shared school supplies
Do you remember when you were a kid and you were super excited to buy new school supplies? I do -- I can still recall the thrill of an un-scribbled set of Pee-Chee folders, that satisfyingly loud Velcro rrrrrrrip of a new Trapper Keeper, troll pencil toppers with their fuzzy style-able hair, fruit-scented erasers, multicolored push-up pens, and scratch 'n' sniff stickers (remember the pizza one that said "Hot stuff"?).

I have no idea how much money my mom spent on school products back in the day, but I can't imagine it was as much as I just shelled out for my kindergartener and second-grader. Not only did I drop nearly 80 bucks for items off their school's supply list, what really makes me nostalgic for the old days is the fact that they won't actually get to keep ANY of the things I bought.

Well, okay, that's not completely true. My second-grader's list included an 8" x 5" pencil box, which I assume he'll get to use. However, based on past experience, everything else goes straight into the shared classroom pool.

Now, before you think I'm about to complain about the hideous injustice of having to help contribute to our school's resources, I am SO not doing that. I realize schools have ever-dwindling budgets, families are crunched for cash, and in some cases, teachers end up paying for supplies out of their own pocket.

I would be happy to contribute cash for a communal set of supplies, but it seems to me that every year the supply list of products that I'm supposed to go out and buy -- that aren't meant for my own kid, but rather the classroom at large -- gets bigger and bigger, and more and more specific. This year, between my two kids (who are 5 and 8), I had to buy 70 Ticonderoga pencils. I mean, SEVENTY PENCILS. If every parent did this, there would be about 2,100 pencils between one second grade and one kindergarten classroom. And god forbid they're not Ticonderoga.

I also bought three reams of Hammermill paper, six Kleenex boxes, 16 Elmer's glue sticks, two packages of Expo dry erase markers, three boxes of Crayola crayons and pencils, two multi-packs of Pink Pearl erasers, and an assortment of (thankfully non-brand-name-required) binders and folders. Not to mention the $30 cash fee for "misc supplies."

I understand that it's logistically difficult for teachers to have to manage kids keeping track of their own supplies, especially since seating arrangements in classrooms aren't anything like they used to be (back in my day, uphill both ways in the snow, the top of our desks lifted up to reveal a storage area underneath -- in comparison, my kids sit at cafeteria-style tables). But isn't the responsibility of taking care of your own stuff an important lesson to learn in school?

I guess I can be convinced that a communal system is the only way to ensure all kids will have what they need, and that a shared supply eliminates unnecessary distractions and competitive behavior. I'm still bitter about those 70 Ticonderoga pencils, though. Frankly, if we were paying into a school fee for supplies -- maybe even twice a year so the school actually knows what they need -- the district could purchase everything in bulk and each parent would spend WAY less. The current system may be more fair, but it's wasteful and expensive for those who buy into it.

Does your school do communal supplies? How do you feel about them?


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