Community School Supplies? Absolutely NOT!

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And so, here we are with school about to start up again – hey, if you live in southern Indiana, many of our schools started up last week!

This is the time of year I like to re-run my post about community school supplies and how they are of the devil. Yes. Satan himself thought up this concept. Here we go:

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School will be starting soon—or maybe it already has—for most kids, and each year at about this time I like to re-run this post about an issue that really, really bothers me a lot: community supplies in the classroom. This topic makes me so angry. There really are no adequate words to describe it.

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite days of the year (besides Christmas Day) was the day the newspaper posted the list of required school supplies, and Mom took us to Crowder’s Drug Store to buy them.

I loved looking at that list, and Mom always let me be the one who got to put the little checkmark beside the items as we put them in our basket.

Prang paints. Check. Paint pan. Check. Rectangular eraser. Check. Blunt-tipped scissors. Check. Etc. Check.

On the first day of school, I loved bringing my beautiful shiny school supplies into my new classroom, and I loved arranging them all inside my desk. I loved to look inside my desk and just savor the sight: all those cool things I could draw with and paint with and write with, and they were mine, all mine, and nobody else could touch my things unless I gave them permission. Me. I was the boss of my desk things. I took such pride in my school supplies, and mine were usually still looking pretty good even at the end of the year. They were mine, you see, and I had a vested interest in them; therefore, I took pains to take care of them. Back then, down in lower elementary, the school supplied only the special fat pencils and the weird orange pens.

Community School Supplies?  Absolutely NOT!
Credit: meddygarnet.

When my own children were little, I looked forward to Buying School Supplies Day with just as much delight as I did when I was a little kid. New binders. New pencils. And the most fun of all, choosing the new lunchbox. My own children loved the new school supplies, too. I think it is of vital importance that all children have their own school supplies; it is the beginning of them learning the pride of possession and the importance of caring for one’s own things in order to keep them for any length of time.

It’s not like that in many schools nowadays. I learned, to my horror and dismay, that many teachers do not allow their students to have their own supplies now; the little sack of a child’s very own things is taken from the child on that first day, and dumped into the community pot for all the kids to dip into and out of. There are no “my scissors,” there is only a rack or box of scissors for everyone. “Look, there are the scissors I picked out at Walmart; my name is engraved on them; I wish I could use them but they’re so cool, other kids grab them first every time.” There are no more personalized pencils or a child’s favorite cartoon character pencils to use and handle carefully; there is only a big bucket of chewed-on germ-covered pencils grabbed at and used by everybody in the room.

And since nothing belongs to anybody, who cares about taking good care of them?

I fully understand that the community pot of supplies is much easier for a teacher to control. I wasn’t, however, aware of the fact that teacher convenience was any kind of issue here. I taught in the public schools for 26 years and I never expected things to happen for the convenience of me; that wasn’t why I was there.

I fully understand, too, that some children’s little sack of supplies won’t be as individualized or cool as another child’s sack of supplies. I know for a sad fact that some children will never have their own little sack of supplies, at least, not one brought from home. That’s life; that should not even be an issue. Some children’s shoes aren’t as cool, either; do we throw shoes in a box and let the kids take pot luck with those, too? I understand that in some classrooms, a child’s packed lunch is sometimes taken apart and certain things confiscated or distributed, lest some child have a treat that another child doesn’t have.* When my kids were in grade school, my mother would occasionally stop by at lunch time with a Happy Meal for them—and for me!—and I was told this had to stop because other children didn’t have that option. Well, you know what, my children were often envious of another child’s dress or shoes or lunch or cool pen, but I would never have tried to ensure that other children would never be able to have anything my own kids couldn’t have. Good grief. Such insanity!

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