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How I Stocked My Classroom For Free

This post from my friend Tiff @tiffinthemiddle SCREAMED to me and I immediately reposted it to my instagram story with a million clapping hands surrounding it.

Every year, before school starts, Fred will always ask, “How much did you spend this year?” and I’ll either reply, “I lost the receipts” or “$100 something *casual shrug*”

READ: I was too scared to figure out the total.

Teachers tend to build inviting classroom spaces and stock their rooms from their own wallets. Frequently spending exorbitant amounts.

This past year, I moved cross-country from Boston, MA to San Jose, CA. I arrived to a classroom that only had desks, chairs and the one paper bag of teaching stuff I brought with me. When I walked into the room I had a mini panic attack unsure as to how I could possibly create a warm and inviting space for my students and simultaneously not go into debt.

Three things that helped me the most during this process were

1.) Other Teachers

The power of the teacher community is UNREAL. When I shared my empty classroom, two teachers reached out to share with me their unused teaching supplies. My friend Bianca was in the process of getting rid of some of her unused teaching supplies and shared with me hanging paper holders and a teacher toolbox. My friend Veronica allowed me to raid her staff room that hosted a table full of unwanted supplies including bins, butcher paper and the (holy grail of math teacher supplies) PENCILS! She also dug into her own personal stash of binder paper, index cards, and weathered wood bulletin board paper to share with me as well! These supplies were used in my room and so so loved throughout the year.

2.) Craigslist

One of my many mini van treks to school with teaching supplies.

I wanted to create a comfortable and inviting classroom for my students use. To bring that vision to life, I looked for furniture that provided a homey feel. As much as I wanted to purchase all the dorm furniture Target had to offer my wallet could not handle that so I turned to the next best thing—Craigslist! The furniture and free tags were my best friends during classroom prep. My emails to posters went from haggling (“I see you want $20 for the chair. I’m a teacher on a tight budget, could you sell for $8?”) to straight up asking for donations (“I’m a teacher on a tight budget, would you consider donating the chair to our classroom?”)

As awkward as I felt initially, I found that many people were willing to donate or at least offer a lower price for their furniture once they knew I was a teacher building my classroom. Some posters asked for my LinkedIn and school website so that they could confirm I did work for a school.

After a few of those emails, I developed a template that I was able to copy, paste and then adjust accordingly. I’ve left it below so that you can use it too!

Hi,

I’m a teacher in San Jose teaching 5th grade math at a 5-8 school. I am interested in the ____________ for my classroom. I’m trying to create a comfortable work environment for my students with furniture they’d enjoy using but have a tight budget. This __________ would allow me to change my classroom feel by _____________.

Would you willing to donate it to my classroom?  (OR ) Would you be willing to sell it to me for $___?

I really appreciate your time and consideration. 

Sincerely,

Stephanie

3.) Amazon Wishlist

This one was inspired by Michaela from @thetownieteacher. My Amazon wishlist allowed me to stock up on classroom supplies like scissors, pencils, colored paper, markers, colored pencils, tissues, cleaning supplies and most importantly BOOKS!  A huge part of my classroom vision was having diverse books that my students could both relate to and learn from.  Through my Amazon Wishlist I was able to add titles that did just that.

Setting up an Amazon Wishlist is SUPER simple however it requires a lot of promoting on your end to get things funded. To spread the word about your wishlist I’d suggest you…

1.) Share your story with your network. Explain to them why you’re seeking these items.

2.) Share how you’ll use specific items in your classroom. Many of my family and friends are not in education so I shared how I’d use the colored paper and why I’d chosen to add the $30 pencil sharpener rather than the $7 one.

3.) When wishlist items arrive, snap a picture of it so you can thank the donor! This will also allow you to circle back to your wishlist link so that others will hopefully do the same!

Click here to find my list of classroom MUST HAVES to start brainstorming items you can add to your own Amazon Wishlist!

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It is perfectly normal to want a classroom that is comfortable, beautiful and well stocked but it doesn’t always need to come from your pockets! These tips do take some time to execute but are worth it when building up your classroom space!

If you use any of these tips please share with me the results below. I’d love to hear how you were able to build up your classroom space!

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