My faculty all the time asks me for cash

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I love and believe in giving back. But it seems like every other day at my school we are asked to pay $5 for a jeans pass, give refreshments at the dance, pay fees to join the PTO (my principal wants 100% teacher involvement ) and a gift donate card to one of our families in need, etc. I know I sound like Scrooge, but when I’m only making $32,000 a year, these things add up! Will it reflect badly on me if I unsubscribe? – Scrooge in room 201

Dear SIR201,

POOH. I hate so much about it. First of all, I hate that your school – any school! – is capable of not being adequately funded. I hate that teachers’ kindness and kindness are often used to fill in gaps that are not their responsibility. And I seethe with anger at the thought of buying a passport to wear jeans.

First, I separate fundraising for the school from donating directly to families in need or contributing to improve the student experience. You can skip fundraising and PTO joining directly. Here are some things you’re already doing to support your school, even if they don’t get a dime from you through their fundraisers:

  • Your coming to teach is a radical act of kindness, service and generosity. Period.
  • The money you already spend on your students every year. When you add up what you spend on school supplies, toiletries, things you have to replace yourself, electric blankets in case the stove breaks, etc., that’s more than enough “donation”.
  • Your time. Your contract hours alone are a huge commitment, on top of the time you spend outside of your contract going to student games, taking part in professional development, giving grades, and doing other things that benefit them.

As I said, direct donations for families in need are something different for me personally. But helping students doesn’t always have to be monetary. Here are some other ways you can support your students and their families:

  • Offer to help organize, collect and distribute donations. This is a huge task and often overwhelming for the people running the campaign.
  • Help connect students’ families with organizations that have resources. When Hurricane Harvey swept through Houston, many affected families didn’t know where to begin. Teachers and school staff helped connect families with charities, church groups, and volunteer organizations that were willing to help.
  • Offer your skills instead of (or in addition to) your money. If you’re a great party planner, offer to organize the prom. If you have a thriving TikTok platform, use it to share a family’s wish list in need. If you’re a semi-professional Schmoozer, visit grocery stores or other businesses in the area to see what they’re willing to donate.

Should your principal be aware that his teachers are bleeding to death from the constant demands for money? Yes. But I wouldn’t venture into that conversation unless they open it up. There’s not much you can personally offer in terms of a solution, and it may jeopardize your client’s perception (although it shouldn’t).

Dear WeAreTeachers,
A teacher in my department lost her 17-year-old husband a few weeks ago. We want to do something for her when she comes back, but we have no idea what’s appropriate or how to show her we love her without making her return more painful than it already is. Do you have any idea? – Tiptoe with tenderness

Dear TWT,

Good for your department that you anticipated her feelings and heartache when she returns to school.

My first thought is that whatever you decide, it’s best to let her know before she comes to school. This way she can anticipate and plan if she might need to arrive earlier to sit down with big feelings. A simple heads-up text would work. “Hey, we wanted to make sure that when you come back, you feel the love of everyone at science school. There’s a little something for you in your room. If you’d like, I can bring it to your house this weekend instead. With love, Amy”

Everyone is different as to what to “do” for them, especially when they are grieving. Whoever knows this teacher best should plan what makes the most sense for her comfort, needs, and personality. Some people would love a food train; others cannot imagine eating. Where a person might love a basket of cozy things: a blanket, candles, bath products; another may love a tree or an endangered animal sponsored on behalf of their loved one. Some may just want space; Some comfort themselves in company. It depends on.

Something I once organized was to have all of this teacher’s students choose a small picture of something from a magazine that made them think of their teacher. It could be a colour, a word, a “mood” – anything. Then I arranged the collage pieces neatly on the front of a sturdy cardboard box and explained the project on the back. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there’s something about a collaborative effort on a beautiful project that really makes people feel loved, I think.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I teach middle school in a small town. I am one of nine teachers whose contract is due for renewal at the end of the year and is currently being funded by COVID relief funds. My best teacher reminded me that even if I get fired, I’ll probably get a great recommendation from my principal, but I’m still paralyzed by the thought of being on the chopping block. Is there anything I can do to stop worrying? —Involved in “Fired?”

Dear Mif,

I know what it’s like to not be able to distract yourself from a certain topic. It can feel insane.

They have a few perks right now (although it’s hard to see them). Having a position funded by COVID funds is probably the clearest situation that when you are fired it is all about money, not any statement of your worth. Even if you’re the best teacher in the world, a school can’t magically make a salary appear where it doesn’t have one.

The fact that you get a great recommendation from your principal is a good sign. Obviously, you are already valuable to your principal and your school, and that will make it easy for your principal to put in a good word for you elsewhere. Principals are closely associated with other principals, both in their districts and in surrounding districts. If they want to find a place for a teacher who has done a great job for them, they will.

We also have a huge teacher shortage. I bet it won’t be long before you get caught.

I think it might be wise to speak to your principal yourself. Explain that you love your school and would stay in a heartbeat, but understand the limitations they face with the COVID funds. Make it clear that you’re not looking for an answer from them, you just want to be prepared for whatever might happen. Just ask for their professional advice on whether to go ahead and put out feelers to other schools, go ahead and apply fully, or wait.

It may feel like a scary conversation, but this is probably the best way to get rid of the fear of the unknown. Hugs for you on hold.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at

Dear WeAreTeachers,
On Thanksgiving, I informed my family that I would be quitting teaching at the end of the semester to work in Human Resources. I thought they would be sensitive to what a horrible time I was having, but they were shocked and critical that I would quit my “comfortable” job to work a 9-5 for less pay. I’m still so mad about it. What do I say if they inevitably bring it up again over the holidays? – Silence already with the “Cush”.

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