Why So Many School Supplies?

Colorful crayon

We made it. Summer is over and the kids are headed back to school. A celebration for many mothers that have lost track of fun ways to liven up the summer days. No more ‘I’m bored’ or ‘what are we going to do today?’.

Now the stores fill with moms, children and school supply lists. I can’t help but overhear many complaining about what is on the list, why they should have to buy everything on the list, or some even wondering why these items aren’t supplied. “What do you mean 10 glue sticks and 3 packs of crayons?!” This may seem baffling to anyone working outside of a classroom. As a teacher, I am here offer some perspective and defend the, what may seem, excessive school supplies.

Year round I work with children. Ages vary, but as a preschool teacher, I typically work with three and four year olds. At the beginning of each year, I excitedly prepare my room. I clean, I organize, I label and I put out brand new supplies. I wish I had kept track in the past of how long the initial supplies lasted before needing to be replaced. In theory, they should last half the year and then a second round of supplies be taken from the closet and put out in January. Unfortunately, kids don’t work quite as efficiently as we may like: pencils are snapped, glue is poured in massive quantities, crayons broken into tiny little pebbles, smashed by feet or magically run away to the same place all of my marker caps must go. The life of classroom art supplies must be quite the mysterious thing.

Now, the dreaded school supply list from a teacher’s perspective:

The list comes from Mandeville Elementary, Pre-K through 3rd grade. I would like to note, they have a simple list with the disclaimer that supplies should be replaced as needed. I have seen other lists that

have larger quantities with the intention of lasting all year.

  1. Kinder mat – This one is pretty obvious, although, I would buy 2 or 3 because these are likely not to last all year and aren’t easy to find outside of this time of year.
  2. Glue sticks– Buy these in bulk. I have made many trips myself to get glue sticks. Aside from the obvious missing cap problem, which will account for 50% of loss here, kids are fascinated with glue. It is solid, and then its all sticky and slimy and all over the paper and then ‘OMG HOW MUCH CAN WE USE?!?!’. Kids love glue, they just can’t help it. They will put it on everything, use it every chance they get and they will most certainly use a lot of it–before losing the cap.
  3. Glue bottles– See previous. The curious wonders of glue only increase when it is bottled. Also,they are in a learning process coupled with self-control issues in terms of figuring out how much glue to use. As they get older, they know they only need a few dots, but til then. . .
  4. Crayola washable markers– Only one pack?! Caps WILL go missing, or my favorite, they stab the marker making mashed dots all over a paper. Beautiful polka dots, but now we have no marker tip to color with. They won’t learn the first time not to do it again, they will probably remember how awesome those polka dots were, so get multiple packs.
  5. Pack of play doh– I know how much we love the mess of play doh at home, I’d imagine that doesn’t vary too much with other parents. Now, multiply that by 15-20. Yikes, I know right! Sometimes I wonder if the kids play with the play doh or just tear it into tiny pieces to toss all over the floor. It is debatable, but I’d venture to say seeing it all over the floor is part of the fun. Bonus points when it is in your shoe!
  6. Plastic Folder– Most likely this will be used to send home communication from your student’s teacher as well as homework.
  7. Roll of Paper Towels – Luckily, I am supplied these year round so I can’t do much here in terms of saying why you need to send them other than say kids are messy.
  8. 1 Box of Kleenex – GERMS! COLDS! BOOGER FINGERS! OH MY! You can never have too many Kleenex boxes, ever. We go through Kleenex pretty regularly. One just isn’t enough I guess.
  9. 1 8-Count Box of Crayons– Wow, only 1 box. Consider yourself lucky. Or, go ahead and buy more while you’re at it. I believe there may be an evil fairy going around stealing crayons because a crayon box just never lasts long.
  10. Packs of Construction Paper – All those cute projects they come home with, sometimes you get the second or third go around. There are some kids that just need things to look a certain way, one tiny mistake and we have to start over. That’s ok, but we sure to go through the paper quickly.
  11. Water color paint – Another short lived supply item. You’d think by now they would put more paint in these things.

I have heard frustrated parents say that they should only purchase items for their child. I understand this, though I don’t feel it’s the lesson we should send our kids. Even in Mandeville, there are children less fortunate that may not show up to school with all the required supplies. I personally hope that we do not send the lesson that these kids should do without, but teach our children generosity and kindness and giving. After all, we are all hoping to make the world a better place for our children, what better place to start than with a kind heart. Even with your bold intentions to buy supplies ONLY for your child, kids share, things will get mixed up, it is a room full of children and one teacher; expect a few crayons to get from little Susie to little Bobby without notice.

That being said, with such a small, simple list, I expect at some point that teacher will be resupplying some of these items on his or her own. Why? Because that is what we do. Your children all have a special place in their teacher’s heart. We don’t want to see a child go without. Before we get upset and start the school year off with a bad attitude, let’s just take a minute toremember there is a lady locked in a classroom, highly outnumbered by small children all day long.

Maybe you should add a bottle of wine to that list.

Ok, as much as we love wine, a few extra supplies or goodies for the class treasure box is also greatly appreciated. We are working hard all year for your kids, I promise, we aren’t asking for much with a small supply list.

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I consider myself a Floridian New Orleanian, both places are home to me. I am a photographer, pre-school teacher and step mom. I collect antique cameras and love Disney World. You can usually find me by a pool or at the lakefront on a sunny day and probably playing WWOZ in the background.

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About the Author

I consider myself a Floridian New Orleanian, both places are home to me. I am a photographer, pre-school teacher and step mom. I collect antique cameras and love Disney World. You can usually find me by a pool or at the lakefront on a sunny day and probably playing WWOZ in the background.