Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Moola for Schoola

The same supplies box I used in 1st grade. 
When I entered public first grade in August of 1977 I carried with me a small colorful cardboard flip-top box. I picked it out myself at the local drug store. It contained a box of crayons, a bottle of glue, a couple of No. 2 pencil, and extra cap erasers. When I got to my classroom that box went in my assigned desk, where it stayed until the following June. My classmates brought similar supplies. I don’t know if any kids didn’t bring anything at all that first day, but I suspect there were a few. But no big deal, the teacher had extra pencils and a box of broken crayon odds and ends. The big lined paper on which we learned to write was already in the storage closet.

In this millennium, however, parents are emailed an ever-growing list of required school supplies that includes everything from antibacterial hand gel to toilet paper. We’re not talking just one per kid, but multi-packs of each item. With multiple kids in one family, these supplies can really put a dent in the weekly budget. 

This morning a friend whose son just started first grade lamented about what he saw when he delivered his boy and accompanying bagful of reinforcements to the classroom. 

“I’m already pissed off,” he said. “They dumped all the supplies I bought for him in separate bins for all the kids to be used throughout the school year. Some parents didn’t buy shit. So I have to pay for some other kid’s supplies?”

Yes. You do. I’m sorry. Our schools’ budgets are cut so badly that the very essential tools students need have vanished from the supply closet. Teachers are spending their own salaries not only for classroom needs but also for food for some of their students. And they have to ask you, the parent, to spring for essentials. You understand this, and you comply because you’d do anything you could to ensure your child’s success in education. But when it comes to the kid sitting next to him you’re less than enthusiastic.

And you’re being selfish and entitled for thinking that way.

Here’s why:

That mom who always used to help out but now has backed out of every volunteering position? She has lupus, and some days she cannot get out of bed from the pain and fatigue, let alone organize the Halloween carnival.

That dad who usually donates money and auction items from his own business to the fundraiser…the one who says he can’t donate anything at all this year…(and why NOT? He owns the business, it’s a tax write-off you say)…he hasn’t drawn a salary for himself in six months in order to keep payroll going for all of his employees after a decline in business this year.  

And that new mom who drives the nice SUV and has the pretty diamond on her hand, the mom who only has the one child in school so what’s the big deal of buying the school supplies that are on the required list? She’s new to your school because she just upended her entire life to move cross-country so she can take care of a sick relative. She really, really can’t afford the $60 worth of handiwipes and laminated folders.

In every nice neighborhood near every A-rated school there is a family that doesn’t look like they’re struggling, but they are. And yes, you as the keeping-your-head-above-water-at-least-for-now family will be asked to cover for them in some manner. Please don’t complain about it. Please remember when someone helped you out somehow when you were at a lower point in your life. I guarandamntee you somebody did.

Would it make you feel better if your child had three boxes of crayons but the girl next to him didn’t have any? If so, I dare say you are teaching terrible values to your son need to reevaluate your thought process.

Don’t complain to me about this being “socialism at its purest form.” This is humanism. This is giving everyone an equal chance. Do what you can, and stop complaining about being able to do so.


  1. I had that same pencil box in first grade, too! I think it was already in my desk when I transferred to a new school so I used it for the rest of the year. I like the retro look of that box....I was amazed when I read this post - I've had pretty much almost all the same thoughts as you about this subject. I agree we need to remember to not judge others because we have no idea what they are going through (even if outward appearances make it seem like someone is doing just fine financially or otherwise). I agree that if some people aren't contributing, it is probably because they wish they could but currently can't. I'm really glad you mentioned that teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies - it happens all the time, and considering that teachers aren't paid as well as a lot of other professions, this is a larger act of love than many people even realize. I know there are teachers in my community constantly buying supplies and even food for students who need it - just like you mentioned. Thank you so much for writing this post.

    1. It's funny how I now realize that the picture on the box was 20 years out of date when I had it way back then! Those are 1950s kids, but what did I know at 5 years old?

      I didn't include this in the post, but I do think that the *necessary* supplies have gotten a little out of hand. At the risk of saying "in my day we got by on a broken pencil and scrap paper"...well, we still managed to learn with just a pencil, broken crayons, and paper.

      I also don't think some of these complaining parents realize how many childless members of their community are also chipping in for supplies. An exercise studio I used to attend held a supplies drive every year. In Orlando there is a "store" that is wholly charitably supported that offers teachers free school supplies, whatever they need. It stinks that it's necessary, but thankfully it's there.