As a teacher I find myself scrolling through social media frequently to connect with other educators. I’ve found great ideas for my AP Lit classes, some funny memes when it comes to grammar, and have followed a slew of fabulous educators. Recently, I noticed a hashtag I often see this time of year and during back-to-school: #clearthelist.
The hashtag took me to post after post of teachers pleading for people to click their Amazon wish lists. You’ve probably seen the posts, too. Maybe you’ve even posted one yourself.
In any case, you know teachers aren’t asking for things for themselves. They’re requesting the basics: sensory rings, pencils, books, highlighters, even paper. Teachers are putting themselves out there on social media and it’s both inspiring and depressing.
Why is #clearthelist necessary in 2022?
The reality is that teachers are stepping in to close a very real funding gap. While some teachers receive a modest budget to cover supplies, others don’t get one at all. And we’re not talking about teachers asking for “fancy” extras like field trips or iPads. We’re talking about things like copy paper, crayons, and even soap for the restrooms.
I don’t have to tell you that teachers don’t earn enough money to cover these supplies themselves. But they are, at an average rate of $500 per year out of their own pockets.
Why do teachers pay for supplies out of pocket?
It’s a complicated question. First, teachers want the best for their students. If my school won’t pay for classroom books or hands-on supplies, I’ll seek them out elsewhere because I know they need those things to succeed. Second, the narrative that teaching is a “calling” fuels teachers to pay for supplies. Somehow, sacrifice has come to be seen as part of the job.
But here’s the thing: When was the last time law enforcement had an online fundraiser for handcuffs? Can you imagine a hashtag to buy fire hoses? It sounds laughable, but then why is it OK for teachers to buy their own supplies?
Celebrities have fueled the #clearthelist movement.
Indeed, celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Kristen Bell are appearing in social media tags from teachers, while writer Jodi Picoult’s Twitter page is full of retweeted lists. And I’m grateful for the support of these well-known figures. They’ve brought a lot of attention to the fact that teachers are paying for so much on their own.
Education is vital to a functioning society.
Without educators we wouldn’t have doctors, first responders, engineers, entrepreneurs … the list goes on. And shaping these future leaders takes time, patience, creativity, and yes, supplies. I’m worried that #clearthelist helps to normalize teachers paying for those supplies. But in the meantime, I have an empty classroom and a crowd of students headed my way. Which is why I’ve started my own #clearthelist campaign on Twitter.