When I was growing up – back in the dark ages, I loved going school supply shopping. Even more than school clothes shopping, it was supplies that made it real. New pencils in boxes, fresh folders, unopened binders and more meant that school was soon here.
But at the same time, I also dreaded the annual sojourn to the store for back to school necessities. My anxiety came from the fact that I knew my parents were always stressed out over school shopping. New clothes, supplies and other costs stressed the family budget. My family was one of those who qualified for “reduced price” lunch – which meant we only paid about 35 percent of the cover price for a lunch ticket.
So, as a teacher I know how hard it is for many parents to get lots of back to school lists. High school is much worse, since there are now six to eight classes that each have a supply list. High school also has high priced classes like band, art, dance, etc. And their kids have to deal with the fashion show that is clothes shopping.
The way I handle this in my class is to make sure we have enough supplies to get through the start of school and then ask my students to bring in supplies. I have a list of six supplies they should bring: Kleenex, pencils, pens, hand sanitizer, paper and then I add a random one (something we need, but not every year). To that I require one folder. Each of these supplies costs $2 or less. The six supplies are extra credit. They do not have to bring them. I collect them and then have a trusted student keep track of keeping the classroom stocked from the supply closet.
This allows me to give students an easy extra credit assignment for each six weeks, but also help out students who need a pen, pencil, etc. I keep a container stocked with pencils, pens, scissors, etc. If a student needs one, they just take one – no questions asked. So students who can’t afford to bring supplies are not penalized and they can also get a supply they need without having to ask for it. This way they never have to feel embarrassed. And if after the frenzy of back to school madness is over, they can then afford to bring in some supplies – that’s OK too.
So, I think all teachers need to keep in mind those students who can’t afford those long lists of supplies and try to find creative ways to help all their students succeed without being embarrassed.