Under Armour Brand House. Receive a 10% discount at Under Armour outlet stores.

How to redeem: Shop online or find an Under Armour store near you. For online purchases, verify your teacher status with ID.me. Once your credentials are verified, you will immediately receive your discount offer.

Good to know: This discount typically applies to full-priced merchandise and cannot be combined with other promotional codes or discount offers.

Shopping Secondhand and Consignment Stores

Have you considered the world of gently-used clothing? Not only can you discover unique and vintage pieces, but shopping second-hand also offers fantastic savings. Plus, you’re contributing to sustainable fashion. If you’re looking for thrift stores and consignment shops in your area, this national thrift store directory is a great place to start. It features more than 12,000 charity-driven thrift stores, so you can feel good knowing that your purchases will benefit a meaningful cause.

Online Shopping Hacks

Shopping and saving online is now easier than ever. Along with identity verification tools like ID.me, credit card offers, such as those from American Express and Chase, can also provide significant savings. And don’t forget about digital coupons! Websites like RetailMeNot.com share active coupon codes that you can redeem at checkout. Additionally, browser tools like Rakuten and Honey, search the internet to find top deals, cash back opportunities, and discount codes, helping you get the most out of every dollar you spend.

Tips to Save Money on Apparel

While discounts and deals are fantastic, the art of saving starts with adopting smart spending habits. As teachers, we’re always on the lookout for ways to enrich our minds; why not apply the same principle to our wardrobes? Here are 5 tips to help you look your best, while ensuring your finances stay healthy.

  1. Organize clothing swaps with fellow teachers. Clothing swaps are a great way to refresh your wardrobe without spending a dime. Gather a group, set a date, and exchange pieces you’ve grown tired of. You might just find your next favorite outfit.
  2. Invest in timeless, versatile pieces. Think of your clothing as an investment. Rather than choosing trendy pieces that might go out of style in a season, invest in classic pieces. They can be mixed, matched, and worn again and again, offering better value for your money.
  3. Repair instead of replace. Embracing a little DIY spirit can go a long way. By mastering some basic sewing skills, you can easily mend small damages and extend the life of your favorite pieces. Not only is it good for your wallet, but it helps the planet too.
  4. Avoid impulse purchase with the 24-hour rule. Before splurging on a new fashion find, pause before you purchase. Giving yourself 24 hours before finalizing a purchase can help you determine whether this item is a “need” or “nice to have”. This is a great way to curb unnecessary spending.
  5. Consider DIY or upcycling for unique items. Transform your favorite fashion pieces into something fresh and unique. Upcycling not only gives a second life to your well-worn pieces but also lets you showcase your creativity.

The Bottomline

We know that it takes an incredible amount of resources to educate future generations. Over the last few years, more and more brands have made an effort to show their appreciation for teachers like you by introducing special promotions to help you shop and save.

By pairing those deals with the smart saving tips above, you can ease some of the financial burden. Verify your teacher status with ID.me or SheerID to participate in the savings, and show your students how you can tackle anything when you look and feel your best.

What Happens if You Don’t Pay Your Union Dues?

In recent years, the topic of union dues and the rights of workers has garnered attention, especially in the education sector. As you navigate your professional rights, it’s essential to understand the intricacies of union dues and their associated obligations.

Understanding Union Dues and Membership

When you start at a school, union representatives often provide forms, suggesting that signing is standard procedure. It’s essential to be aware and fully understand what you’re agreeing to. Many teachers don’t realize that they might be locked into specific “windows”, often limited to just a few days each year, when they can exit the union without penalty.

Patrick J. Wright, a legal expert on the subject, provides insight: “Most people sign up without really giving it any thought because they think they have to.” He further adds, “Most of the people signing them up are often in the school system, possibly union members themselves.”

If you decide that union membership is not right for you, there are alternatives to union representation you may want to consider.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay?

You cannot be fired solely for not paying union dues. However, there are exceptions if you have entered into a private membership agreement and fail to fulfill your obligations.

Jarrett Skorup, an observer of union trends, says, “While the direct threat of job loss isn’t prevalent, the intricacies of private agreements can catch educators off guard, leading to unforeseen legal complications.”

Historically, unions could ask the court to enforce termination clauses in contracts if dues weren’t paid. However, this changed with the landmark Janus decision, which declared these practices unconstitutional.

What Should You Do?

Stay Informed: As a teacher or any public school employee, ensure you know your rights. Make sure you understand the terms before signing any membership agreement.

Ask Questions: If you are currently a union member and wish to opt out, seek clarity on the paperwork and understand the “window” during which you can resign.

Connect with Others: Reach out to other teachers who have resigned their union membership to learn more about their experience. Have your own story to tell? Share it with us here.

The Bottom Line

While union membership may offer certain benefits, it’s crucial to understand the implications, especially when it comes to dues. You cannot be fired for not paying union dues. However, if you’ve signed a private membership agreement and then fail to pay, you could find yourself held civilly liable. If you need legal advice for your situation, let us know how we can help.

Star-Ledger Editorial Board Cites Sunlight Report in Scathing Editorial on Excessive Pay for NJEA Leadership

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on theSunlight Policy Center of New Jersey blog.

Kudos to the Star-Ledger Editorial Board for their scathing criticism of the excessive pay for NJEA leadership.  The Star-Ledger continues to publish well researched, courageous and truthful editorials about the facts of the NJEA leadership’s compensation.

The Board drew extensively from Sunlight’s most recent report, which revealed that NJEA leadership pays themselves more than any other teachers union in the nation.  By far.  ALL paid for by NJ teachers, who also have the highest dues in the nation.  By far.

The Star-Ledger shows that not all NJ media is co-opted by the NJEA.