It's back to school time which means shopping for backpacks, lunch boxes, and school supplies. Your child's teacher has probably provided you with a list of items needed for the school year. Now you just need to go find all the stuff, right?
Before you head to the store, with your little one in tow, please consider the following advice from an experienced classroom teacher... Don't let your child pick everything out. In fact, you might even just go to the store by yourself.
Why, you ask? Because there are some school supplies that really have no place in the classroom.
# 1 on the DO NOT BUY list - Supplies that look like toys
This includes little erasers that look like food, pencils with fidgets, and twisty rubber pencils. Why shouldn't you buy these?
First of all, they are super distracting. Kids can't seem to stop playing with them.
Second, if they break or gets lost, the teacher ends up dealing with a meltdown that really shouldn't be happening at school.
Third, another child might steal them. More on that later.
#2 on the DO NOT BUY list - "Fancy" supplies
Glittery notebooks, colorful gel pens, pencils with special designs or your child's name on them, pens with feathers on the top - All of these make the list.
First, pens aren't used in elementary school. Kids need to be able to erase their mistakes. Teacher don't want to spend half the day telling students to put the pens away.
Second, most teachers in the lower grades use community supplies. That means they collect all the school supplies and pass them out as needed. They are often shared among the students.
When kids bring in something "special" they don't want anyone else to use it. This completely undermines the teacher's procedures for classroom supplies.
Third, another child might steal them. More later.
#3 on the DO NOT BUY list - Scented supplies
Smelly markers and crayons are fun for sure! But when I have kids get out their markers or crayons, it's for a specific reason like a project or marking things in a text we are reading. Kids with smelly markers sit there and sniff each one. Then they pass them to their friends to sniff. Enough said.
#4 on the DO NOT BUY list - Mechanical pencils
If your child is 10 or under, he or she isn't old enough to handle a mechanical pencil. Young kid press too hard when writing. The tips break all day long. So the child tries to write very lightly and then we can't read anything they wrote. Please stop with the mechanical pencils.
Same goes for those pencils with the stackable tips that you can change. First, they are distracting. Second, if one tip gets lost, the entire pencil is useless.
What Supplies SHOULD You Buy?
Please just stick to the basics. I promise that your child's teacher will be much happier - grateful even - and your child will be less distracted and more focused on learning. You can still buy all the special things, but save them for homework time.
What about the stealing?
None of us want to imagine little children as thieves, but it's something we teachers deal with all the time. A lot of times it's just a kid whose parents can't afford to buy them anything special and the temptation is just too great.
Whatever the reason, it's causes a problem in the classroom.
First of all, we're usually dealing with a he said/she said situation. Second, in most schools, teachers are not allowed to search a student or his backpack. So if Sally says Tommy took her special sparkle unicorn pen and hid it in his backpack, the teacher has to call administration to come perform a search... all over a pen.
Is it really worth it? Special supplies, like those mentioned above, cause more crying, arguing, and possessiveness in a classroom than anything else I can think of. It's just one more thing that takes away from learning.