You may not know this, but I was an elementary school teacher in my previous life. My first teaching job was in a district with a really tight budget. And by tight, I mean they actually cancelled all of the specials like art, music and physical education for a few years because they didn’t have enough money in the budget to support them. I came to my first year teaching there after having done my student teaching in one of Boston’s more affluent suburbs and had a bit of an adjustment period.
Handing out supplies to the teachers was something like that opening scene in the arena during The Hunger Games where all of the contestants are fighting for the limited resources in the Cornucopia. The school put the teacher supplies on a few folding tables in the main hallway and the teachers lined up to walk by and take what they needed. Between being new and not really knowing what I would need and also not grabbing a spot near the beginning of the line, I walked away with so few supplies that I didn’t even need a bag to carry them down to my room.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was going to be hurting for supplies when the kids showed up. This wasn’t the kind of school where the kids came with an abundance of supplies for themselves, never mind extras to donate to the classroom. I was usually thrilled if the kids had a few pencils and a notebook to use. I had a few parents who took pity on me and would send in donations of items they knew I was really hurting for and the rest I usually bought myself and brought in. Luckily, I was single and living at my parents’ at the time, so I didn’t have a lot of expenses and could afford to spend some of my pay on my classroom supplies.
I learned a lot that first year, and the seven years that followed before I left teaching to stay home with Josh. One of the things I learned was that there are certain items that teachers can never have enough of, and I always try to bring extras of those in to the classroom when I can. Here are five of the items I know I always ran out of:
It didn’t matter if I was in a first grade classroom or a fifth grade classroom, there was always a need for glue. Both glue sticks and old fashioned white glue in a bottle always seemed to be in demand. With the popularity of slime recipes righ now, it is even harder to get your hands on a big, classroom size bottle of glue. If you see one, grab it quick and consider donating to your child’s teacher – I guarantee it will make you a classroom hero!
Kids use it to print out pages from the computer, fold it into shapes, draw on it, do calculations on it, cut it up and a million other things. Any classroom can never have too much white printer paper. Trust me! If you see a great deal and are stocking up at home, consider grabbing a ream for your child’s classroom as well.
Small prizes or rewards
Even my big fifth graders loved earning treats and rewards. I always had a big bucket of “prizes” they could choose from and it worked as a great motivator when it came to behavior. Josh’s Kindergarten teacher had a “school store” when the kids could shop with the reward money they earned by following directions and showing good behavior. Even after Josh had moved on to the upper grades, I still brought in little trinkets and prizes for his former kindergarten teacher to use in her store. Have extra favors from your child’s party? That’s exactly the kind of thing I used as a teacher!
One of the first things you realize as a teacher is that kids use Kleenex for everything: spilled drinks, hand wipes, even cleaning off the white board. Since they are so useful, classrooms burn through boxes like nobody’s business! I usually had several boxes scattered throughout the room so that the kids had easy access no matter where they were. Josh’s school asks that each kid bring in two boxes at the beginning of the year. I try to send in a few extra and then a bunch more about halfway through the year when I know they are running low. Since Josh uses them all the time at home, I know he goes through more than his fair share at school and I don’t mind helping to replenish the teacher’s supply!
Sam’s Club is running a great special right now – 16 boxes for $16. Just look for the cute school bus display. I decided to grab a bunch for Josh’s classroom and a bunch for home!
I might give him a little help carrying them all in to school though….
Whether it is helping the teacher prep materials, chaperoning a field trip, organizing a fundraiser or even helping the kids with their math facts, any way you can help in a classroom is so appreciated. I loved volunteering in Josh’s classes. It gave me a chance to get to know the teachers as well as some of the other kids. It also gave me a better handle of what they were working on in the classroom and what the expectations were. As a teacher, the volunteers that helped out in my classroom were like angels and made my job so much easier!
Anything you can do to help out your child’s school and/or teachers is a help to your child in the end.