Michelle Bellamy: It’s back to school: school supplies

It’s almost time. The school supplies have begun filling up all the shelves again, busses are practicing their routes, the emails are flowing in reminding parents to fill out the new, digital forms. I love my summer freedom, but folks, I am incredibly excited for the new school year.

There is something about a book bag full of blank notebooks and unworn pens and pencils that gives me a sense of possibility. Even as a child when I was headed to school I would have these grandiose dreams of how this would be the year that I would stay organized. This would be the year that I’d learn everything. This would be the year in which all of my dreams of being a super smart and cool kid would finally come true because my Popple lunch box and fancy colored pens would make it so. Now as a teacher and a mother, I still get the same feelings of hopeful anxiety for my children, myself, and my students.

I am often surprised at these school supply lists, though. I understand that classrooms need kleenex and clorox wipes to stay clean. I wholeheartedly agree that teachers should not have to purchase these things for themselves, but I do feel that certain items that are necessary for cleaning a classroom should be provided by the school. That is the case in my school actually. It’s not clorox wipes, but we can request refills on our disinfectant cleaning spray and paper towels whenever needed. I guess I have trouble understanding why a well funded school with an “excellence’ rating can’t afford to equip their classrooms with standard cleaning supplies, but I digress.

The other items on the list that tend to confuse me include specific colored, poly folders with both paper fasteners and pockets. I’ve lived in this district for over ten years, and every year this item has been on at least one of our supply lists. Every year, I can’t find the specific thing they’re looking for. I can find the green folder with fasteners, but it’s not the plastic poly material. I can find the green poly folders with pockets but no fasteners. The store is all out of the green, but we have seventy -five purple poly folders with fasteners and pockets. It can get a little frustrating to deal with that year after year.

I am not saying I don’t understand the uses of these items. I very much do. That’s just my little gripe as a parent. On the other side of this- as a teacher- it breaks my heart to see so many students walk into school without so much as a book bag. I’ve substituted at several schools in the area, and the number of students that don’t even come armed with a pencil can be a bit disheartening, to say the least. Parents, please know that when you’re child lacks a pencil or paper, his or her teacher now has to provide those things for their use. We can’t just let a student sit and do nothing in class because of a ten cent pencil.

That stuff adds up, too. It adds up even further because teachers often want their students to have specific items that aren’t on the supply list or available at school. I personally bought 30 clipboards off amazon last year for my students. It wasn’t terribly expensive, but that plus all of the pens and pencils, papers, and any other curriculum materials that weren’t provided by the school do add up.

As a teacher, every single item your child brings with them is an item I don’t have to supply. None of it has to be expensive, though I do suggest spending a tiny bit more on pens because dried up pens are useless. Hit the sales, and please ensure your child does have the items on the supply list. It serves many purposes, such as setting them up for success, allowing them to be excited about the new school year full of possibilities, demonstrating that you care enough about his or her education to fund these things, and allowing the teacher to have a class full of students who are ready to learn from day one.

Finally, if you have the opportunity at all please take your kids out one last time this summer- to the zoo, a picnic in the park, to a movie, it doesn’t matter what you do, but everyone’s time is about to become more filled with necessary tasks. Enjoy your time while you can.

Bellamy is a 35-year-old mother of three girls. She’s a teacher at a high school, which serves students with mental health and behavioral issues. She also guides walking tours in Over the Rhine. A couple of her favorite hobbies are a “little unusual,” such as ghost hunting and special effects make-up. In her free time, she likes reading, writing, drawing, or hunting thrift and antique stores for odd things.