How To Help Teachers During An Unprecedented Back-To-School Season

In May 2018, the U.S. Department Of Education released the results of a survey that showed 94% of public school teachers in the U.S. spent their own money on classroom supplies without reimbursement during the 2014-2015 school year. The same survey showed that those public school teachers who paid out of pocket spent an average of $479 on supplies that year. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that the average public school teacher salary in the U.S. that same year was $57,379. It's no secret that despite being underpaid and often underappreciated, teachers go above and beyond to provide their students with positive and fulfilling educational experiences, and doing just that in the year 2020 is more difficult than ever.
Since being declared a global pandemic in March, COVID-19 has presented teachers with an array of new challenges. And with the 2020 back-to-school season on the horizon, educators are being forced to find ways to tackle remote learning or make their classrooms socially distance-friendly while working to ensure that learning experiences aren't degraded. And that's on top of all the regular prep that goes into every school year. Most teachers could always use — and totally deserve — a little help, but the 2020-2021 school year is going to be an unprecedented one, so here's a list of ways you can support teachers right now.

Buy supplies from teachers' Amazon wish lists

Ahead of back-to-school season, reach out to the teachers in your life, and ask if they have Amazon wish lists. Since this is a relatively easy and quick way to get supplies and keep track of the items they'd like to have for their classrooms, it's a popular tool among teachers. Once they've shared the link, select the items you'd like to buy for them, hit purchase, and they'll be shipped directly to your teacher friend. Since Amazon carries a wide range of products, teachers can get everything they need to prep for a school year that's moving forward in the midst of a pandemic, from books to pencils and paper to cleaning supplies and masks.

Give gift cards

If your teacher friends don't have Amazon wish lists to share, you can still help them get the supplies they need by sending gift cards to Amazon as well as Target, Walmart, Staples, Office Depot, Michaels, and local office, school, and art supply stores. Since teachers often have to spend their own money on classroom supplies, they may be less likely to treat themselves so gift cards to other spots can act as a reminder that they deserve some TLC too. Send the teachers in your life a gift card to their favorite cafe for a caffeine fix that will help them get through classroom preparations or the first day of school. Or, shoot over a gift card to a restaurant or food delivery service for lunches or dinners during that first busy week back.

Donate to DonorsChoose

Even if you don't personally know any teachers that you can send gift cards to or buy supplies for, you can still help teachers prep their classrooms by donating to non-profit organizations that are dedicated to supporting educators. DonorsChoose is one such organization.
The site empowers public school teachers to request materials and experiences for their students and allows individuals to donate directly to those classroom projects. You can use DonorsChoose to help classrooms all year long because the organization also lets you sign up to give a monthly gift. It will charge you once a month, and you'll be able to hand-select the projects you want to support. 

Attend local school board meetings

Do some research to find out if your local school board is holding virtual meetings that are open to the public. By attending these meetings, you can gain an understanding of education spending and other decisions are made in your district. They also provide opportunities for you to publicly voice your support for public school teachers in the various issues that are discussed at these regular meetings.

Ask teachers what they need

Since every district is handling back-to-school a bit differently this year, teachers' needs will surely differ as well. When in doubt, go directly to teachers and ask how you can best support them during this particularly difficult time and beyond. You can also reach out directly to local public schools or local teachers unions to get a handle on what teachers in your community need most right now.

In March, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning surveyed 5,000 U.S. teachers about their emotions during the COVID-19 crisis. The survey found that the five most-mentioned feelings among all teachers were anxious, fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad, with anxiety being the most frequently mentioned emotion by far. With many schools set to resume in-person classes this fall, teachers continue to be worried — recent reports show that some are so scared of returning to work during the pandemic that they are preparing by working on their wills. With all this in mind, sending emotional support to teachers during this time by simply asking how you can help can go a long way. Let them know they are appreciated and you're here hold them up any way you can.

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