To send a child to school without the requested supplies stigmatizes the child with peers and sends a message to the teachers that school is not a priority for a family. Yet each year the school list seems to get longer, more brand-specific, and more of a test of our family budget. For example, this year our district has added ear buds to the list of needed supplies and kindergarten needs, not just glue sticks and scissors, BUT 12 sticks of Elmer's purple glue and Fiskar scissors. When I mentioned this concerning trend to our superintendent a couple years ago, it was suggested that I should talk to the teachers about what I "can" supply. A friend suggested I go get help from a church that was having a back to school giveaway. However, what the superintendent and the friend failed to consider is the message that these actions send to my kids. First it suggests that supporting their schooling is not a top financial responsibility in our family. Second it teaches my children entitlement and that others should sacrifice and be responsible to meet their need for supplies.
The superintendent and my friend failed to get the point of my observation. When I send 7 children back to school this August, some of what they will be taking includes 11 boxes of crayons, 55 glue sticks, 11 boxes of wipes, 16 dry erase markers, 15 boxes of tissue, and 192 sharpened #2 pencils. Yet I am sure that my cildren will not need or use each of these items during the first week like they might the 23 folders.
Teachers need to consider the following when creating classroom supply lists:
1. Trust the family to buy good quality items. There are good scissors, glue, pencils, etc that are not Fiskar, Elmers, Ticonderoga or Crayola.
2. Set a year long schedule of when you need which supplies so families don't have to buy a year's worth of supplies at one time. Plus it will reduce what you have to store in the classroom.
3. When something new is added to the list, please consider what can be removed.
4. Please return our child's non-consumable supplies at the end of the year. Scissors, rulers, and pencil pouches are all easy to clean up and re-use.
5. Do the math and see how much the supplies on your list costs realistically. Don't use the 10 cent sale prices that were the week before our family got paid. Use real prices and if the list costs more than $15 (which is more than 5% of a minimum wage earners weekly pay), then please revisit the list.
6. Remember, many of us are needing to use these lowest sale prices to buy our kids much needed backpacks, underwear, shoes, and a few new and/or new-to-us thrift clothing items to make our kids feel personally prepared for a fresh start too. We also have band rental fees, lunch/snack money, elective course supply fees, and soon school pictures and the first school fundraiser of the year. The classroom supply list is just the tip of the iceberg of expenses.
7. Don't forget that our child getting ready for your class, may not be our only child.
Oh, and my husband is a teacher so I know about the out of pocket that teachers pay to get supplies that they need. However, I STILL believe that more families would provide the requested supplies, if the total costs of the list was within their grasp and aligned with the purchasing values of their family. Currently, I feel bullied by a list that is out of control and out of touch with what my kids really needs to start the year. Yet like last year, I feel I must pass this first "test" by my kids' teachers and spend the money to get my first mommy "A" with Avery binders and Expo dry erase markers.