Editor's note: This post was originally published on TODAY in August 2016. In 2021, teachers need even more supplies, including disinfecting spray and wipes, hand sanitizer and masks. Here's how to help.
So we started doing the school supply shopping this week. A daunting task even as the kids get older and the lists get shorter. Gone in my house are the days when the most expensive item on the list was the ever-elusive “just this size” binder. Now, we’re talking calculators that rival my electricity bill. But I sigh, watch the ads and get out there and do it. I put on my thickest armor because nothing will be just right for my kids. The kitty folders are too childish; the more mature ones are $200 apiece. Add to that the hysterical mobs crowding the $1 pencils like they were the last chance to win tickets to a 21 Pilots concert, and we have a joyfest that keeps on giving. (Insert sarcastic eye roll here). Yes, I’m frustrated.
And let’s talk about that list; shall we? I mean, who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to request that our kids purchase Expo markers in bulk or boxes of Kleenex that should be supplied already? ESPECIALLY when those might not get used by my kids? Who thinks it should be my job to bring Ziploc bags to school?
Well, I’ll tell you who.
I’m not going to buy just the one extra box of tissues because (let’s all be honest here) I can afford more than that. And “gasp” what if someone other than my precious Timmy uses them? Well, then, haven’t I done a good deed for the year for less than the cost of a coffee? We should all be interested in what will create the best learning environment for all these kids, for all these little people who will be making big decisions some day like what to do with YOUR Social Security or how to fix YOUR city infrastructure or how best to treat that cancerous mass in YOUR body.
If you don’t agree with something on the list and think it’s excessive, have a conversation with the teacher. I guarantee if it is something that will actually get used to educate your children, the teacher will be able to explain how. Yes, Expo markers are expensive. Get in a classroom and watch children solve problems at their desks (sometimes ON them) with them and really engage in the process because it all of a sudden became colorful and perhaps a little bit taboo. You think you have to buy too many glue sticks? I invite you to join a class when they do a simple sorting and gluing project that gives the kids one more opportunity to understand all the “-augh” words and their various pronunciations and watch multiple children go through half a stick just for that one project. More is more, right? And yes, the theory is that you teach them to use less, but let’s be honest: some just use what they use. Watch kids “clean” the floor at the end of the day and, in a rush to get home, throw away all the “trash” they found, which includes half used pencils and crayons that would take too long to find a home for.
So, let’s fast forward to January. The supplies are no longer new and shiny, and more than a few have met their untimely trash can demise. Used and broken crayons look better in that circular file than in pencil boxes. Glue sticks that still have some in them but are not the easiest to use just aren’t worth it anymore. Markers find new homes in backpacks. Pencils that have no erasers have lost their appeal. Dry erase markers are dried up because they have been used to solve, spell, create.
And then what happens? Supplies that were an extra $10 from you at the beginning of the year for one kid become extras in your kid’s teacher’s cart at Target during a grocery run. And forget the $10. Oh no. Multiply that sucker by – how many kids were in that classroom? Was it 20? 30? Let’s see.
Does your job ask you to shell out a couple hundred bucks to upgrade your software or buy staples? And if it’s teaching your kid how to multiply better or be able to compose a sentence without referring to spell check, isn’t that extra $10 a little worth it?
I’m frustrated by our entitlement. We act like we’re doing the schools and the teachers a favor when we fill that backpack with tissues and markers.
Umm, let’s back up a minute. Aren’t they the ones doing us the favor?
I mean, are we willing to take a step (or 200) backward and fill in gaps caused by something as silly as a distracted kid (who then distracts others) because he can’t find a glue stick to finish his project? And yes, we went through school without some of these things, but these kids are more accustomed to bright and shiny. Maybe sad, but still true. And if bright and shiny go away, attention spans shorten, and kids are more disruptive. And guess what? Kids don’t learn as well then.
I’m frustrated that we can’t see just how big a job these incredibly underpaid teachers are undertaking. So, my suggestion is to watch for sales and stock up. Buy the extra box of tissues. Do the right thing and thank that teacher for all the efforts to make our future decision-makers great ones. Be frustrated with me for the right reasons.
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