Please, Just Buy the Kleenex (on your kids’ supply list)

I’m a teacher on hiatus as a stay-at-home-mom.  My husband is a teacher.  We both work/ed in parochial schools, notorious for high quality education and extremely low budgets.

I’m also extremely thrifty by nature.  We thrive quite nicely (no debt, saving for parochial high school and retirement at 60) on one teacher’s salary.  I know both sides of this coin.

Please, just buy the Kleenex.

your kids' school supply list

It’s back to school shopping season, and I am bracing for the onslaught of negativity.

That calculator is too expensive.  I can’t believe I need to contribute to a class stock of pencils.  Why can’t I just buy for my child?  This is too many supplies.  I don’t believe I need this brand of marker – I’ll just get whatever I feel like.  A whole pack of Expo markers?! They can’t possibly need two big boxes of Kleenex.

I can tell you personally, with all sincerity, if the teacher has asked for it, it’s necessary.  No teacher brings home a big paycheck – they know about scrimping and saving.  Teachers don’t like storing big backup collections of Lysol wipes – it’s a pain to find a place for all that stuff.  They feel badly asking you to search out specific brands and models of items.  They know the backlash they’re about to get, and they’ve stuck their neck out to ask for specific supplies anyway.

Because they, the professionals, have determined it would be best for your child’s education to have these specific supplies.

I can’t possibly exhaust all the specifics of everyone’s school supply list, but here are just a few possible explanations for why things may be required.

1 – Specific brands of pencils, or shared pencils for the whole class

Pencil sharpening is a huge time-waster in education.  The noise of the sharpener is disruptive during lessons or work time.  It requires students to be out of their desk (either at a sharpener, or emptying their personal sharpener) which opens the door for all kinds of management problems.  Many off-brand or “designer” pencils do not sharpen well – the lead is off-center so they’re never really sharp, the lead breaks off each time it’s sharpened, or the plasticy coating on the pencil gets all chewed up and stuck in the sharpener.

Whole-class pencils are a teacher choice made because of ease of management.  It can be very time efficient and smooth to always have a stock of sharpened pencils, all identical so there is no time or talking wasted in “choosing” or “finding”.  It’s not about some kind of classroom communism – it’s about efficiency and management.

2 – Specific calculators or other math devices

It is VERY DIFFICULT to teach a math class where there are several different models of calculator, protractor, etc. among the students.  Each set of directions must be given 4 or 5 times to accommodate the differences.  And while directions are given, the children to whom they don’t apply are likely getting distracted, goofing off, or craning to see their neighbor’s “cool different” device.  If everyone’s supplies match the teacher’s, then the directions can be given once, and even a large poster or presentation be created that exactly  matches what the kids have in their hands.

3 – Kleenex, Lysol wipes, paper towels, etc.

Children are natural wasters, and messy little people.  I understand that supplying paper products to a classroom, again, feels like “classroom communism” because other children are going to use them.  But to put it plainly, your child is spending 8 + hours a day for 3/4 of the year IN THE CLASSROOM.  That’s a lot of paper product usage!  If the child were home all of those hours, they would likely be burning through Kleenex and paper towels at home.  When the common cold sweeps through a classroom of children, an entire box of Kleenex is easily used up PER DAY.  The teachers personally Lysol wipe all the desks , doorknobs, sinks, EVERY DAY during flu season to try and prevent absences.  Trust me when I tell you, I never made it past February before running out of the school supply list paper products and having to buy for the rest of the year myself.  If the teacher bought all of these products for the classroom, that would mean purchasing 50 boxes of Kleenex, 20 containers of Lysol wipes, 20 rolls of paper towels… that extremely expensive for any one person.  Divided up among the students (who do all use them in some way! Promise!) it is much more manageable.

4 – Name brand markers, crayons, paints

These are asked for because they work the best.  There are many cheaper brands of art supplies out there, and they are cheaper for a reason.  They don’t work very well!  Off-brand markers dry out faster, don’t wash off as easily, and/or come in oddball colors that do not work for what we have planned.  Off-brand crayons have precious little color payoff and break easily.  These types of “little inconveniences” turn into big headaches and management problems when a child gets upset about his or her artwork “not working” or “being ruined” or can’t do the directions because the colors in that pack of supplies are different from others.

 

All of these supplies are requested after careful consideration, editing down of the list, weighing pros and cons, and year of education, training, and experience.  That’s not an exaggeration – every choice a teacher makes is for the benefit of your child’s education.  They are professionals at running classrooms and imparting knowledge.  They re-evaluate their supply list every June, adjust for any changes noticed in the last school year, then cross their fingers that the supplies will come on the first day of school as asked.

So please, just buy the Kleenex.  Maybe even a couple extra boxes.

For ideas on ways to cut costs for back-to-school (that don’t negatively impact the school day!) check out this post with six ways to save on school supplies and clothing!

 

 

13 thoughts on “Please, Just Buy the Kleenex (on your kids’ supply list)

  • August 19, 2017 at 6:36 am
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    I understand that schools have budget problems, but it is the school system’s responsibility to furnish supplies for the classroom. It is also a parent’s responsibility to purchase supplies for their children. Many families are struggling to maintain their own households. Why should they have to purchase for others? Having the same pencils, calculators etc. is a good idea.

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  • Pingback: Ways to Save for Back To School! | Mostly Caffeinated

  • August 9, 2017 at 3:26 pm
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    It is beyond me why public schools don’t allow for these expenses int heir budgets. I work as a special ed advocate so budgets are always my enemy lol. I make sure to buy a couple boxes of kleenex to send her teacher throughout the year. I would hate it if I couldnt blow my nose lol

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  • August 9, 2017 at 7:28 am
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    Helpful for people to hear the reasons behind the requests.

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  • August 8, 2017 at 11:10 pm
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    I loved reading the post. The points you shared here are just great and required as the supplies are the issue. But I think Education system should evolve in a way to fullfill the needs. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  • August 8, 2017 at 10:03 pm
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    Yes!! I personally am happy to buy the Kleenex. Our teachers work so ridiculously hard and I don’t think a lot of parents realize how much work they put in before and after school, or to make those lovely displays of our children’s work or update the app with pictures.

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  • August 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm
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    I have to admit, I wondered why, year after year, we had to purchase all of this stuff. I honestly appreciate your explanation. May this year’s resistance be minimal for you!

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  • August 8, 2017 at 3:09 pm
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    YESS!!! ALL THE YES! As a former teacher myself, I completely agree. I LOVE that you gave the reasons why teachers ask for the things that they do. It’s not without careful consideration! Love everything about this post.

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  • August 8, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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    Great post! I love how you broke everything down and explained the why. I’m a middle school teacher (we don’t give out supply lists like the elementary schools) and I buy all of my own supplies, but I don’t complain when I have to buy for my children’s classrooms!

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  • August 8, 2017 at 11:41 am
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    So many good points! I had never thought about things like how off-brand pencils can be hard to sharpen, but it makes total sense! But it’s a shame that teachers even have to do this–wish the school sustems/government were able to provide for our kids! (Sadly public education budgets are currently being slashed even further. It’s so sad!)

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  • August 8, 2017 at 9:16 am
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    I love this!!! Great article. And yes, please buy kleenex! lol

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  • August 4, 2017 at 8:40 am
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    I don’t think the complaint is with the teachers, but with the school system. With public education, I don’t understand why these things aren’t budgeted for. It kind of drives me nuts how inefficient it is, both in time and money, to buy supplies individually instead of in bulk. My whole family is comprised of teachers, so I know how hard they work (and how much of their own money and personal time is invested in their students!).

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