Help! My School Says My Donated Supplies Belong to Them

Everything we get belongs to the school district now!

An illustration showing donated items school property

Dear WeAreTeachers,
All teachers in our district just got a letter explaining that from now on, any kind of crowd-funded classroom donations (e.g. wish lists) must have prior district approval. I checked it out. It’s pages and pages of paperwork and multiple sign-offs for approval.  Any and all donated items are district property. This is crazy.  I’m thinking of going ahead with my DonorsChoose without going through their rigmarole.  Am I better off arguing with the district or going the ask-for-forgiveness-instead-of-permission route? —You Really Want to Keep My Binder Reinforcement Stickers?

Dear Y.R.W.T.K.M.B.R.S.,

Let me get this straight.

Your district is asking teachers to look for funding opportunities on their personal time, create lists using their personal devices, share them on their personal social media accounts, send them to their personal network, transport them to the school using their personal transportation, unpack and set them up themselves… and your district has the gall to say those materials belong to them?

A bold claim.


Honestly, my hunch is that your school district created this as a defensive policy against teachers misusing donations (because so many of us are selling donated pencils so we can spend a weekend in Vegas?). They know they don’t have the time or means to enforce it. They’re just banking on teachers’ blind compliance.

I’m not telling you not to comply.

I’m just reminding you that rules are only as good as their enforcement.

If it were me, I would acquire donations the way I normally would. Then, if a coworker or admin asked whether I’d filed paperwork, I would say, “Oh, I bought these myself.”

Then if they said, “But I saw the Amazon Wish List you shared on social media asking friends and family to donate,” I would say, “Oh, no one bought anything so I had to fund it myself.”

And if they said, “But I saw people comment that they bought things,” I would say, “Don’t you have some boots to go lick?”

Really, though—don’t districts have better things to do than policing donations?

Dear WeAreTeachers,
One of my teaching colleagues recently moved to my apartment complex. At first I thought it would be fun to see her around and hang out every once in a while, but this summer she’s been texting every day and insists on us hanging out several times a week. As an introvert, I’m exhausted! How do I tell her I need my space without hurting the feelings of someone I’ll have to see every day come September? —I Need a Hermit Permit

Dear I.N.A.H.P.,

On one hand, I think friendships have to be something both parties consent to, not a one-way street where one party gets to demand the involvement of the other.

On the other hand, I have some really lovely friendships that started with me being in a season of life where I was less available, less comfortable, or less committed than the other friend. I think I would have missed out on knowing some great people if I’d just given a stark, “No, thanks. Away with you.”

In your next conversation, ask her whether she’s an introvert or extrovert. That will give you an opportunity to talk about your introversion and what that looks like for you (“I need to spend several days a week by myself to recharge.”) Now that you’ve laid a foundation for your needs, it’ll be easier to say things like, “Oh, sorry—not today. My social tank is on empty! What about later in the week when I’ve had a chance to top up?”

You could also put a routine in place so that if you have to say no, it doesn’t feel like an outright rejection for either of you. Start a Monday Matcha, a Wednesday Walk, or some other (ideally alliterated) ritual that gives you a chance to connect but still respects the space you need.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I am pretty disheartened that student loan payments are about to start back up. I have some cushion with money I’ve saved over the past year, but not a ton. What are your best tips to earn some extra money or save the money I’m getting but without working myself to the bone?—Broke But Not Broken

Dear B.B.N.B.,

First, can we all just acknowledge how shameful it is that we as a country put teachers in this kind of financial stress? I’m sorry we’re not better.

That said, until we do a systemic overhaul of our education system, here are my top ways to make a teacher budget work:

  1. Know exactly where your money is going. Often when I update my budget spreadsheet, I’ll identify areas I can cut back (many times that’s subscriptions). I’ve also compared bills with close friends and switched services after realizing there’s a cheaper provider for the same service.
  2. Split up your direct deposit into savings and spending. Decide on a set amount to go into savings every month (even if it’s only a hundred bucks or so). Then talk to your district about how to split your direct deposit paycheck between accounts. You can choose an amount to go into savings without even seeing it. It’ll add up faster than you think—just try not to touch it!
  3. Check to see if you’re eligible for student loan reduction/forgiveness. If you’ve been teaching full-time for five consecutive years in a low-income elementary or secondary school, or an educational service agency, you’re most likely eligible for getting as much as $17,500 of a subsidized or non-subsidized loan forgiven.
  4. Get your name out there as a tutor. Even just one session a week is bound to make things easier for you, but in the summer you can really rack up a lot of cash! Local buy/sell/trade or moms groups on Facebook are great ways to get your name out there.
  5. Consider housesitting or pet sitting. That’s right—people want to pay you to hang out with their pets or live in their houses! Use sites like Rover and Trusted House Sitters to connect with clients. Just be honest about the time you’ll need to be out of the house once the school year starts.

We hope this helps as we continue to demand higher pay for teachers. For more tips, check out this list.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at

Dear WeAreTeachers,
This was my first year teaching high school biology. We are supposed to be a “cell phones out of sight during class” school, but I struggled a lot this past year not knowing what to do when students were texting their parents. The one time that I put my foot down and said for everyone to put their phones away no matter who they were talking to, I got an email from a parent saying I had no right to interfere with communication with her daughter. What should I do differently next year? —E.T., You Cannot Phone Home