urlI have been toying around with this post for some time now. Hemming and hawing if the topic of money would be ok for a post. Then I thought, we are all teachers, most, if not all, spend their own money on their classrooms. This is the angle I took for this post. Before writing, I tweeted out to my PLN a simple question; what is your personal budget for your classroom? I got tons of responses. The lowest amount, from the 30 or so responding teachers, was two hundred dollars with the most topping 3K. It was interesting to hear why these passionate educators put their own money into their classrooms. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that since I started teaching I set my class budget at $100 a month.

 

The Why?

Why would anyone spend money on their classroom? Shouldn’t that come from the school? Why should we pour money back into the system? We don’t make all that much, why should we be spending our own money? All good questions, but I want to challenge you to think about this from a different angle. Of course, in a perfect world, schools would be thriving spaces where both businesses and the community would love to invest in the future.  Our budgets would be endless and the future would be bright. I think we know that is not the current state of education.

So, why should you invest in your own classroom? The truth, I can’t tell you why YOU should, all I can tell you is why I do. For me, I invest in my classroom because I want to produce a life long experience for my students. One that is filled with powerful technology, boundless creativity, and a clear and visible investment by me, their teacher.

The truth is that people who want to excel at any job make their own investments for success. The corporate world spends money on wing tips and seminars, a small business owner decides to buy a new piece of equipment instead of taking more profit. I have always viewed myself as a small business owner and my classroom as a business. My salary is my profit, and it I want my business to grow, I need to make investments into it.

The When?

This was the main reason for writing this post. Over the years, going to Edcamps, visiting schools, and presenting PD in districts, I have talked with and listened to a lot of teachers. Something that surprised me was what they are spending their class dollars on. Most teachers I had heard from are spending their money like they buy their coffee at their favorite coffee house; in little increments and on a consumable product. A bag of candy here, fun pencils there, with some sweet stickers and stamps for a finishing touch. Of course, there is nothing wrong with buying these things, they just aren’t good investments. “Built To Last” is the title of the post for a reason. I want to challenge you to shift your thinking about classroom investments. Let’s start spending our dollars on durable goods that can be used year after year.

Two important business terms, we need to understand are sunken cost and amortize. The term sunken cost means, a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. While the term amortize means, to gradually write off the cost of an asset. Keeping these two terms in mind when you think about your next purchase. By buying durable goods that will last years,  you are able to have a ever growing library of tools that you can use in your classroom and by amortizing the cost over the life of the product keeps the costs down.

Having the sunken cost of a consumable good is a little like having your window down in your air conditioned car. You are receiving some benefit from the cool air, but you are throwing it away too fast to have a lasting impact. Spending your class budget on durable goods allows one budget year to flow into the next. Let’s take a look at a three year window of durable good spending on a classroom.

Simple Math:

$1000 a year budget.

Year one: $1000 spent… $900 on durable goods, $100 on consumables.

Year two: $1000 spent… $850 on durable goods, $150 on consumables.

Year three: $1000 spent… $900 on durable goods, $100 on consumables.

Starting year four, your class value would be $2650 and you would still have this years $1000 to spend.

It’s a little like the idea of compound interest. Each year, if your durable goods are still in place, your class value continues to grow. I have been teaching for 10 years here in the US and most of my dollars were spent on durable goods. I still have plenty of things from my first year of teaching that I use in my classroom today.

 

The What?

The best part of the post… What investments have I made in my classroom over the years that are still paying off today? Can I say that all my investments were the right moves? Of course not, however, I have learned over the years what to look for in a class investment. I hope to share a bit of wisdom with you, and tell you the strongest investments I made over the years.

  1. Microphones – Over the years I have bought tons of microphones. Some are still with me and my classroom others have been sent packing. Starting off I would buy a good usb mic for your classroom. I like these for how they sound and their easy to hook up to your software. The Samson C1 is a good mic or a nice small one is the Samson Meteor mic.
  2. Video Camera – A few years back, I bought a nice HD video camera. While we all have smart phones, it is nice to have a real camera to have students make news reports, work with green screens, and time lapse of class simulations. It is also nice to have a full size video camera as you can hook up these mics that I have purchased. Now you can have nice looking AND nice sounding videos. For my needs I need a camcorder that saves to a memory card for easy exporting. It also has to have a port for an external microphone.
  3. Mixing Board – Mixing boards are more for the advanced users or bold investors. They don’t cost that much, I think mine was just $129 on sale. What you need to think about is that you are building for the future. I wish I bought one of these first and skipped a bunch of the USB microphones. If I was starting today, I would get a mixer, a bunch of XLR microphones and a few USB microphones. Mixing boards allow you to have multiple microphones going into one output. This is awesome if you want to have students interview each other or make a podcast. I bought a Behringer Xenyx 1204 USB. This is the mixer that we make the edbean.com podcast with.
  4. Kapla blocks – these are laser cut wood blocks that are all perfectly the same. When you buy them you get 280 blocks per container. Think thinner Jenga blocks. These aren’t cheep however, they hold up well over the years. The cost: $99 per set and I bought four sets. I like to give one per group in my class. I use these to make students build some of the things we have talked about this year. It is a really cool and creative exercise.
  5. Legos – Thanks to @jedikermit, I learned about the power of legos in the classroom. I purchased this set and my students world was forever changed. The set Lego Bricks & More Builders of Tomorrow set 6177 at $29 is a great buy. I have students build me sences from the reading, current events, maps, and just about anything I can think of with theses. Again, I bought one per group in my class. Total: $120 but totally worth it.
  6. Story Cubes – These little cubes are great for helping students with creative writing assignments. Each set has over 1 million combinations. Something tells me you will never get the same story again. You can buy the mega set for 20 bucks. I would buy one set for your classroom and have kids off and writing in no time.
  7. Digital Camera – Capture the moments in your classroom. I have students become the photographer in the classroom. Then I use these photos in promotional material I send home. Here is an example of an iMovie I created with the images from our Greek Olympic unit. My camera is the Nikon D5100 and I bought it on BandHphoto site, I am sure you can get a newer version.
  8. Green Screen – These are nice to take photos of students in front of and put them in differnt loctations with some green screen software. There are many apps for the ipad and software for computers to shoot video infront of one of these too!. I really like the caplsable green screens like these.
  9. Nice 18×24 frames from Michaels. I then create my own posters for my classroom and hang them in these. This is cool as you and your students can be creative with decorations. I then print them from Costco or shortrunposters.com  for less then 8 bucks per poster. You can’t beat that!
  10. Butcher Paper roll dispenser and cutter – This one is great for so many creative classroom ideas. I have made so many things with this paper. A good buy that will give you many creative options in your classroom.

The WHO?

I would love to hear from you guys about what works in your classroom. If you have some suggestions for some durable goods that are built to last for any classroom give a shout below for the product. I don’t know if all of my suggestions are the ones that you need in your classroom, but if you have a budget, I would consider picking up a few of these things.

Please post below your ideas and thoughts…