Every summer, I grumble at the thought of buying school supplies. With three kids in school this year, I’ll have to locate three very specific, very long, and fairly pricey school supply lists. Then the hunt will begin for the best prices, the right brands, and that one item that no store carries – at least not in the specified size, color, or quantity. Every year as I eagle eye prices and battle parents for the last pack of this or that, I wonder if teachers are secretly sending parents on at least one school supply snipe hunt.
Whatever you do, do not bring your kids with you. I don’t know what it’s like for older kids, but elementary supplies tend to be community supplies. This means your kid can’t have the Avengers or Littlest Pet Shop folders they covet. They also don’t need the fancy scissors with a frog’s head for a handle. Teachers request specific colors, sizes, and brands because your supplies are usually going into a big pool. True story – we moved mid school year and the teacher randomly grabbed some super cute scissors from the case and sent them home with us.
I didn’t think much about the community school supply lists concept until my husband attended graduate school. Our neighborhood elementary school hosted many low-income families, including our own. While it isn’t the end of the world if Susie has better school supplies than Jenny, it’s nice to know that this is not an issue in the classroom. Plus, teachers become managers of supplies and the community concept makes it much easier to manage disputes over supplies and to replace items that go missing.
Every year, I spy dry erase markers, disinfectant wipes, tissues, and copier paper on supply lists. These items are clearly not for individual students, but for general classroom supplies. I can’t help but wonder if our kids will be bringing in huge rolls of toilet paper and desk chairs soon! I find myself googling “Why don’t taxes pay for classroom supplies?” and the answer seems to be chronic under-funding of schools.
Perhaps we prefer it this way. Maybe parents of kids currently in school should bear the burden of classroom supplies. Except that school supply fundraisers that provide these supplies for underserved families tell another story. Plus, missing supplies are just another thing for already overburdened teachers to manage – often with their own money.
This Huffington Post article on teacher contributions to classrooms is eye-opening, to put things mildly. Our educators (already underpaid, in my opinion) are spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on classroom supplies each year. This goes beyond the decorations and teaching tools we often expect teachers to provide.
My family is full of educators and I personally witness all of the time, money, and effort they put into setting up a classroom. I also know that they don’t have much extra change sitting around. Plus, they are providing school supplies for their own children. We have a systemic problem when our educational system does not adequately provide cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and teaching aids.
The School Supply Snipe Hunt
A few years ago, I searched high and low for a red corrector pen in a specific brand for Ella’s teacher. I looked in big box stores. I searched online. This pen did not exist, but I was determined to find it. I never did and when I confessed to the teacher that I couldn’t find it, she smiled kindly and said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll do just fine.”
I began to suspect that every school supply list has at least one snipe hunt as a secret payback for all of those unpaid summer days spent shopping for non-reimbursed items and setting up shop. Perhaps imaging parents searching for a pack of 25 Ticonderoga pencils when they only come in twelve or twenty, wondering if they should buy 1 less or 12 more, amuses teachers. Maybe they make it through the tedious hours organizing supplies knowing we are fruitlessly searching aisles the day before school for an item that sold out weeks ago. Maybe they just can’t afford the good dry erase markers after fully loading the classroom with stuff for our kids, so they put the premium brand on the list and cross their fingers.
Thank You, Teachers
Whatever the reason, I’ll go on the hunt this year and every year. It’s not much, but it’s my hat tip to teachers before the long school year even starts. Finding that elusive red pen is just the first of many “thank yous” to our teachers.
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