The Newly Hired Teacher Shower

by admin on August 26, 2010

As part of my job (I am a journalist), I recently sat in on a training seminar for around 70 new teachers. During one portion, the teachers were reading and discussing a section on preparation for a new school year from a popular educator’s book. Each group then presented an idea from the book that they liked to the crowd. Several of the groups selected a “new teacher shower.”

You see, what the book suggests is that once you’ve obtained a position at a school you “ask a friend or family member to host a new teacher shower” so you can stock up on filing cabinets, folders and other supplies.

From what I could tell, I was the only one in the room who thought it was an awful suggestion. I’m marrying a teacher next year and have written about education for several years so I know all about the out-of-pocket costs many teachers face for supplies. But can you imagine asking your friends and family to buy you gifts because you got a job and have secured a regular paycheck? 0825-10

The idea of a “new teacher shower” and the person who dreamed up this “gimme” belong here…

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

aliasJaneCrow August 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm

To call this a “gimme” I think is a knee-jerk reaction to the request to give, but not an accurate response to whom is expected to receive. In a teacher shower, you are not being asked to give to the teacher, but to the *students* and the *school district*. You are asked to dip into your pockets, indeed, to benefit children and a community with your gifts. The only benefit to the new teacher is a lessened impact to her own personal finances from having to share this burden alone, in benefitting OUR children and OUR futures. Not only do new teachers have to often dip into their personal finances, but also their own personal time, to perform a job that traditionally has not given a fair salarty for the work performed, often because we balk at the tax “burden” it would present to us. Now we complain about how rude it is to give a friend or family member a shower? The rudeness is in the inherent assumption that the burden of supplies and materials that we refuse to pay in taxes should belong soley to the teacher whom we’ve traditionally refused to pay a fair salary. No, it’s not a great idea – because it shouldn’t be necessary in the first place.

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Floridamanatee August 31, 2010 at 10:28 am

Being a teacher is a hard job, with many hours each week outside of school hours devoted to grading papers and preparing lesson plans. I work in education, albeit at a state university. I spend $1000 of my own money every year on work related items that are not supplied. My cousin is a lawyer, and has spent $6000 to get started in his field.

My son is in seventh grade this year and the below are just some of the items required by his teachers:
Folders and notebooks for each of his 7 class periods, some periods require more than one.
One ream of copy paper.
Package of red pens and blue or black for each teacher.
$10 Science fee.
$20 Art fee.
$119 for band (includes instrument and uniform rental).
$90 scientific calculator (that we get to keep at least).
Package of dry erase markers for each class.
Tissues and hand sanitizer.

We spend $300 just on fees and supplies at the beginning of the school year. The required calculator model seems to change every year and the math teacher will not allow the previous model.
In elementary school, though, all the supplies were pooled. Some parents did NOT send in the supplies for their children, so there was not usually enough to get through the entire school year. Our teachers always ran out of tissues and hand sanitizer and I always asked in February and March what they needed.

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Shayna August 31, 2010 at 11:22 am

This just seems wrong on so many levels to me. The first level is that teachers shouldn’t have to shell out for this stuff in the first place. It should be included with their classroom. Secondly, parents should be supplying their children will all of the school supplies necessary for the school year. Thirdly, while teachers are paid reasonably well where I come from, they could be paid better. I think it’s horrible that someone gets to kick around a soccer ball for millions of dollars a year, but professionals who help mold the minds of our children (teachers) or work hard to treat our diseases (doctors and nurses) or risk their lives to save ours (police and firemen) are paid just thousands a year.

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Ticia September 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Hey, I home school and thus have to buy all my own supplies. Can I ask my family and friends to throw me a “Home schooling” shower? My kids need new pens, pencils, crayons, paper… and if they could just deposit money in our paypal account so our subscriptions to our math website would be paid for, that’d be great, too!

Hmmm… on second thought, never mind. :)

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Enna September 5, 2010 at 10:20 am

It’s one thing buying an inexpensive “present” for a cloes firend or family member or a teacher who was a role model for your children to help them in their work is fine. But throwing a party I think is tactless and tastless if it is just to grab free stuff.

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Amy September 6, 2010 at 3:48 am

Thanks Shayna for your post….I am a nurse and I find it difficult to make ends meet, athletes have it made…..
I do think that although the teacher rarely has stuff when they first start out as a teacher, but these things as file cabinents and such can be used every year once the purchase is taken care of.
“Gifts” should be just that “gifts”…….if someone wants to gift the new teacher…go for it. I would assume many teachers would be embarrassed with a shower……coffee and cake perhaps, but a shower….alittle much….

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Shayna September 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

@Amy: No problem :) I get really annoyed when I see some athlete grinning from ear to ear because they just landed a 7.5million-over-five-years contract and I see nurses, doctors, teachers, etc. having to strike just to get a few extra measly dollars a year. It disgusts me, actually. I’m not saying an athlete shouldn’t be paid, I’m just saying it’s unfair and it’s wrong. What a skewed society we live in when we place more importance on entertainment than on necessities.

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Captain Obvious September 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm

My niece is a teacher and i lived with her so i saw first hand what really goes on.
All teachers seem to complain about the ‘over work’, yes my niece brought home exams to mark and sometimes had to do extra activities at night (plays etc but she was a music teacher) but this was more than made up by her knocking off at 3pm every day (even allowing for the days she had to supervise sports etc maybe once per week) plus the HUGE amounts of holidays she got each year – 6-8 weeks at christmas and 2 weeks 3 times a year for which she received full pay.

Her pay is also equal to mine – shes 2 years out of university and i’ve worked as a professional paralegal for 25 years so she is more than adquately compensated.

but hey this is Australia i have heard its different in America.

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Pingmaster September 11, 2010 at 9:25 pm

@ Floridamanatee:
$90 for a scientific calculator? In grade 7? I’m in the second year of an Electronics Engineering course in college (9/10 of which is math) and we use $15 Casio scientific calculators. No graphing/programmable calculators allowed. It’s been my experience that schools which require big fancy expensive calculators for the math program end up not teaching math so much as teaching the students to rely on their calculators all the time. I wasn’t even allowed to USE a calculator until the 9th grade, I didn’t have a scientific calculator until the 10th grade. I’ve never owned (nor needed) a graphing calculator, I don’t think I will ever want to purchase one (it would probably slow me down anyways).
Long story short: if a school requires a super expensive calculator, I’d question their curriculum.

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Sarah September 12, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I, too, think the teacher shower is rude, if thrown for oneself. I’m not sure that I really have a problem with it, though, if a group or community wants to help out a new teacher amongst themselves with some supplies to get started with. Not because the teacher hinted, but because the group recognizes the need.

I did want to point out to all the people who are complaining about teacher’s salaries that there’s a reason that the top professional sports players make a lot of money… it’s that they’re doing something that very, very few people can do. Only a very few make those millions of dollars, and it’s because they are the best of the best, the cream of the crop, and people value that. Most sports players struggle on for many years, traveling all night, practicing and working out constantly, going from city to city, making family sacrifices, and they earn very little, much less than teachers do. The salaries they make, too, need to last them the rest of their lives, since you can only excel at a sport for a few years. After that, they live off their savings until they can learn another skill and get enough education to get another job. 7 million for a 5-year contract is less than $200k a year, and when you consider that that’s a *top* player and certainly not the average guy, the money starts to look less excessive.

And while not everybody can teach *well*, it’s a job that most people can do, at least at a basic level. Most people can play a sport, but if they aren’t any good, nobody pays them to do it, which is what weeds out the poor players and gives the best salaries to the best players. As long as it is kept so that exceptional teachers aren’t rewarded with better salaries and students don’t have the right to pick their schools (or their teachers), there will never be a rewards system worked out the way there is in professional ball. Government is inherently wasteful, just as well all are when we’re using somebody else’s money (the tragedy of the commons). So can we give the ballplayers a break?

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Sarah September 12, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Sorry, in my previous post, I said that 7 million for a 5-year contract is less than $200k a year. I meant to say that, spread over 40 years, it’s less than $200k a year. In other words, only a player who earns a top salary is actually set for life on what he makes. The rest have to find other work once they’re too old or injured to play as well as they did.

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Shayna September 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Sarah, you seem to be forgetting that most of these top players also have other, very lucrative, deals going on the side. I doubt many professional athletes would have to live solely off what they’ve made in their short careers for the next 40 years. I’m sorry, but in a society that justifies paying an athlete far, far more than a nurse or a teacher, something is very wrong.

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Jillybean September 16, 2010 at 10:33 am

I’m with Sarah. Shayna the athletes that get lucrative deals are actually few and far between. While most pro-athletes are making far more than the average job, most of them aren’t making millions (league minimums are at about 1/2 million for the 4 majors – which, of course, is a lot of money).

But, it’s actually not fair to compare pro-athletes (or even many entertainers) to any other type of profession, because it’s just not comparable. Most of us are paid because we are employees of whatever company (school, etc) that we work for. We get paid for the work we do. And while that is certainly true of the athletes (they are certainly employees of their teams), there is another element to consider. They are not only the employee, they are the product – so it’s really not accurate to judge them based on the same criteria.

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Shayna September 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but I still hold to mine. Our society is twisted. Celebrities and athletes are the “product”, as you say, because we are so warped to idolize them and continue to throw our money at them. And yet we scream and whine and moan when school and health budgets get cut. For pete’s sake, just look at the OP of this thread! It’s about teachers throwing showers in order to get the needed supplies for their classroom. And yet we’re talking about how rude it is. I’m not saying it isn’t tacky, because I really do think it is. I think it’s tacky on two levels: 1) the teacher is throwing herself a shower, and 2) the teacher even has to consider this because of lack of funds in the school system. But my point is that if we can throw our money to purchase some product a major athlete is hocking, or go see that latest flick from our favourite celebrity, then why is it that we have such a difficult time throwing our money at our teachers in order to help supply them with what they need to teach our children properly, effectively and thoroughly?

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irish September 20, 2010 at 10:49 am

Captain Obvious, I’m well used to the argument about teachers finishing work early and having long holidays. In a sense I think teachers deserve the raw deal they get because they are incredibly guileless. In Ireland (and it’s probably around the same elsewhere) a secondary (high) school teacher is assigned 22 hours of class contact time. That amounts to 33 class periods a week (out of a possible 45 or so) but outside of that they must plan lessons, correct work, supervise lunch periods, attend training courses, consult syllabi and usually take extracurricular activities. They are the ONLY people I have heard of who say they work 22 hours a week when this refers to their time spent teaching. Office workers, by contrast, say they work 40 hours a week, but that includes 5 hours for lunch, maybe 3 hours for coffee and cigarette breaks, and (in many cases) maybe another 5 hours talking, making personal calls and checking emails/surfing the web? Irish teachers should know better than to say I work 22 hours a week! Let’s not forget the extreme stress of public speaking for 22 hours a week, to a group of 30 students who have no guaranteed interest in what you are saying, the pressure of trying to make sure every last one of them is learning what they need to know for exams, and the knowledge that the buck stops with you and your mistakes are all being recorded (students have LONG memories for what their teachers do wrong!). All in all the long holidays are necessary just to recover from that stress! and the salaries definitely aren’t what every teenager dreams of!

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Angel October 15, 2010 at 11:08 am

While I do appreciate when people offer to help buy supplies for my various expenses that come up work related ( I tutor as well as working my tech job and doing volunteer work) I think that a ‘new teacher shower’ or something along those lines is demanding people do so. Personally, I find a much better way to celebrate a new position is to take a few close friends out for dinner, on me, when I get my first check, and it’s much more fulfilling.

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Me October 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Also to Captain Obvious, I have several (Australian) friends who are teachers and not one of them knocks off at 3pm. They normally stay at school till about 5pm, or bring their work home and keep working at home till about 5pm. Is your neice a full time teacher or a supply teacher? So far as I know, supply teachers are the only teachers who actually have the 9am – 3pm work day.

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Allie October 17, 2010 at 7:02 am

Like any shower, it would be crass to throw one for one’s self. The issue of etiquette here isn’t about teachers and supplies; it’s about showers. If you throw a party, you pay for it. If you are a guest of honour receiving gifts, you should not have been the one to organise it. This should apply whatever the occasion. (To my knowledge, we don’t have ‘showers’ in Britain, just your normal parties.)

The fact that many new teachers identified this as a problem (and yes, it really is. If you do want to support a teacher, the most useful thing is a supply of pens. I kid you not, I lose at least one a day to some child or other) is a whole different ballgame.

What troubles me most is that these teachers-to-be were nicely focused on their teacher showers, instead of far more important issues to start the school year with. (Seating plans? Programmes of work? Introductory activities? The teaching persona? Etc., etc.) Terrifying!

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Rhonda September 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I am really appalled at the opinions people have of teachers. And for the person who talked about the time off, seriously? Do you know that as a student teacher right now I lay in bed at night awake worried about the kids who are behind because they can barely read? I research countless ideas and strategies so that I can help them. I get to the school around 7:15 every morning and leave between 4 and 5. This is with a 25 minute lunch which I eat standing up in the cafeteria so I can do lunch duty. I see my mentor teaching sponsoring cheer which means a game on Monday, working concession for the middle school games the school hosts on both Tuesday and Thursday nights, then Thursday or Friday night varsity football games. Not to mention several Saturdays spent with the competition cheer girls at various competitions and practices. The stacks of papers we spend plan grading, or previewing assignments, creating keys, changing assignments because we have 2 classes with over HALF of the kids on an IEP. Figuring out how to modify the lesson for them without them knowing and keeping it challenging for the students who don’t need the modification. And I realize I am late in posting this, but seriously I was trying to think of ideas for me as a new teacher who is changing careers in her late 20′s and has been budgeting while I went back to school so I could get classroom supplies that are not provided by the school. $25 a month in supplies is provided and a $50 gift card your first year to Office Depot. How many supplies can you buy with that? Some of you need to go spend a few days with an effective teacher and see the difference it makes.

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