Social media can lead us on some wild rides. It also has the power to crack open a world we’re completely unfamiliar with, embolden and inspire us to do better, and to even spark powerful movements that positively impact an entire community. Case in point: the #clearthelists hashtag that’s circulating on Twitter.
The hashtag, created by Texas elementary school teacher Courtney Jones, began with humble origins: She wanted an easy way for fellow teachers to share their Amazon school supply wish lists with each other. Since then, the hashtag has gone viral not just within the community of schoolteachers, but outside of it, as well. Celebrities, politicians and local residents are all teaming up to make sure the lists are, well, cleared.
The results of the hashtag are two-fold: Teachers are getting the supplies and funding they need to complete their classrooms, and the movement is raising awareness surrounding teacher salaries and a lack of funding for basic classroom necessities.
Most [teachers] spend hundreds because we want the classrooms to be an engaging and welcoming place, and that doesn’t come free ... I couldn’t afford to do nice things for my kids and go above and beyond if I didn’t have my second job.
Katie Stremel, choir teacher in Arizona
“Most [teachers] spend hundreds because we want the classrooms to be an engaging and welcoming place, and that doesn’t come free. I do not get paid extra to do this, nor do I have a budget for these expenses. Truthfully, I couldn’t afford to do nice things for my kids and go above and beyond if I didn’t have my second job,” says Katie Stremel, a 26-year-old choir teacher in Peoria, Arizona. She also notes that the state is one of several in the country that doesn’t allow teachers to require a school supply purchase list for students, so teachers are on the hook for some of those expenses, as well.
6 Simple Ways You Can Help a Teacher
If this story leaves you inspired to help, you're in luck. There are a handful of easy ways that you can donate supplies and money to teachers and even help fund field trips — whether you have a child in school or not.
- Participate in #clearthelists: Just head to Twitter or Facebook and enter the hashtag “clearthelists,” which will populate a stream of posts from teachers who’ve included a link to their Amazon wish list. From there, you can purchase the requested supplies, which range from dry erase markers to colored pencils to classroom posters.
- DonorsChoose.org: “This national program allows individuals to help fund projects set up by teachers, ranging anywhere from specialized equipment and supplies to field trips and events,” explains Maria Magdalena Garcia, 36, who just began her ninth year of teaching in Arizona. “Several major companies will even price-match donations to help meet goals.”
- AdoptAClassroom.org: Like the above, AdoptAClassroom.org allows anyone to connect with a local teacher (and recently a school at-large) to fund that teacher’s specific classroom needs. Each participating teacher has created a unique page that outlines their current classroom needs, specifies how donations will be allocated, and has a set monetary goal. You can contribute as much or as little as you want, and a donation tracker is available so you can watch the teacher’s fundraising efforts in real-time.
- CharityNavigator.org: Charity Navigator works similarly to DonorsChoose.org and AdoptAClassroom.org, only it operates on a much broader scale. If your end-goal is to help teachers, narrow your charity preference to education once you get to the website. From there you can support education efforts in various capacities, including early childhood programs, special education, and even education policy and reform.
- Seek out local donation programs: “At a local level, many districts, cities, and even states have donation programs that people can participate in,” says Garcia. These range from match-programs at restaurants, upcoming fundraiser events, charity organizations, and beyond. A great place to start is by calling your local public schools, or the district office, and asking them to direct you to existing programs in your area. It’s also worth noting that many states also allow residents to make tax-deductible donations to public schools, which may not impact a teacher directly but can make a noted difference in your community.
- Be a rogue angel: Silicon Valley has its high-powered angel investors, but you don’t have to have millions to make a difference. A small donation gifted directly to a local teacher you know — be it a friend, family member, or acquaintance — can go a long way. “I have had a few angels in the past who have stepped in and donated out of the kindness of their heart, and for them I am so grateful,” says Stremel. Garcia adds, “Honestly, even the smallest donation is a big help for teachers.” If you don't have your own school-aged child, ask around for friends and family with younger kids who may have a teacher that could use the help. Or make a call to your local elementary school and see what supplies they are in need of — perhaps a few teachers would be interested in creating their own wish list that you can help "clear."
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