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Shared School Supplies Are Making Me Crazy

Rant 86

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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Katie DeHesa

im only bothered when the items are SPECIFIC requests-- ONLY PaperMate Green Ball Point pens.  SERIOUSLY? she cant just use the office depot brand that are on sale?   and KLEENEX vs. UP brand.. if they dont like my 'donation' , send it back.   ill use it at home ;) and yet, said-requesting teacher will ridicule the generic-brand-donator out loud in class but WONT send the supplies back home.. hmmm... 

nonmember avatar Totally agree

I COMPLETELY agree with this article. I understand the budget crunchs, but when I'm shelling out $70 + for school supplies for one kid, it gets old real quick. Especially when the district tells you that you HAVE to buy a specific brand. (ie: Elmers glue sticks (4 of them when they only come in packs of 3 or 12), 3 10 packs of #2 pencils, really, 30 pencils per child). I could go on & on & on......

Short... ShortAndSweet85

That's a ridiculous amount. My son only needed FOUR pencils! Lol they need to come up with a better system than that. That's just plain ridiculous...

miche... micheledo

We homeschool, and I really don't understand this.  I would be bothered by it.  I know some parents can't afford these things, but when you see what other families do with their money and know how you personally struggle - then you are the one buying the supplies. . . . I struggle with having the right attitude and I don't even have to participate!! :D

Besides, if I would buy generic brands for my children to use, I should be able to purchase it for all the children.  (talking about the specific requests).  If it is a problem, then give the generic ones to my kids.  :D  Why should I spend MORE money for other children then I would spend on my own??

Heather Jaramillo Arnold

My kindergartener needed 24 #2 sharpened pencils and my 4th grader needed 48!!!  FORTY-EIGHT!

Glue?  Don't even get me started... The kinder list called for 28, yes TWENTY-EIGHT, Elmers glue sticks AND 4 large bottles of Elmers school glue, white only.  WTH are they doing?  Gluing these kids to their seats?  At approx. 20 kids per class with 6 classes, that's 3,360 glue sticks and 720 bottles of glue!!!!!  IN-FREAKING-SANE! 


When my kids were in the elementary stage, it drove me crazy.  I use to swear that I was getting scammed, but I was too exhausted and pre-occupied to investigate--especially when the amount was riduculous or it was name-brand specific.  By the time that hit 6th grade, I bough what I could or what my child needed and be damn with it all.  I still think there is some sort of a scam going on.

nonmember avatar MrsClark87

I've been waiting for someone to post this article! My son is in 2nd grade thiS year and the list was enormous. Just like the last 2 years I knew everything was going into the classroom shared pile. I don't mind contributing to the classroom, but I'm sorry, it is not my job to provide school supplies for everyone. The last two years, I bought everything on the list. The name brand stuff too! At the end of the year, I got a bag back full of stuff I did not purchase. I didn't get back the crayola or the Elmer's or anything.mi got back a bunch of generic stuff. I'm not bashing anyone who buys generic, but why did I pay extra for name brand? So this year, I mixed in some generic stuff.nwhy should I pay the extra when my kid won't use it or get it back. The amount of stuff needed is ridiculous. I had to but coppy paper. U figure 100 sheets x 20 kids.nwho needs 2,000 sheets of copy paper for one classroom?!?!

nonmember avatar Lilianne

It can be a hassle (and expensive!) but know that those teachers REALLY appreciate you purchasing supplies. Back when the school system wasn't so lacking in funds, teachers used to get money to buy school supplies at the beginning and end of the school year. Now, not so much. They make things communal because not everyone is going to purchase school supplies for their students and you can't really have students doing activities without the needed supplies. When it comes to brand specific, sometimes it does matter. Sure you can buy a ton of off brand pencils (and probably for cheaper) but they probably won't sharpen properly and will keep breaking. Off brand glue often doesn't stick or the tubes go dry quickly. If a teacher is asking for a specific brand, it's not because they are trying to be difficult, they are trying to get products that will last and will actually be usable. The numbers of items might seem like a lot but they are trying to get enough stuff for an ENTIRE school year. The school itself doesn't provide much in the way of supplies these days and when they run out of money the teachers end up buying things out of pocket if they don't have a stock of things that generous parents are willing to supply. It's not ideal, but it's what everyone has to deal with in the current budget situation at schools.

nonmember avatar Kelsey

Ok I was an elementary school teacher and I can explain some of this... first of all kids go through things like pencils and glue sticks like crazy. You wouldn't believe how fast they go. And often cheap pencils are made less of solid wood and more of composite material that breaks really easily and doesn't sharpen well, so you go through cheap pencils much faster than the more expensive kind. Believe me, I have been there. I do, however, think it would be awesome to have a school supply fee and then just order in bulk the items everyone uses and shares...

Usually when teachers request a specific brand it is because they have watched another kind repeatedly fail at that hands of students.

Just my two cents.

nonmember avatar alicia

I refuss to do the entire list I buy what MY CHILD needs off the list with strict orders that they take what thwy need out of their bag use it and put it bwck and everything comes home with them EVERYDAY. Up until last year I was a single mother and I could not afford the extremely ridiculous amounts of the list let alone the name brand for three kids. When the teachers would say something I'd be honest and tell them sorry I can't afford to supply the whole class as I can barely afford to supply my own three kids. They got attitudy but oh f'in well as selfish and self centered as it sounds its my money that I struggled to make there's NO WAY I'm supplying the whole class

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