May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

What Your Kids Really Need in School

As someone who’s been a student, a parent and a teacher, I think we should do something to change these school-supplies lists. The school sends home massive lists that haven’t really been changed since the first year the school was in operation, and then after you buy everything on it, the teacher walks in on the first day of school and sends home a list of things you need to buy by the second day.

Wait. So then who wrote the first list?

And some of these teachers want items that are way too specific. For example, a lot of teachers require specific-colored folders. This way, the teacher can just say, “Get out your green folders,” and everyone will, except the colorblind kids. That makes sense. Because otherwise, the teacher would have to say, “Get out your reading folders.”

Or the teacher says she wants a composition notebook. I write compositions for a living, and I never use a composition notebook. Because when you’re doing freestyle writing, you want something with no margins and short pages that you can’t rip out without ruining the integrity of the notebook. And why are the books camouflaged?

And then some teachers want things that aren’t even legally considered school supplies. Why do they need Ziploc bags? I think the teacher’s just putting his groceries on the list.

And then there’s tissues. Why are tissues even something we have to send in, but paper towels are free? Why don’t we have to send in toilet paper? Who decides where to draw the line?

And then there are the normal things, such as pencils, that we have to buy in abnormal amounts. We got a list one year that said that my son had to bring in 72 pencils. My wife sharpened and labeled 72 pencils, thinking, “This is ridiculous. Are they eating the pencils?”

Possibly. The ones that made it home at the end of the year had teeth marks.

Why so many pencils?

Well, in case they lose some of them.

Of course they’re going to lose some of them. You hand a kid 6 dozen of anything and he’ll lose some. Give him one! I know my kid is going to lose his yarmulke sometimes, but I send him to school with one. I don’t put 72 yarmulkes on his head at the beginning of the year and hope for the best.

And then every teacher starts making decisions for the other teachers. One teacher asks for a loose leaf so you can reserve one section for his subject. The next teacher wants his own single-subject notebook. The next teacher asks for a five-subject notebook so you can have one section for HIS subject. The next teacher wants you to bring in a soft-cover loose leaf so you can—What? Fold it up and put it in your pocket?

My son had a rebbi last year who required one loose leaf that he could use to keep his taitch sheets in at home.

Great. You think we’re actually doing that? No. I have one loose leaf sitting at home for 10 months, and I periodically ask, “Why isn’t this at school?”

“That’s the home one.”

“Oh. I didn’t require that. I asked for a plaid folder.”

Why are there plaid folders? School’s not nerdy enough?

And you have to bring in everything in September, including Pesach notebooks, but most of it doesn’t get used until later.

Like every school says, “Send in a protractor.” The kids use it for about a week, and it’s never the first week of school. It’s sometime in March. The teacher’s like, “Remember those protractors that everyone brought in at the beginning of the year?”

And everyone’s like, “No.”

And then there are the things the kids don’t seem to need at all. I brought a highlighter to yeshiva every year and did not use it once, except to color my sneakers when I was bored, and I got 90s all through school. Should I have used it on the textbooks we had to give back? Or to highlight my notes while I was writing so I knew which parts are important? If I’m writing it, it’s important.

But someone’s putting it on the list, right?

So it’s really the school itself putting this list together—not the teacher—because they don’t want you to have to run out at the last minute once they decide which teachers are getting which kids.

So what’s the teacher supposed to do? Just tell you to bring in the basics in September and then, as he needs things, send home notes asking you to send them in? Parents love that at random times during the year.

So what are their options?

Maybe the teacher should send home lists the first day, but with dates posted next to each item so you know how long you have. That way you know what they want, and you don’t feel nickeled and dimed later. And you can also timeshare items such as protractors between all your kids. And the teacher can also—instead of asking for massive amounts of pencils up front—write something like, “30 pencils a month.”

“That’s it?”

Then at the end of every month, we can ask our kid, “How many pencils do you have left from last month?” And he’ll say, “Three!” and you can go, “Yay!” and give him a small reward. And then you’ll send him with 27.

By Mordechai Schmutter


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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