And Visions of Dollar Signs Danced In My Head
No, I am not getting a raise. Or a bonus check. Or any sort of monetary congratulations/sign of appreciation for my kick a*s year last year, so don’t get excited. The dollar signs belong to me. Or at least they used to. Now they belong to Staples.
I have just returned from my annual pilgrimage to that mecca of office supply-dom. And I have to say that it was quite the roller coaster…full of dramatic twists and turns (which comes as no surprise to Mr. Mimi who thinks I am constantly working to win some sort of trophy for dramatic performance…untrue….flattering that he appreciates my flair for the theatre, but untrue).
Let me begin at the beginning. As I enter Staples, I am a flurry of energy, attempting to recall everything that I had previously listed on my To Buy List. (Alas, the beloved To Buy List was left in another purse…you can lead the organizational horse to water…). I grab a cart and am off! My first priority…plastic tool boxes on sale for 99 cents each. (Which yes, sounds like a good deal, but I do think it is slightly bullshit, because they USED to go on sale for 25 cents each just a few years ago. Geez. I sound old. I also complain about the prices of eggs…)
I emerge from behind a giant display of notebooks and….there they are. But wait! There are stacks upon stacks, but there are only two colors – pink and purple. Now, I am all about “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” but I am also all about avoiding unnecessary complaining. I mean, I can’t stick a little boy with a pink tool box. And don’t get all gender-y on me either! Boys can absolutely choose pink shirts, backpacks, tool boxes, etc (Mr. Mimi happens to look very sexy in a new pink power tie), but I do NOT believe in forcing the pink upon them. Not because I worry about their disappointment. Because I think I might explode if they even THINK about complaining about something I have provided them at my own expense. Selfless, I know.
I immediately abandon my cart, crestfallen. I am about to leave, when I run into a friendly salesperson (a rare, rare finding at Staples in my experience). There is a glimmer of hope.
Me: “Um, do you happen to have any more of those plastic tool boxes?”
Him: “There’s quite a few right there, miss.”
Me: (He called me “miss”! Maybe I’m not so old after all….) (Insert dazzling smile) “Yes, but I teach *** grade and I can’t imagine giving my boys a pink tool box…” (maintaining dazzling smile)
Him: “Well, of course. Let’s see…”
And he leads me back to another display filled with blue, green and clear tool boxes!! Hooray!! I thank the kind man and practically skip back to my abandoned cart. I eagerly count out 22 tool boxes in a variety of colors.
I then move onto those wonderful cardboard displays which I have convinced myself are full of fabulous deals. I understand that they are probably not huge deals, but just having them be separate from the other merchandise and stored in a jaunty cardboard bin makes them feel more special.
I begin to toss all kinds of goodies into my cart…
Crayola Crayons and markers, bottle after bottle of Elmer’s glue, fun erasers, a pencil sharpener, glue sticks, pencils, and dozens and dozens of two pocket folders.
My cart starts to look like my classroom threw up in it…it is a rainbow colored vessel brimming with brand new, shiny school supplies.
My heart is practically bursting. (Seriously, I think I may have giggled as I piled twelve new colors of dry erase markers into my cart…)
And I’m done. I wheel myself over to checkout, where another pleasant (wow…there are two!!) salesperson rings me up. I load pile after pile after pile of stuff onto the counter, watching the register tape spew out of the cash register and begin to touch the floor (really, it did reach the floor).
It was almost like a switch had been flipped.
I was angry.
Why the hell am I spending my money (not to mention my time on this gloriously sunny day) buying school supplies which should be bought be either THEIR PARENTS or THE SCHOOL??!?!
Have I ever told you that I have NEVER (NOT ONCE) been supplied with a pencil? That’s right…seven years of teaching and not one damn pencil. The city for which I work spends all kinds of money catering lunches and employing all sorts of d-bags who have never set foot in a classroom yet get to tell me what to do and NO ONE has even THOUGHT that MAYBE they should give the teachers freaking pencils???
Perhaps the kids can imagine the pencils. Or like a magician, they will come falling out of my a*s. But no, those things don’t happen, because I buy them. Every year. I buy them.
Don’t even get me started telling you that I have also never been supplied with paper…we don’t have time for that one …and it’s already been done!
$233.58 later and I still have to hit up Costco.
I’m just like you … it’s my own money, but I must have Crayola and Elmer’s. There is just no substitute!
New reader here.
Do you live in a high poverty area? I can’t imagine parents not getting school supplies for their kids. I need more information before dispensing invaluable, thoughtful, and unsolicited advice. 😉
There is something about school supplies, tho, that gets the blood pumping and the adrenalin rushing. My mother and I are legendary in our family for purchasing notebooks and such when we really don’t need them. They just don’t get the thrill and joy a brand new notebook or perfectly purple pen can bring!
you missed the deal when they were ONE CENT SISTER…. yes, you heard me friend- A PENNY! BOUGHT A WHOLE COUNTRY FULL OF PLASTIC PENCIL HOLDERS!!!!
Our district has historically been pretty good at giving out supplies. However with education being funded by property tax and property being in the pits right now, at my new school the supply clerk sent out an email explaining that she would only be able to give us half of what we ask for. I emailed her back and basically said, “So if we need 30 of something, we should ask for 60?”
The poor lady has NO sense of humor……
Walmart had glue sticks for 11 cents each, I bought about 130 of them. And Target had 24 pack Crayola crayons for 22 cents each, I got a bunch of them, but that’s about all I’ve bought in the way of supplies for the kids….
I don’t suppose any of the parents will have the good manners to thank you, or to even be aware that you did it — so I will.
Don’t forget to take the tax deduction. Small consolation, but it’s better than nothing.
Rebecca Bell, Ph.D.
And forget about getting the supplies from your school site. It is like Fort Knox to get into any school supply closet. I gave up and signed up for donorschoose.org. Then I got impatient and went to Target and charged everything. Ironically, they asked if I wanted to donate 10% of my purchase to a school. Humph.
We give our students supply lists but they don’t always fill it. I usually have to bring in supplies for some of them. Especially the ELL kids. I only have 3 students with internet at home. 5 actually have some kind of computer. That just seems weird to me. However, I will be teaching my own computer class this year so I will try to get them up to par.
Linda Mystery Teacher
I had to actually buy a set of books for my class that the district said they couldn’t afford. I didn’t want to wait for months to find out if they would, so I spent $500 of my own money (actually the banks – credit card) and I ordered what I wanted. I know it is ridiculous but what can you do when they are needed for education? It is for the kids.
I can just feel your joy and dismay as you traveled through Staples. But you have your supplies and your students will be better for it. So good job and although you might not be thanked with words, their little faces will thank you through out the year. Oh the things we do for our kiddos.
I would also say that in my experience, WalMart is usually cheaper for most supplies. I’m all about the 22 cent crayons (although, they used to go on sale for 20 cents…darn inflation!)
Anyone outside of the teaching realm has no concept of this process. They also don’t understand when we go to the zoo each year and parents don’t pack their kid a lunch. We live in a world that is unlike any other part of humanity. I feel your money loss. My husband is still trying to figure this all out, we’ve only been married for 11 years. Every school year he just shakes his head, like he’s had amnesia from last year!
I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here, we get paid the end of the school year (5 cheques at once) and then not again until mid September. So that back-to-school shopping trip can be a teeny bit stressful!
I’ve NEVER been denied paper and pencils, though. That’s insanity.
Thanks for the tip on Walmart!
We fill out supply lists each year and somehow, the Weave manages to give us nothing on it…instead we might receive a handful of rubber bands, some googly eyes (?!) and 11 glue sticks. What am I supposed to do with 11 of anything?
Thanks for your words guys!!
betsy, I can’t speak to Mimi’s situation, but my husband is a second grader teacher and about half of his kids can be guaranteed not to come in with any supplies. The other half have parents, grandparents or aunties who 1) can afford it and/or 2) have their shit together and will send them in with supplies.
I do teach in a fairly poor area. But ironically, some of the families that I think can afford it the least, are the most generous with what they have and make sure their children have pencils. Not all the time, of course. Other times, it feels as if parents know it will get bought, so why bother and spend their own money? I love my class, but sometimes the bottom line is, they’re not my kids. And when I do have kids of my own, who knows if I’ll be able to do this anymore financially.
Buying a new planner was always the highlight of the new year. I saw some on display at the Borders in Mall of the Emirates and they were ABSURDLY overpriced! Like $25for a plain jane, no design cover, so I sadly turned around and discovered The Time Traveler’s Wife. I guess I don’t really need that planner anyway…
Enjoy your supplies before the little munchkins tear into them! Look at them stacked nicely in your living room and then you’ll have some nice memories when it’s October 20th and you realize you have over a month until Thanksgiving Break!
I agree with the fact that it is the students who can least afford it that often are most generous. But yes, you shouldn’t have to buy the supplies–my first job? I had a budget of 30 dollars a YEAR for supplies (included copying). Yeah, that lasted until about November. And this was in 2000! Everything else was out of pocket or by begging parents…
My favorite part of the school year is strolling through Wal-Mart with a stupid grin on my face buying loads and loads of school supplies. I am SUPER lucky where my district actually budgets about $700 each for us Elementary Teachers!
In the 40s and 50s, I don’t believe we were allowed to bring our own supplies to school. They were quite fussy about what kind of pencil, paper, ruler, little colored counting sticks, etc., we used, and they provided them.
In 1970-72, I spent hundreds of dollars for “extras” for my rural NH classroom; the school supplied the basics.
Now, each school and grade (and sometimes classroom) has a list, available at all stores that carry school supplies, for the supplies “required” for each student. This ranges from gym shoes to markers, glue to pencils, tissues, zip-lock baggies, hand soap and cleanser, even stickers. I haven’t seen toilet paper on a list yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I do what I can by donating supplies to community drives for school supplies. Sometimes these name a specific child and ask for clothing as well as supplies, but more often lately the lists are more generic. I just can’t stand the idea of a kid starting school without “new stuff.”
I remember when my niece first started teaching and she was REQUIRED to spend $350.00 out of her own pocket to decorate and supply her 2nd grade classroom. I was p****d!
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m a dad that supplies virtually all of my family’s income and I am not, repeat NOT going to buy stuff for someone else’s kid especially when it means my kids go without. I just won’t do it.
I feel like we, as educators, look at teaching as if we were doing 3rd world missionary work. We’re not. We live in one of the richest, if not the richest economies in the world, yet you pull hundreds of dollars out of your own pocket for someone else’s kid’s supplies. Doesn’t this just promote the “entitlement” attitude?
I rarely pay out of pocket for supplies. I have the kids bring in supplies and compensate them in one way or another for their ocntribution. For the kids that can’t afford to bring in pencils and paper, there are plenty of things in the classroom they can do to gain ownership in their education.
We’ve all invested literally thousands upon thousands of dollars into our education to be professionals – let’s act like it.
Yep, it’s that lovely time of the year! I’ve stopped doing the Staples trek, though, and I now do all my supply shopping online. I really like your blog!
17 (really 15) more years
Mimi- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- you’re a better person than I am. My shopping so far has been limited to the penny sale at Staples (loads of stuff for less than $10), and what I’ve purchased online (I refuse to spend a day at the teacher supply store). There’s not much you can do with Fadeless paper- and free shipping is a beautiful thing.
Last school year, I spent over $1,000 of my own cash on books so I could have a classroom library. I inherited a Health/PE classroom instead of an English classroom, so I did not inherit a classroom library of my own. It was either buy my own or abolish independent reading. My choice is obvious.
So far this school year (keep in mind, we’ve only been in session for a week), I’ve already spent $300 in supplies, decorating, books, et cetera — and I teach high school!
My first year teaching (high school), my department chair handed me a ziplock bag–sandwich sized–with three pens, a highlighter, some rubber bands, a box of paper clips, a pencil, and a pad of post-it notes. The post-it notes were from a drug company advertising some prescription drug. My chair, a 25-year veteran, said “Yep. That’s for the year. Welcome to [Name of School].”
So, um, yeah. At least all I was usually supplying to my students were pencils and paper. No time for fun projects with crayons (high school kids still LOVE crayons)–have to get the test scores up!!
Oh, and “imagine the pencils”? New favourite quote.
I got my tool boxes donated this year. I was so thrilled to not have to spend the money.
They are all pink.
Oh well, they work and the boys did not whine to much.
I too, feel your pain. Many of the projects in drama require extra materials. They are in the curriculum, yet I get no funding to buy the things I need. Plaster bandages for masks, props for final exams, paper, pencils or heaven forbid, a DVD or CD. I buy my own too. It’s just one of those things we all have to accept if we are going to continue to like our jobs. My husband is supportive. He thinks I’m a good person for it.
Twelve new colors of dry erase markers? I’m drooling just thinking about it! I know exactly what you mean about those “jaunty cardboard bins.” They get me every time.
I am taking a job outside the classroom this year, and will save thousands of dollars!! I will miss the kids, but am so happy to save the cash–maybe I can afford to go somewhere on all those days off we get!!
Oh, I am SUCH a stationery nerd! I can’t pass up a back to school sale on organizational stuff. Not that it ever keeps me organized…
In our school (inner city Catholic school), parents pay a stationery supply fee. It covers copybooks, crayons, glue, pencils and scissors. The problem is that crayons only last a few months, glue runs out and pencils get lost, broken or sharpened down to nubs just for the hell out it. And then what? I go out and buy replacement supplies. Sigh.
Mary Louise Brooks
I know I’m a late bloomer here but, after 10 years of teaching ELL, I’ve decided to supply and recycle. I purchased 25 pencil boxes (.88 at Walmart), wrote my students’ names on masking tape, and put them on the boxes. Inside the boxes, I supplied 2 pencils, 1 glue stick, box of crayons, an eraser, scissors, and a pencil sharpener. They NEVER take this items home. They stay in the classroom until the end of the school year. Then the masking tape comes off and it’s repeated the following September. I have 100s of pencils, erasers, and glue sticks (thanks Dollar Tree!) that I keep on hand in a box. I was going to supply marble notebooks for homework but decided against it and used them as writing journals. Again with the masking tape, which is really easy to remove from everything, including the notebooks! Instead, I use my $100 allotment for … copy paper and printer cartridges, which I get on ebay!
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