Monday, September 2, 2013

Are School Supplies Going to Pot?

Memo from Mom
TO: Parents of school-aged children, Boards of Education, and School Administrators
RE: Reading, Writing and Socialism 101

September always marks a new year for me. Pointy pencils, colorful crayons, neat notebooks and fun folders are way better than sitting at home and feeling like you should be at some fancy soiree donning party hats, gowns and swigging champs (yes, I watch too much Real Housewives of OC) to ring in the real new year. Let me go shopping for new clothes, backpacks and lunchboxes and I’ll have a happy, back to school day, minus an excruciating hangover.

As much as I’ve loved to buy new supplies for myself when I was in school, when I taught school, and now for my son, I’m beginning to feel a bit swindled. I totally understand that schools have tight budgets. I am the first mom to bring in extra tissue boxes, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, construction paper or whatever the teacher might need for the classroom. As a teacher, I’ve spent more of my own money than I care to remember on cleaning products, basic supplies and supplemental activities to keep the kids engaged beyond paper, crayons, and my smiling face so I know how teachers need these supplies for the whole class.

As a parent, when I receive the supply list, I dutifully set out throughout the summer picking up pencils here, notebooks there, sometimes checking sales and sometimes just grabbing supplies as I see them so that I am not in a shopping frenzy the last week of August. However, I’m learning that many schools, and classes in my son’s school, have communal supplies - as in, “Hey kids, I know you picked out your favorite characters for your folders and mom bought you Elmer’s glue sticks so your papers actually stick, but we are going to put them all in a giant box and redistribute them to anyone in the class whenever they need something. Even if you take care of your one folder for seven months and Sally rips through four in two weeks.”

I am all for sharing, but when I’ve hunted down eight highlighters, five notebooks, five pocket folders, six glue sticks, tennis balls for chairs, crayons, etc. all summer long, packed them neatly into my son’s backpack and an overflow bag because we can’t fit all that into a backpack, with instructions to make sure he gives everything to his teacher, I can’t help to feel like a toddler – it’s not fair!

Most parents participate and use this as a teachable moment for their children – be prepared and follow directions! We spend our hard-earned money on supplies for everyone, while some others don’t contribute. I understand that some families cannot afford supplies, but this is where the district needs to kick in a few bucks, or parents can visit the dollar store.

Then there is the child who does not know how to care for his or her belongings. When little Joey didn’t bring in his first box of crayons, uses someone else’s crayons, then breaks his crayons because he doesn’t like his picture, Mr. Teacher should not be grabbing more crayons from the community pot to replenish angry Joey’s victims. A note needs to go home to Joey’s parents, saying pay up and bring Joey to therapy.

I teach my child to share, and he does a fabulous job at it, but if I find out that the Yankees folder we gleefully found is being used by another child, I will stomp my feet in that school office and demand a special PTA meeting. He’s still young enough to feel like a folder with his favorite baseball team is special. He picked it out himself and he will smile when he pulls that folder out of his desk. Don’t tell me he got an 11x17 piece of construction paper folded in half while Timmy across the room is beaming from ear-to-ear with my kid’s Yankees folder.

Alas, I am not one to simply complain. I will complain AND offer up solutions! Can I suggest that a portion of my beyond ridiculous taxes actually be put towards our children’s educations and not to the salary of the Assistant to the Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent? Districts, throw a few crayons to the kids and just let my child have his Yankees folder. And parents, model what you expect from your children. Follow directions and do what the teacher tells you to do.

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