As a veteran teacher, I realize the importance of instructing students to make deadlines in their lives. Career-minded individuals realize that life seems to be one deadline after another, and not making these appointed deadlines can carry serious ramifications and consequences. That is why, at the beginning of a school year, I find it very important to test not only a student’s ability to meet a deadline, but a parent as well. While I experiment with token homework assignments to see how efficiently a student can complete a given task, I also provide a list of necessary items they will need to be successful in my classroom. Trust me, it is nothing over the top or tremendously expensive. I know of some teachers that request students to bring in exact name brand-specific products: specific brand name binders, covers for textbooks, folders, and other novelties that can really pinch certain parents wallets in disastrous ways. As educators, other teachers should be sensitive to the difficulties of making ends meet and adjust their list of materials per student accordingly.
My list includes three pens, three pencils, an individual binder, a marble composition notebook for journal entries, a 16 pack of crayons, a ruler, and looseleaf paper. I also add tissues as an optional item to bring in, and some parents are kind enough to provide these as well. Besides, once the cold and flu season kick in, these can become quite an out-of-pocket expense for individual educators.
Can we agree, dear reader, that nothing I am requiring to bring in costs an exorbitant amount? These all seem to be bare essential items to be successful in almost any classroom setting. I ask students to please make sure that they have these items in class approximately a week and a half. For instance, since school starts on a Monday this year in my county, I will request they bring in all items for a check-off the following Wednesday. This provides parents a more than reasonable time frame to provide these items to their children, does it not?
Then why on Earth do I receive, each and every school year, notes from parents stating that they need more time to buy these supplies? Why do I repeatedly receive a hurried hand-written message stating that they need to wait to receive their next paycheck? At the risk of sounding downright cruel, parents need to entertain the proper responsibility of having and raising a child. The excuse of not having necessary funds to purchase bare essentials for junior certainly does not play as a good example of making a deadline. Junior sees this and says to himself, “well, if Mommy and Daddy cannot make a deadline, why do I have to?”
Well, no more excuses. Hey, I live on a budget too! Such an excuse does not translate in real life anyway. Does this mean I can write a note back to the parents regarding this? Or does it mean that I can purchase gas for $3 a gallon at the local service station, approach the cashier and let him know I will pay the bill when my next paycheck arrives? No way. The world does not work that way. And truth be told, children cost money and parents should realize this and provide all necessary means for their son or daughter. But I did not create this article to act as a eulogy or lecture (although this does come quite easily for me). I am not going to leave parents in the lurch. Instead, I have scoured major businesses and internet offerings in order to find the rock-bottom prices that even a hobo can possibly afford.
First off, if you live within 20 miles of a Staples before the school season starts, be sure to check their sales fliers online or in the newspapers. Staples is quite possibly the most teacher and parent friendly of office supply stores. They comprehend the fact that education costs money. If I could hug a store, I would (but that alone would raise suspicion that I have been teaching for quite sometime and have finally lost my marbles). Recently, Staples was offering a 16 count box of crayons for eight cents. Alas, it was not Crayola, but can one really distinguish and discriminate between different crayon companies? They offered colored folders at a deflated discount of ten for a dime. Yes, you read that correctly. Composition notebooks? A quarter. Erasers? A nickel. Get the point? I find enough money on the street for most school supplies taking an evening stroll with my girlfriend. In the need for pencils? A sale from a couple of weeks ago was selling a ten pack of pencils. For a penny.
OK, let us say that a Staples does not exist in your area. Wal-Mart, despite monstrous crowds and a rather glaring fluorescent atmosphere, can easily keep a child’s supply budget under $5. So can Dollar Tree. Or Walgreen’s, during early back-to-school sales. The irony is that big business is often calling parents now, before the school year even starts, but more often than not, parents are not heeding this call. In some cases, I almost have reason to believe that they are too busy practicing their penmanship in their excuse letters that they send back to school with junior. And sadly enough, some students will sit with incomplete or no supplies for weeks and even months.
Let us be realistic now. $5 to spend on school supplies for a child is not asking for much. And this is not a per class amount, since pens and pencils, folders and crayons are all usable in multiple classrooms. So let the excuses end here; with efficient and careful shopping and keeping an eye open on basement floor prices, supply shopping never has to be a costly burden. And with that in mind, I ask myself: How many parent letters will I receive this year? Hopefully none. Like junior, I only ask for parents to please complete their homework on time.