Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Getting Ready, Family Style

It's that time of year again when you are bombarded on all sides screaming about BACK TO SCHOOL!!! shopping and whatnot. The Sunday paper is fatter than usual with all the inserts and flyers and such announcing major sales and deals to be had for Back To School. Right, like Junior needs a new stainless steel refridgerator to excel in 3rd grade. Uh-huh.

Anyway, since Nicholas will be starting Kindergarten in the fall, while not technically BACK to school since he's never been in the first place and therefore is not going BACK, he's starting and we must get ready. So shopping for the necessary supplies is on my to-do list.

Speaking of supplies, does anyone else's PUBLIC schools have insanely long lists of supplies that parents must provide?? Are we not paying taxes for this stuff? Must we also outfit the whole classroom with supplies? Isn't this the sort of thing that used to be provided by the schools? I don't remember the need to bring 80 tubes of glue on the first day, unlabeled. I mean, c'mon! Ok, slight exaggeration there, but not by much! I remember having to bring a box of crayons, some pencils, some markers, an eraser, and maybe some glue. Enough for just me. A quick scan of last years supply list for Kindergarten includes:

12 #2 pencils
2 8-ct crayons
2 16-ct crayons
2 rolls scotch tape
Baby wipes (for chrissake, I need to provide baby wipes for my child at school??!)
100-ct tissue (again, I need to provide the tissues for my child should he develop a runny nose. I think these sorts of things should come from the school. Is it just me??)
1 roll of 24-exp film. Now I ask you, does it seem ridiculous to ask parents to provide film for a classroom?? Give me a break! Remember, we're talking public school here, not private. Will they be taking 24 pictures that include my son?
18 glue sticks (see? Not 80! We're getting a break!)
Fiskars round-nose scissors. Fiskars. Not some other brand. The nice scissors.

There's more, but you get the point. Does the school provide nothing? I guess they provide the paper, because that seems to be the only thing missing until you reach higher grades. Gah! How do some parents afford to comply? Does my child really need all this on Day 1, or could I work out some sort of payment plan approach? Will my child be using the supplies I provide, or are they going into a big community pile for the entire classroom, as I suspect? Will he get sent to the Principals Office if I send him with the round-nose scissors he already has if they're not Fiskars? Will he get beat up on the playground if I short him the obscene number of requested glue sticks and only send 15 instead?

So you can imagine why I'm now watching those Sunday ads like a hawk so I can outfit my child (and apparently the neighbor children, too) with the necessary (?) supplies and not spend what is tantamount to a mortgage payment doing it. And that doesn't even include the more fun supplies, like clothes. Nicholas is due a MAJOR clothing hit for fall, so this makes me nervous.

In comes my mother to the rescue. Well, not rescue, but in on the whole Back To School scene. She wants in on the action. She has 2 grandsons starting Kindergarten this fall and thought it would be fun and nice to take them each Back To School shopping individually. Some good Gramma/Grandson bonding. She ordered each of them a full pencil case of pencils with their names pre-stamped on each pencil in gold lettering (not sure if that's "allowed" at the public school - we'll find out), and took them each out for a morning of shopping with her. She even downloaded the school supply lists so she'd know what they need.

She hit Target with Nicholas. They picked out an outfit for him. His first official "school clothes". Some really ugly jeans and a polo-style shirt. And shoes. Diego character shoes. It never dawned on me to inform my mother how much I HATE character shoes and never buy them for the kids. I steer clear of them like the plague and think they're terribly tacky. But of course, she didn't know and Nicholas started drooling over the Diego shoes and Gramma only wanted to make his day. And now I'm stuck because how can I return those shoes after Gramma bought them as a special back to school treat? Answer: I can't. So I'll have to watch Nicholas trot off to the bus everyday wearing those awful character shoes. My eyes burn just thinking about it. But it was a really nice gesture on her part, so I can't complain. Too much. She also got him a jacket and some of his school supplies. He came home with his loot and was so excited to show me everything they got. He packed away his school supplies with care, and didn't want his new clothes mixing in his drawers with his old clothes. They are that special.

I'm grateful to my mother for doing this. For making such an effort to spend one-on-one time with Nicholas and do something with him that he'll remember fondly. She wants to make it a tradition, I suspect. Which is cool. But on the flip side, there is a tiny part of me that feels robbed. I mean, this is my first baby going off to school for the first time, and I don't really get to have the whole "getting ready for back to school" experience with him. I didn't get to pick out the clothes and supplies and everything and share in that excitement. Sure, he'll still need a few more items of clothing and a few more supplies, but the initial thrill is gone. Well, maybe not gone entirely, but diminished.

Of course, I'll get to be the one who walks him to the bus on that first morning and bask in the nervous excitement we'll both be feeling. Then I'll probably sprint back to the car and beat the bus to the school and be waiting for him to get off the bus so I can walk him into his classroom and get him settled at his desk. No one else will get to do that. That's a job for MOM. A privilege no one else will step on. I'll get to take his picture in front of the school. I'll get to ease his nervousness and make sure he feels ok before leaving. I'll get to drive back to the school a couple of hours later to make sure he gets on the right bus to go home (probably hiding in the wings, ready to present myself if he needs me), and then beat the bus home again so I can be there waiting for him at the bus stop so we can walk home together and let him tell me all about his first day of school.

So, I'll gladly share this "Back To School" business with my mother and anyone else who wants in on the action, because I'll still get the best part of it. And if there's one thing I learned in Kindergarten is to SHARE.

An important life-lesson I've never forgot.

MP...you guys are in a nice school district, in the areas that the parents can NOT afford the mentioned supplies, such as tissue, the teacher is stuck buying them. That is really shitty on a teacher's salary. Good thing they have the summer off to work and make enough money to buy said school supplies.

This is just another example of how f'ed up the public school system is in this country.

Here's to hoping Nic doesn't have to SHARE tissue.
Yup to what Anon said, and to MP: you'd be shocked at the poverty rates as dictated by the number of children on free and reduced lunches in MOST schools these days. And, even though public schools are supported by taxes, there is a great disparity from school to school (here in Oregon, but elsewhere too) in what each child receives in terms of equipment (think: computers and internet access, art supplies beyond just markers and crayons, textbooks, etc) It is insane. As a student teacher last year, I spent at least $100 of my own (borrowed, ha ha) money to buy supplies for my students.
i always buy in excess because I know some parents can't afford the supplies and after I watched a special on TV and saw how much teachers are spending to keep their pupils well supplied.

ps: private school lists are just as long... and usually include text books.

pPS: diaper wipes are great for quick cleaning of dirty hands.
I could be worse-- in Utah students have to BUY their textbooks, starting in elementary school. Once you get to high school, it runs about $300/year per student.
I completely agree that it's crazy to think/expect the TEACHER to subsidize the supplies needed in the classroom. I don't. I'm just surprised by how much the PARENTS must supply vs. the schools. Not teachers, schools. Administrative budget, not teacher salary, footing the bill. Because you're right: many many MANY families are considered "poverty level" and recieve free lunches, etc. so to expect them to fork over the big bucks for community school supplies is crazy. And unfair. And to expect OTHER less-poverty families to make up the difference is also unfair. They already pay more in terms of taxes, etc. I guess that's my point. We're already paying so much that I sort of thought we'd not have to pick up so much of the supplies. And I know we're not supplying EVERYTHING - many of the arts and crafts sorts of things (like paper) isn't on the supply lists for parents.

I guess I should just be grateful I can meet the supply demands at all and that we DO live in a great school district. On purpose. I know the public schools are in "crisis" all over the country. I'm a public school kid myself. I want to believe in the public school system and will give it a fair shake. If they prove themselves "unworthy", then we'll make the switch to private. But we're starting in public and hoping it works out.
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Okay, is cool baby really a blog-a-marketer?

Anyway, I think it's so nice of your mom to want to be part of the Back to School excitement. What a nice way to bond with the grandchildren (and a way to help out the parents in a day when supply lists are longer and more expensive).

I think most of your example list was reasonable, but 18 glue sticks?!?! Seems a bit overboard.

Have fun and best wishes for the beginning of school.
My mom taught high school in inner-city St Paul until last year and the entire foreign language dept. got $300 every year to spend on non-book supplies (including all paper, Scantron tests, you name it). She spent hundreds extra supplementing that. My aunt teaching kindergarten in the suburbs shelled out much more. My did things like give extra credit for boxes of Kleenex kids brought in.
LMAO at the Diego shoes. I know Nicholas is so proud of them but I am cringing right along with you. And OMG - 18 glue sticks per kid??? Is that a typo? Our schools have a 22 student class limit. That is 396 glue sticks!!! What are they going to do with them???? How could they possibly NEED that many? That is crazy!!
You got it! i'm a teacher too, and I can tell you I spent hundreds on supplies. i was lucky too- I was in an affluent area. Now that I'm home w/ my kiddies, I provide the list, and more! Guess where our tax money is going people
? Administration. That's right, the office where those people work and do nothing and get paid six figures, while us teachers, if lucky, make half of that, IF we are in a good district. We need REFORM. They say for every teacher teaching, there is another 10 administraters, about 9.5 of which are totally unneccessary.

So, provide for you teachers! help them out! Yes, we need tissue! Your kids have snotty noses that WE wipe, lovingly, so throw us a bone! Yes, we need wipes! They are WONDERFUL to wipe down the desks (your kids help too! they learn responsibility and they are SO amazing!!).

We should be thankful that we have public education, and yes, we should also do something about this. Its horrible.

FYI, at the school I am at, we do have some financially challenged families. I was on the PTA last year and I was the treasurer. If they talked to me (most would come in private) I would totally help them out. We have a fund set aside to help them. And, I made it known that it was there for those people.

Just had to give my 2 cents on something I live in-- from both ends, as a teacher and as a mother of 2 boys in the public school system. It's a mess out there. :)

On another note I just wanted to say that i was class parent last year and my sons class had 20 kids. I asked for 10 dollars each child for the party fund. 10 bucks, that's it! I had 3 parents REFUSE to donate, against principal, they said, although their kids came to the parties, ate the food, and participated. What is WRONG with people? So guess who paid for their kids to participate? Yes, that would be me people.
Erica and I must have had the same experience as teachers. It is awful! Oh, and in Illinois our lovely congressmen finally decided to do something to help us teachers out who spend our own money on school-related items. They said that if we spent over $250.00 on classroom-related items, we could deduct a portion of that on our tax return. Well, gee thanks! How about properly funding our schools so that teachers and parents don't have to spend so much money on things that should be provided with our TAX dollars!

So while I totally agree with parents who are frustrated with the ever-growing list of supplies, I am totally frustrated by politicians saying they will better fund our schools, but only succeed in better funding their own pockets. The district I taught in, where my children will also attend school, have 4 assistant superintendants in addition to our superintendant all making 6 figure incomes. It is a crime what is happening in our schools. A real crime.
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