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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

School Supplies...A Little Over the Top?

**Disclaimer: This post contains a rant. This is not meant to be taken personally if any of my fellow teacher friends are reading. It is simply my rant against the greediness I am seeing in some supply lists. But if it makes you rethink some things...YAY!!**

And now for my rant... 

I am a teacher.
I am a parent.

Being a parent has changed me as a teacher.
And being a teacher also influences the way I parent (an unfortunate thing, if you ask anyone around here...).

I do things differently as a classroom teacher every year because of things I experience as a parent. I have grown and changed and developed as a teacher as a direct result of things I have experienced on the "other side of the desk." I see two sides of many situations. The way I plan, teach, and communicate has all been examined and reflected on and adjusted because I am a parent as well as a teacher.  And I'm NOT perfect, by any stretch of the imagination.  I'll be the first to admit that.  I'm a work in progress, even though I've been teaching since know...the "olden days," as some of my students think.

So here we are, a few weeks before school starts.
It's time for the back to school shopping frenzy to take place.
Part of that involves school supplies.
And I'm here to tell lists are getting ridiculous!

Between our three girls, we have a list that spans an entire page 8.5 X 11 inch sheet of paper...single spaced and printed in a small font size!

I'll spare you the entire list, but I'm going to hit a few "highlights" in order to make my point...

We need five packages of pencils, plus just "pencils" for the middle schooler. One list requests three (3) packages of pencils. Another requests "2 packages of #2 regular wood pencils--sharpened (24 count)." I have a friend who was asked for a specific name brand of pencils, which happen to be the most expensive, also sharpened...which adds even more cost.

Here's the thing about pencils...I have seen too many teachers collect dozens and dozens and dozens of pencils each year and then berate a child when he or she needs a pencil. So why have a stash of hoarded pencils if you aren't going to actually allow children to use them? And why already sharpened? Have you seen the point on those things? They might last through a sentence...maybe two, if you're lucky. If it's because you don't want to take the time to sharpen them, then train a child to do it. You know the one...the one who is FIRST in your classroom EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING...before you can even take a single calming breath as that first bell rings. The second child can pass out the name tags and the third child can unstack chairs. But I digress...back to pencils.

Now, if every child in my class last year had brought in three packages of 24 pencils, I would have had 504 pencils to store and dole out. How about let's start with one package? And when you need more? Just send me a quick email or a note in an agenda..."Hey Mrs. H. We are running low on pencils. I think they eat them when they get hungry before lunch. Could you pick up a package for us while you are out running errands this weekend? Thanks so much!" Guess what? I'll probably get you that package of pencils, maybe even two or three, and maybe an extra box of tissues too.

Which leads me to the next item on the list...between two of the girls, we needed to purchase SIX boxes of tissues. Three each. Do you know how much storage space those things take? Going back to my class from last year...I would have had 63 boxes of tissues to contend with if everyone brought me three! And in a trailer? There's just not that much space. Now, dear teacher friends...I KNOW green snotty nose season will arrive along around October 1 as the seasonal allergies kick back in and the weather cools off just a tiny bit and the students have been sharing 24 different strains of the current bug that is going around...but it does take a while to go through 63 boxes of tissues. Even at one box per week, that's more than a year's worth of tissues. So how about one box at the beginning of the year and then that quick little note or email..."Hey H. Family...You wouldn't believe the amount of snot we are catching right now. So much that we've run out of tissues! Could you send a box in please? Thank you!" Guess what...this doesn't even require a trip to the store for us...we typically have a spare box or two in the closet, so it will most likely arrive the next morning.

 Let's see...pencils...tissues...oh yes...COPY PAPER!

 One list requests THREE REAMS of copy paper. Another list wants a ream of white copy paper and then colored copy paper. At this point, you know where I'm going with this. And I know...copy paper is hard to come by in some schools. It's kept under lock and key and doled out on rare/special occasions. But three reams equals 1500 sheets of paper. That's a lot of paper...30,000 sheets if you actually had 20 students bring you all three reams that were on the supply list. That's more copies than I have EVER been allotted for AN ENTIRE YEAR at ANY school I have been in. Besides that...Where will you store it? You know what I'm going to say about sending me a note, so I'll spare you from reading that again.

Here's the thing...I see both sides of these lists.

As a teacher, I know that half of my students will not have anything on the list, some will have some of what is on the list, and some parents will follow the list to the "T." So that means I won't have 504 pencils or 63 boxes of tissues or 30,000 sheets of copy paper. That's OK. I'm not worried about it. For one thing, I know that I can send a request in a newsletter or email and I'll more than likely get more when I really need it. That way I have room to store the important stuff, like books and math manipulatives and science materials.

As a parent, I want our girls to start the year off on the right foot with their teachers and send in the "right" school supplies. But I also know I can't afford to purchase EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM...and because I'm a teacher, I know which materials are going to be needed and used by our children immediately and regularly (folders, notebook paper, flash drives, pens, pencils, markers or crayons or colored pencils). And I know which things we can tell a teacher that we are happy to provide when they are needed for the classroom (tissue, copy paper, Clorox wipes, pencils...)

Even with being selective in what we have purchased, we have already spent well over $100 on school supplies.
And that hurts the balance in our checkbook.

Because I'm a teacher...
And I haven't had a paycheck since the last working day of May...
And I'm trying to stretch our final few dollars and cents through 'til the last working day of August. 

Because I'm a parent...
I want them to start the school year with everything they need.
And maybe a few things they want.

And "they" could be M, G, & M.
Or it could be their teachers.
You decide.


D E said...

I agree 100%. Some people are just too picky. I understand the need for students to follow directions, but sometimes they just go overboard. (I am choosing my words carefully))

Karen said...

AMEN!!!! Our bags of school supplies are so heavy that the girls can't carry them by themselves! Let me know as the year goes on & we are happy to provide - but buying for three kids all at once? I know that money is tight in our school and tighter for our teachers - but it is here too...

I love your perspective!!!