Out of Pocket

Last night, I was searching through my iPod for some of the African music I’ve ripped from my CD collection, to play briefly in class today. Unfortunately, some of what we’ve got is on old vinyl records that I’ve never transferred into digital formats, and in particular a couple of albums by Franco.

So I took a whirl onto iTunes. I normally avoid buying from iTunes, but in this case, it was a quick, useful way to get two Franco tracks onto my iPod for class today. I could have spent only a fractionally greater amount of time and gone over to our music library to get the one Franco recording we have in our collection, though.

I was thinking about this a bit later, though: it made me think of all the times that I’ve bought things primarily for classroom use, sometimes to compensate for rushed or insufficient planning on my part. Books, mostly, but sometimes other media. I don’t really keep track of this, nor do I seek reimbursement. I’m kind of careless about that kind of thing in general: it’s part of my absent-minded professorhood.

However, I’m curious about whether this is totally aberrant behavior. You hear from time to time about K-12 teachers who buy supplies or materials for their classes, either because their own schools absolutely won’t or simply because it’s more convenient and doesn’t involve having to hassle with the bureaucracy for an oddball or idiosyncratic teaching plan.

This entry was posted in Academia. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Out of Pocket

  1. aaron says:

    I do that all the time. The nice times are when you can get a course improvement grant to buy something the library doesn’t have (like Franco cds) and then keep the product yourself. But that doesn’t happen often.

    Which Franco songs, by the way?

  2. Brian Ulrich says:

    At Wisconsin, there were very few occasions when faculty had access to funds to get something for a class. At Beloit College I could have gotten access to some, but as my only expense was about $5, it seemed silly to mess with it.

  3. laurel says:

    As a high school teacher, I go out of pocket all the time. Some of it is stuff the school absolutely won’t buy – a treat for my students, overhead transparencies and markers, dry erase markers and personal white boards, certain bits of technology – some of which are totally necessary or vastly improve my teaching. There’s also a category of things I can get through the school, but the quality is very low: I could have used school materials to decorate my classroom, but it would have looked like absolute crap. So I spent $100 on various kinds of brightly colored paper. Finally, there are things that I’ve bought myself because I didn’t know I could get them through the school – overhead bulbs, books. There’s no real logic to what is and isn’t available, except that you can always get paper clips, staples, staplers, chalk, and chalkboard erasers from the school. Sometimes the copy paper runs out and I buy some of that.

    I mostly don’t keep track of what I spend. I will never be reimbursed by the school, and there’s a $250 tax credit that I long ago maxed out, so there’s really no particular incentive to keep track of it.

  4. Liz Lawley says:

    I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this. My department has a really lovely policy of allowing us a $50 book allowance each year, so if it’s a book, I just submit the receipt after I’ve purchased it. And we’ve recently instituted a similar allowance for tech stuff. But even so, I find myself buying everything from brightly-colored whiteboard markers to pizza for my grad classes when they meet at night during finals week.

  5. Western Dave says:

    I just used the school credit card to buy a Woody Guthrie CD. I’ve gotten a memory stick too. The school buys just about everything I could need. I got a better speaker for my computer, a new Smartboard when the old one went funny, etc.. Typical private school story, the benefits are awesome but the pay, not so much.

  6. CMarko says:

    I teach seventh grade in public school, and I buy stuff for my classroom all the time. There is a supply room where I can get some materials, but it’s never clear when it will be open, and since I don’t have an assistant teacher, I can’t generally leave my classroom in the middle of the day to check. Instead, if I need something, I buy it at Wal-Mart. I’d say that over the course of this year, I’ve spent a few hundred dollars of my own money on basic classroom supplies like scissors, protractors, markers, and even notebooks (since some of my students won’t supply their own). I’ve also spent money on raffle prizes, pizza for students who stay after school, and snacks for parties. I don’t even want to think about the ink cartridges, pens, etc. I’ve had to buy during this time–or the gas for the 1.5-hour roundtrip to Wal-Mart.

    It’s the same for all the teachers I know. A friend of mine who teaches high school science has spent over $150 on DVDs to show to his class. It’s not that the school wouldn’t buy these; it’s just that in order to get them, you’d have to place an order months in advance, which is impossible as a first-year teacher. Furthermore, turnover in this district is so high that it’s not always clear to whom we should give our purchase orders, or, for that matter, which classes we will be teaching next year (and therefore which supplies to purchase).

    At my school, this has nothing to do with lack of funding and everything to do with bureaucracy and mismanagement. Case in point: a year or two ago, someone got a grant to put a SmartBoard in every classroom. However, some of them seem to have gone missing. My classroom doesn’t even have an overhead projector, and I have no idea how to get one through the district. I’m trying to figure this out for next year.

  7. Rana says:

    Add me to the list of people who’ve paid for things out of pocket. Usually what I end up buying is DVDs. Partly it’s because it’s often easier to just buy one, than to figure out how to track it down, deal with the weirdness of our current library’s system, etc. But it is also because, as an itinerant adjunct, I do not like it when I have planned a week of class around a given film or other source, and end up somewhere that doesn’t have it in their stacks. I also do not get a budget for such purchases, so the only way I could get them would either be ILL (unreliable, slow, short deadlines) or to have the library acquire them (slow, weird system, the likelihood that I would leave and leave the item behind).

    It’s just simpler to pay the money.

  8. Surely says:

    At Wisconsin, there were very few occasions when faculty had access to funds to get something for a class.

Comments are closed.