How a social media trend helped stock school supplies for teachers

Most viral trends seem to end the moment they hit their peak. But an educator-led movement to give teachers needed supplies kept getting bigger — resulting in an outpouring of support that will help thousands of teachers and their students.

Texas educator and founder of the “Support a Teacher” movement, Courtney Jones, launched #ClearTheLists this summer intending to give teachers a way to pay it forward by buying one another’s classroom items. It was quickly picked up by educators across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. and spread into other countries. Then it went viral with musicians, politicians, media, celebrities, and influencers contributing and sharing. 

“Having multiple national media news stations and organizations air our story is incredible,” says Jones. “When celebrities or news outlets talk about this issue, it elevates the conversation in ways that I cannot do. This movement isn’t about one person, but the collective work of the ecosystem of celebrities, news outlets, organizations, nonprofits, educators, individuals, donors, etc. to create lasting change.”

Once the back-to-school rush died down, we asked Jones about the greatest moment of the campaign. 

“It is impossible to choose just one great moment. When veteran teachers and retired teachers tell me that this is the most invigorating, inspiring, and empowering movement they’ve seen or taken part in through all their years of working in education, I am always in awe.” 

Classcraft joins the challenge

Inspired by Jones’s movement to help teachers, Classcraft joined the challenge committing to clear up to $100 off teachers’ lists for 30 school days. From August 19 to September 30, thousands of teachers shared their lists with us on Twitter.

From the entries, 34 teachers — from New York to Texas to California and British Columbia, Canada — saw bigger lists made smaller and smaller lists cleared. The 226 orders included 7,442 total items. Everything from pens and glue sticks, to fidget relief toys, VR goggles, and dyslexia support tools.

Here’s how that broke down:

Classcraft's ClearTheLists Impact

Some of the smaller orders will have an impact on more than one teacher’s classroom. Like the package with only two items for Amanda Miller: scratch-off stickers so she could give her students PBIS rewards and an airbrush kit so her artistic group can offer face painting at community events. 

Then there is Coretta Hunter’s class. They’re already benefiting from the learning game and math board games, but the broadcasting microphone to host their own podcast will hopefully inspire others to explore science. Meanwhile, Angela Greene’s pop-up pod and green screen are being used by students for their live schoolwide news broadcast. 

All the entries were touching, especially the last recipient of our giveaway, Stacey Beam, who started her school year in a FEMA portable trailer. More than 40 feet of floodwater destroyed Beam’s school and 15 years’ worth of supplies. It was a pleasure to send her books to start rebuilding her classroom library. 

Students in Ms. Hunter's school use the mics they received to host a science podcast
Photo: Students in @corettahunter1’s school using their mics to host a science podcast.

The impact 

Classcraft’s $3,000 spread among 34 teachers is a big help, but it’s also a drop in a very big bucket that highlights the funding gap faced by public education. With independent campaigns spinning off everywhere, private gifting, and the movement taking off in other countries, the full impact is hard to narrow down. But here’s our best attempt:

Jones estimated that the Support the Teachers movement, which has involved more than 200,000 educators and donors, raised at least $250,000. Through their DonorsChoose page, more than $88,000 has cleared lists for more than 500 educators. And a GoFundMe created by the Casey Donahew Band for the movement has raised $69,085 of its $75,000 goal. 

Ms. Tupper's class shows off some of their books
Photo: @MizTupperware’s class shows off some of their books.

The ripple effect 

Tallying up the money generated and taking stock of all the supplies bought is great, but it’s the human impact that’s even more impressive. That’s best seen from the teachers who were part of Classcraft’s giveaway. 

“This campaign brought items into my classroom that I would have never thought were possible. The items you got cleared my list (clay markers magnets scissors). But, I’ve also gotten a TON of other stuff … flexible seating options (standing and floor seats), organizing bins, easel, pencils, paper! I totaled what it would have spent, and it would have been about $2,000. And I wouldn’t have bought it all, my kids would have gone without a lot of it this year. I’ve also spread the word and shared and have seen MANY of my teacher friends also get cleared lists!! So thank you so much!”
– Daniele DiChiara, teacher

“#Clearthelists has been such a positive experience not only for myself but for my students. My students now have books that they are able to use, along with pens, and so much more! I would like to thank everyone who has supported my classroom.”
Alyssa Riccoboni, 4th grade NYC DOE teacher

“First of all, I would like to start by saying thank you to Courtney for starting the #clearthelist campaign. It was through her ingenuity that many teachers have been blessed. I can honestly say that never in a million years did I ever expect someone else to show the generosity they have towards my students and my classroom. It is through [this] campaign that my students have been motivated to keep reading and reach for the individual 1 Million Word Count Read Challenge and join the Millionaires Club aside from my monthly 1 Million Words Read as a classroom challenge. In [my] opinion #clearthelist has played a positive role in my classroom. I am forever grateful and beyond blessed thanks to everyone who has contributed.”
Joey Salazar, 4th grade teacher

Building the conversation

While the large and small stories connected to the movement to help teachers shrink or clear their lists have moved the public and its founder, it’s more than inspirational. 

“The amount of conversation and action the #clearthelists movement has made, continues to make, and will make is incredibly needed in education today,” said Jones. 

“This movement is SO much more than receiving donations for our classrooms. I have personally seen tens of thousands of people, educators and non-educators alike, come together to offer advice, support, love, and a community. Personally, I’ve made amazing friends and gained so much insight into education across the country. I continuously channel what I learn into ways to help education strive for change.”

Books and comics for Mr. Carlsons class
Photo: Books and comics for @MrCarlsonsClass

As Jones mentions, #clearthelists pulled the educational community tighter together and gave those outside education a chance to see the challenges they face. That insight has been particularly meaningful for educators, as teachers who were part of our giveaway expressed. 

“Clearthelists movement is amazing in so many ways! It has brought teachers together along with shedding light on the lack of supplies and funding in our schools. And it has brought people from all walks of life together to support teachers in their quest for supplies to enhance their students‘ learning! I am blessed to have been a part of this movement, not only [by] having my list cleared but by also giving to fellow educators!” 
Paula Belchior, teacher

“Clearthelists has been an amazing experience and it has opened up conversations about the importance of providing funding to teachers to allow them to give their students the best possible education. It has been so amazing to see teachers helping teachers, organizations helping teachers, celebrities using their platform to promote helping teachers. It has been such a humbling experience to see so many people willing to help complete strangers to make a difference in children’s lives.”
Tiffany McDonald, teacher

Oil pastels and multicultural crayons for Ms. Alix's art class
Photo: Oil pastels and multicultural crayons for @ArtWithMrsAlix’s class

From all the tweets we read during our giveaway, what struck us was seeing how much teachers support each other and how far they go for their students. It’s something we are aware of, but seeing it was impactful. In photos, gifs, and less than 280 characters, we saw how much educators care about building welcoming and inclusive classrooms that really represent their students. 

The tweets were also sobering at times. They reinforced how diverse teachers’ struggles are, how vast their needs, and that those needs keep growing, evolving, and changing. 

The campaign might not be a cure-all for classrooms, but Jones hopes it will keep a very important conversation going at school board meetings; at local, state, and national levels of government; and in the public sphere. 

“It’s imperative that the public understands how much teachers and school professionals spend outside of their allotted budgets and we must ask for change. It takes people in each of their communities to speak up and out for these issues in hopes of a better education for generations to come.“

Thanks to the movement that Jones inspired, this year thousands of students have a better environment to learn in.

If you’d like to help teachers to shrink or clear their list, there are many teachers in need in our Twitter thread. You can also find teachers by following Support A Teacher on Twitter and Instagram, and through #clearthelists and #shrinkthelists.

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