When I was a little kid, one of my favorite days of the year (besides Christmas Day) was the day the newspaper posted the list of required school supplies, and Mom took us to the drug store to buy them.
I loved looking at that list, and Mom always let me put the little checkmark beside the items as we put them in our basket.
Prang paints. Check. Paint pan. Check. Rectangular eraser. Check. Blunt-tipped scissors. Check. Etc. Check.
On the first day of school, I loved bringing my beautiful shiny school supplies into my new classroom, and I loved arranging them all inside my desk. I loved to look inside my desk and just savor the sight: all those cool things I could draw with and paint with and write with. . . and they were mine, all mine, and nobody else could touch my things unless I gave them permission. Me. I was the boss of my desk things. I took such pride in my school supplies, and mine were usually still looking pretty good even at the end of the year. They were mine, you see, and I had a vested interest in them; therefore, I took pains to take care of them. Back then, down in lower elementary, the school supplied only the special fat pencils and the weird orange pens. Oh, and that huge jar of smelly paste that bore the germs of generations past. . . .
When my own children were little, I looked forward to Buying School Supplies Day with just as much delight as I did when I was a little kid. New binders. New pencils. And the most fun of all, choosing the new lunchbox. My own children loved the new school supplies, too. I think it is of vital importance that all children have their own school supplies; it is the beginning of them learning the pride of possession and the importance of caring for one’s own things in order to keep them for any length of time.
It’s not like that in many schools nowadays. Many teachers do not allow their students to have their own supplies now; the little sack of a child’s very own things is taken from the child on that first day, and dumped into the community pot for all the kids to dip into and out of. There are no “my scissors, ” there is only a rack or box of scissors for everyone. “Look, there are my scissors; my name is engraved on them; I wish I could use them but they’re so cool, other kids grab them first every time. . . .” There are no more personalized pencils or a child’s favorite cartoon character pencils to use and handle carefully; there is only a big bucket of chewed-on germ-covered pencils grabbed at and used by everybody in the room.
And since nothing belongs to anybody, who cares about taking good care of them?
I fully understand that the community pot of supplies is much easier for a teacher to control. I wasn’t, however, aware of the fact that teacher convenience was any kind of issue here. I taught in the public schools for 26 years and I never expected things to happen for the convenience of me; that wasn’t why I was there.
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