New perspectives on the art of teaching and learning abound these days, as the Covid-19 pandemic pushes parents into the roles of teachers, and teachers stretch to reach students who suddenly need to learn it all at home, regardless of their access to resources and familial support.
In many cases, the experience has fostered a new found respect for teachers and the invaluable work that they do with our children. It has also exposed numerous weak points and inequities in materials, technology, and resources available in some cases. This is not news to seasoned teachers however; they have been aware of gaps in materials and opportunities for quite some time, which is why one former history teacher from the Bronx created DonorsChoose.
DonorsChoose provides a platform wherein teachers can name their need and propose their solution, and a willing public can step up to meet it. On this crowd-sourcing website, public school teachers submit applications to fund projects or materials in their own classrooms. Volunteers read the proposal essays, iron out any questions, and fact check the proposed pricing.
Once approved, the projects go live and anyone can review and support the ones they find most compelling. Prospective donors can look at projects in any part of the country, and sort them by numerous filters including subject matter, age group, type of materials requested, low-income student populations, rural areas, and even teachers celebrating birthdays, just to name a few.
At the moment, hundreds of teachers have turned to DonorsChoose in efforts to fund distance learning projects that will ensure quality education as many school districts struggle to sort out what school will look like in the fall of 2020. Occasionally, a company or individual will match donations on a project, thus increasing its chances of success.
DonorsChoose exhibits a commanding handle on transparency, as outlined on their finance page. The same people who donate to classroom projects can also choose to support general operations, so donors know exactly where their money is going. Furthermore, DonorsChoose purchases and ships the requested materials themselves, rather than sending cash to teachers. They also publish their recorded statistics on their impact page in state-by-state and nationwide format. They show that they have raised nearly $1 billion to fund more than 1.5 million projects in more than 84,000 public schools. In placing teachers at the center of the process (who better to know students’ needs?)
DonorsChoose has enabled a diverse array of projects from reading materials to robot making kits, exercise ball chairs to gardening tools, to Chromebooks and beyond. Even more striking are the descriptions teachers write of their own students at the top of each project. Time and again their thoughtful descriptions reveal a workforce of caring adults who see the best in their students and work endlessly to meet their needs and foster their growth.
Reading through projects hoping to procure “Food, Clothing, and Hygiene” brings home the reality that many of our nation’s youth face challenges even in meeting basic needs. If you are a New Parent, or you’ve been at it for a while, the state of our classrooms will surely impact you and yours at some point.
Even if you left school and never looked back, DonorsChoose is proof that if we work together in our own ways, we can improve things for our nation’s students in countless ways.