I wanted to put together a quick post for the parents and caregivers out there who are in the throws of back to school shopping. Back to school shopping has become such an outrageous market; every store I walk into has an enormous Back to School display, and every year those displays seem to come out earlier and earlier. While I don’t yet have children of my very own, I have become a near expert in school supplies, what with teaching for the last 7 years.
Every year I watch my students arrive on their first day of school with tiny, glitter covered backpacks that aren’t even big enough to hold a binder. I watch throughout the first week as my kiddos struggle to write with dollar-store pens that seem to be made without any actual ink. Later, when they try to record their homework in their brand-new iPhone, they become instantly distracted by an Instagram notification and fail to write the assignment down at all.
As a teacher, I’ve worked in all different sorts of socio-economic districts, and I do not mind providing school supplies to kids who really need it. I always keep extra pens, pencils, notebooks, and paper around for kids who might be going through hard times. In the past I’ve also provided toiletries, snacks, and even clothing in a few cases. I love my students, and I’ll do whatever I can to help them learn.
That said, it’s infuriating to me when my students walk in with supplies that are both less effective and often more expensive than what I’d recommend.
So here’s what kids really do need:
- A Sturdy Backpack: Last year a ton of my students started the year with either these poorly constructed bags from Victoria’s Secret that fell apart by October, or these WAY-TOO HUGE Nike backpacks that cost a fortune and literally everything gets lost in them. Just get them a Jansport and be done with it, mom. Or and LLBean, which is my fave.
- Tons of Pens and Pencils: I cannot emphasize this enough; your child will be writing for 3+ hours a day, 5 days a week, for the next 10 months. A packet of 8 pens will not suffice. I’d say most kids go through about 4-5 pens a month, so that comes out to 40-50 pens a year. Stockpile pens and pencils at this time of year when they are on sale! Sidenote: never buy pens at the dollar store. They do not work. I learned this the hard way.
- An Assignment Notebook: A lot of my kids claim that they record their homework on their phones. However, smartphones offer too many distractions to be a reliable homework-recording tool. Not to mention that half my students just snap a picture of the homework on the board and take no note of any directions the teacher delivers verbally. All kids need a planner! I mean, I still need a planner…
- A Whole Lot Of Paper: Again; your kid will be producing written work for 5-7 different subjects on a daily basis. Stockpile filler paper.
- A Re-Usable Water Bottle: Students often go all day without drinking any water. 99% of “I don’t feel good” complaints- and time spent out of class and int he nurse’s office- are because kids are super dehydrated by midday. Get them a nice, big, BPA-free water bottle, put their name on it, and they’ll be in a much healthier place.
- ALL OF THE FOLDERS: Preferably the plastic ones. Every kid should have a folder per subject, plus one for forms and permission slips. This pack of 25 on Amazon is a steal, and will last you for years:)
Here’s what kids ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED…
- Fidget Spinners: Unless they have an IEP and it is part of their behavior managment plan, your child should not be bringing a fidget toy to school. As a special educator, I’m here to tell you that we know exactly which kids need to fidget, and we make sure they’re getting movement throughout the day. At this point spinners are a commodity, anyhow; by June I had to break up a spinner black market in the back of my 9th grade history class and IT GOT UGLY.
- Colorful Pens and Markers: Most teachers don’t allow them, so they end up just being a waste of money.
- The BEST Laptop On The Market: A hand-me-down chromebook will do; all they need is google docs and access to the school’s website. Macbooks are super nice, but my 9th graders often get distracted by iMessage, FaceTime, and Spotify. NO, MADISON: FACETIMING ABOUT THE ESSAY IS NOT THE SAME AS WRITING THE ESSAY.
- Bluetooth Speakers: The most annoying thing in the world is a kid playing bad music out of his backpack while you’re trying to start class.
- Super Fancy Pencil Cases and Binders: Too many zips, clips, pockets, and places for things to be hiding ends up wasting kid’s time. Simple is always, always best!!
So there you have it:)
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