Dealing with Budget Cuts

At the beginning of last year, I was beginning to feel as though I was spinning my wheels a little bit. I always change up my lessons from year to year, always look for improvements, always look for new resources and always try to reflect on how to make my teaching better. I decided to look for some new challenges, and I found them. I took on a great student teacher, became far more active on Twitter, and started writing this glorious blog that you’re reading right now.

This year, however, an unexpected challenge has arisen. There’s no money. We came back to school to find that our supply order to get us through the year had been cut in half. And there’s no money to make up for that deficit or replace those missing supplies. So long story short, we don’t have the supplies we need and we aren’t getting them anytime soon.

I’m going to be fine. I’ve always said I can teach an art class with only pencils and paper and be just fine (although, in the interest of full disclosure, I probably need some blending sticks and erasers if we want to produce quality work). I can teach anyone to draw anything with enough patience and practice. Unfortunately, we have a new curriculum with specific needs for painting, sculpture, printmaking, and ceramics. On top of that, there are 17 kids going for AP credit for the first time here, and I don’t want to handicap them if we’re unable to provide the materials they need.

So what do we do?

It’s a good question, and it actually took me a little while to figure out. Mostly because I kept having these visions of a year full of newspaper and cardboard sculptures I had to get out of my head. Ugh.

My partner-in-crime and I started by looking at the lessons we teach, and seeing how we can alter them, replace them, or re-do them with what we have on hand. And yes, those newspaper sculptures and those cardboard sculptures are on their way–luckily not a year full of them. We looked at materials we had on hand, asked around a few other schools for any extra resources, and checked out a few alternatives to the materials on hand that we may be able to scavenge or otherwise find. We’re getting there.

It’s kind of impossible, however, to find alternatives for ceramic glazes, for example, or for plaster. So I decided to check out Donors Choose. It’s a well-done site that connects donors to classroom teachers that need supplies. I decided to write a proposal asking for two sets of glazes. It took them a weekend to read over and approve the proposal, and it went live on Monday. I posted a link on Facebook, and something amazing happened.

We got completely funded. In three hours.

It was just a huge outpouring of support–former students donating, friends were donating, and the final donation came in from an elementary school friend that I haven’t talked to in at least 15 years. As a teacher, you want to be and feel appreciated, and that overwhelming show of support did that like nothing has in a long, long time. It was incredible to me.

After we were funded, I continued to have people getting in touch asking to donate, so I have set up a second request for sculptural materials that should be going live soon. Most importantly, I feel like we have turned a corner. We’re getting close to having the supplies we need to not just survive this year, but to keep our kids producing at a high level. We will still be working, scavenging, planning, and looking at alternatives. I’m in the process of writing four different grants, and we need to begin to ask parents and families for their help as well. Between all those opportunities, I have a feeling this situation is not as scary as we may have originally thought.

If last night’s flood of donations is any indication, we have the support to ensure that the East Art Room will not miss a beat.

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