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Bubbles and Tins

PresentsIt’s a couple of weeks before Christmas and of course there’s only one check out lane open at the Dollar Store, where I had stopped to quickly pick up a couple of rolls of wrapping paper.  The aisles are narrow and packed with the usual stuff plus all the holiday stuff. I squeeze into place at the end of a line that snakes through wreathes and candy canes and stocking stuffers.  Any holiday spirit I had when I came in is slowly leaching out, and to top it all off the woman in front of me has a cart full of a hundred little things that will take forever to check out. I shift from one foot to the other when she finally begins loading it all on the check out counter, counting and recounting each group of items.  This will take forever, I think, exasperated.  And then the person waiting in line behind me says quietly, “She must be a teacher.”

I look at what she’s buying:  jars and jars of bubbles, a couple dozen card games, packs of pencils, bags of candy – and 25 individual little tin boxes to put it all in plus wrapping paper and individual gift tags.  When she slides her personal credit card through the machine, the total is  $86.91.  She loads the bags into the cart, and clearly pleased with her purchases, prepares to haul them out to her car.

“Right,” I say to the person behind me.  “She’s a teacher.” We smile and the recognition warms us.  Plus I’m next.

As you probably know, educators are allowed to write off $250 on their taxes for educational expenses including classroom purchases.  Some may argue that bubbles and tin boxes aren’t exactly classroom purchases, but they would be wrong.  And I’ll bet that like many teachers, this teacher has spent that much already and won’t be able to claim the $86.91 anyway. 

Next August if you stop in one of those school stores that caters primarily to teachers, you will see what I mean.  The store will be filled with educators buying extra materials for their classrooms or maybe offices – posters, prints, puzzles, etc.  In some cases, they will be buying classroom essentials – chalk, boxes of crayons or pencils, tissues, boxes of glue sticks.  So keep in mind when you visit a classroom that not everything in there was paid for with tax dollars.  Some of it came out of our “overpaid” teachers’ pockets.  Holiday gifts are an extra bonus for the kids.

So I hope that teacher, whoever she was, will accept my silent apology for being impatient before realizing that she just wanted to make her students’ holidays a little brighter. I hope her students and their parents appreciate her extra effort and expense.  And I hope her students’ parents remember her for the holidays as well.




Well stated. Perhaps the greatest boost to my income in retirement came from not spending money on the kids and the library. I was easily close to $4k a year.

I hear you. It's easy to just "pick up a few things for the kids" and before you know it, it's a substantial contribution!

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