Our household has been a whirlwind! MANY households have been a whirlwind. It’s the week before the first week of school, which means it’s the official last week of summer break. For me, it’s also the first week of transition from mom mode to work mode.
It’s interesting playing a dual role of parent and teacher for a public school system. As an educator, I get excited to go back to school… the anticipation of seeing all the sweet kiddos from years past creates a giddiness in my heart I can hardly contain. As a parent, however, my joy is not quite so evident. I look at the long list of items on the school supply lists for all my children, search the house for my checkbook to pay all the various school fees, carve time in my schedule to acquire school clothes for my kids… yeah, the parental role of education is not always as joyful as the educator role for sure, and this time of year makes it seem like it’s all about money going out of my pocket faster than it goes in.
I read an article this summer that made me ponder this whole concept of buying school supplies at the start of the new year. Several friends on FB posted their thoughts in the comment section and I saw the article being shared around my social circles. Interestingly, it continued to pop up on my news feed by people I didn’t know, connected by comments of mutual friends. I read respectable feedback from those who agreed and disagreed; I also read comments that were downright hateful, selfish, and mean. I even saw one posting that received dozens of responses debating the values and costs of homeschool versus public school.
What a wonderful world we live in to have the freedom to debate whatever we like in a civilized manner. Seriously! We are so blessed! Even though I did not agree with all the perspectives shared about this specific article, I am thankful I am in a country where I don’t have to fear my safety for sharing my thoughts and opinions.
I remember the years I spent as an elementary classroom teacher. I remember the hours I would spend trying to create a loving, nurturing, happy space for 25 children to learn and grow. I remember the ink cartridges that would grow empty from all the printing I would do from home… the laminating film that somehow always got caught under my sofa as I cut out nametags and posters late at night on my living room floor… the stacks of binders and books strewn across my kitchen as I tried to plan out my first week of lessons and activities. All before I was actually “back to work.”
I did ALL these things with love. LOVE! I loved being a teacher! I considered my position a privilege to shape and guide children, helping them recognize the potential they had within themselves to succeed. It was an honor, and I took it VERY seriously.
I guess that’s why this article struck a nerve with me. It seems like it’s about the petty discussion about how many markers to buy for a teacher when in fact it simply illustrates truth. Teachers spend hundreds, if not thousands, of their own personal dollars to do their job. There – I said it. Truth. (And if you want to debate that issue of truth, you can schedule a coffee date with my husband and he can show you the Visa bills from years past as proof.)
Yes, I know other teachers may have spent more money than me. I also know other teachers that are single parents, not to mention the cost of being a homeschooling mom. Parents are out of work. Or work two jobs. Or have many more children then me. Parents versus teachers; money, money money.
Call me naive, but I don’t think the heart of this article is about money – I think it’s more about a selfish attitude. For every school supply you choose not to purchase for my classroom, I ended up buying with my own money. Do you know how many cheap glue sticks run dry by December? I never sent notes home asking for more supplies throughout the school year; I bought them myself with my own hard-earned money. For ALL my students. Not one. Not two. All twenty-five. I continued to meet my students’ material needs for instruction long after the wave of school supplies had disappeared.
Over the years, I learned valuable lessons about school supplies. Quality matters. Ticonderoga pencils will always last longer because the wood doesn’t splinter like the cheaper brands when sharpened in the metal pencil sharpeners still bolted to classroom walls. Crayola crayons will always be easier for children to use for coloring, because they contain less wax than cheaper brands and won’t break in half when a kindergartener holds it in a tight grip, pressing down. Expo markers for the whiteboard have a value rating close to gold.
For me, and I can only speak to myself, I take careful consideration when purchasing school supplies for my children. I know the teacher listed a specific brand beside the item because he/she learned from personal experience that quality matters and they want the best educational experience for my child. They don’t want me to have to deal with a frustrated child who couldn’t keep their pencil from working right the whole day.
We all have our own priority list when it comes to preparing our child for school and I am not judging a single person out their for the choices they make. I am also not advocating you spend money you can’t afford to spend. If you are on a fixed income, please know that I don’t turn my eyes at you when I see lower quality supplies. That is not the point of this blog post. I’m simply taking a moment to share MY thoughts on a subject that I understand well from BOTH sides of the fence. I know it’s expensive. I know it seems like a lot of “stuff” to by for a “free” education. I absolutely understand the frustration.
But then I come back to love.
As a parent, I do what I can, in the best way I can, to make sure my children’s needs are met – whether they are basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, or other needs such as school supplies. I will gladly, with a joyful heart, sacrifice a restaurant dinner with my family to have a little extra money to purchase the items requested by my child’s teachers. I’m not going to debate the teacher’s request; I’m not going to argue the point. I’m going to do in my heart what I feel is best for my child’s educational experience.
This is why I give. I feel it’s important to share love with one another no matter how that love is shown.
So this year, as I do every year, I grabbed the value pack of Expo markers with JOY! I added a few extra supplies in the bag JUST BECAUSE! And I already mapped out a plan to bless my children’s teachers with little surprises throughout the year to remind them how much I appreciate all they do.
Last night was a big night for my kiddos as they were finally told who would be their teacher for the next school year. I was just as excited! Such anticipation! As we walked into each of their new classrooms, I knew it was going to be a great year. Their teachers were smiling. Friendly. Welcoming. The classrooms were bright. Clean. Inviting. And my children’s desks held treasures galore.
As we enter a new school year, let’s not get caught up in the pettiness of bickering the non-essential issues of the day. Let us learn how to love and support ALL the educators out there and work together to raise up the next generation of leaders. After all, we’re in this together!
Be blessed and take time to thank a teacher today!