Recently, I had a heated conversation regarding what we, as parents of children in the public school system, should be required to buy for back to school. It’s possible that my stance (that we should contribute as much as we can) comes from my years as a teacher to other people’s children.
Every September at the start of school year I would find myself lacking the necessary supplies to run my classroom the way I’d envisioned. And we’re not talking LCD projectors and iPads for every kid (many states do supply such things). The idea that I’d have twenty-five to thirty students sitting at desks with a folder, a composition book for every subject, and enough pencils with working erasers, was the dream that wouldn’t be.
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The list that had been sent prior to the first day was often ignored, and no matter the reason (good or bad) was disruptive to my carefully thought out plans. As a first year teacher I remember being so happy to have my own classroom that I flew by the seat of my khaki twill pants, eager and determined to make it work.
But after surviving the first year whereupon I discovered the real key to teaching was having good systems in place, I focused more on what would work for my room the following year than on how many pencils I was gifted.
When students again arrived without supplies I would go out and buy them myself. On my teacher’s salary (that incidentally would be nearly the same as it was all those years ago) I’d purchase things that weren’t as easy to get from the head office, like pencil sharpeners or overhead projector sheets. I never, ever had enough white-board markers or lined paper or Kleenex. We always needed Kleenex.
Last week I visited my daughters’ school, our neighborhood choice, given high marks by friends whose kids had attended before mine. When I walked in, the decorated rooms were full of warmth, and every child had their name on a desk. Systems were in place for snack, and backpacks, and morning work.
Oh, the teachers! Such lovely people whom I could tell loved children.
But as a former teacher I could see what was missing.
For starters, my daughter’s class of 21 students gets a full-time assistant. My other daughter, in a class of 20, only has her assistant part of the time. Could you imagine meeting the needs of twenty children without help? What about the same scenario minus the proper tools to keep them busy and learning?
The website, which requested supplies from pencils to composition books to white-board markers (when purchased by twos) resulted in a one hundred thirty dollar Target checkout. Yet when meeting the teacher, the request table wasn’t nearly as full as it should have been.
In June, it was reported that the state had cut 5.5 million dollars from the budget, and even though the school system said that they’d readjust, utilizing the 35 million that was held back by the state as discretionary funding, there’s still not enough money to give everyone what’s necessary.
The bottom line is that, yes, our taxes do go to our schools. But when you think about the children in those schools, remember that they are out most precious commodity, and believe me when I tell you, they don’t have what they need.
Not much has changed in regard to the children’s needs since my departure from education in 2006. After one day of volunteering and a week of dinnertime conversation with two very tired newby Kindergartners, children are still coming to school without food to fill their bellies, drinking from other children’s water bottles because they’re parents couldn’t or didn’t supply their own, and are falling asleep at their desks because no one told them to go to bed the night before.
The teachers in the schools are trying to manage every child’s needs. Needs that are basic, but many.
Do them a favor and give to their rooms. It’ll be the best gift you’ll give all year, with repercussions that could last a lifetime.