Three of my colleagues are planning our units for the year, discussing which books we’d like to teach. We decide we’d all like to teach The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian — because it is the only book in our book room that’s engaging for our reluctant ninth grade readers — for our novel unit. Only there are only about 40 copies of it in said book room. Not enough for each of us to even check out a class set at the same — or overlapping — times, let alone enough for us to check out books to each of our students. You know, in case they want to — or in case we’d like to assign them to — read at home.
Our immediate next step is to brainstorm additional sources of books and or book-buying dollars. This does not faze us. We instinctively know that our district’s actual education budget is a no-go. This does not faze us. We consider local business donations, small education grants, crowdsourcing websites of various sorts. It’s a good list, even if it’s not one we’d like to spend our time making.
We start to wind down the conversation, feeling accomplished. We have a plan.
One teacher looks skeptical. He does the math. “Even if we each do all of the options, we’re only probably going to get enough books for four class sets. We still won’t have enough for the kids to take home.”
The rest of us laugh. We can’t help it.
“Never in nine years,” a second teacher explains, “have I taught where I’ve had enough books for the kids to take home.”
It’s sad because it’s true.