Here comes Samantha, late to class for the fourth time in five days. Her mother drops her off sometimes on time, more often than not fifteen minutes into first period class. My class turns to look at her as she enters, same stained gray sweatshirt, dirty jeans, and sneakers ready to fall off her feet. She will stoically take her seat, eyes staring down at her empty desk, no book bag, paper, pens, or notebook. Same thing, different day.
Some students come to class unprepared. Sometimes the motive is to play the James Dean of the class, the little rebel, too cool for school. But in other instances, larger familial problems are taking place. In the county I call home, current unemployment rates have been as startlingly high as 17 percent. This equates to roughly one out of seven people sitting on unemployment checks. And how does this statistic affect my students? Supplies may be scant; parents make the logical choice (hopefully) of providing food and paying critical bills in lieu of purchasing that Mead 5 subject notebook and Papermate pens.
A teacher’s job is not to necessarily decide between the rebels in their class and the financially challenged. More often than not, educators open wide their own wallets to assist their students if hardships are detected. But digging deep for disadvantaged students can also create its own problem: Teachers, after all, have to pay their bills and eat too! And how many students can they provide for before their own pocketbooks have space for rent?
1.) Staples to the Rescue
If you are an educator and you live by a Staples store, the beginning of a school year is an opportunity that cannot be missed. Supplies are sold for pennies on the dollar; this past August I purchased a ten pack of pencils for a penny and ten folders for a dime. Essential supplies from my loose change shopping spree are stored in my class for student use. Some students are easily embarrassed by the lack of materials they have. In these cases, discussing the free hand-outs away from inquisitive eyes of classmates and supplying them before class begins is an easy solution.
2.) Stuff the Bus
Many school districts nationwide provide opportunities for teachers to request supplies for their classrooms and specifically for students in poverty. These “Stuff the Bus” promotions often take place during a weekend early in the school year and supplies are offered to educators and their students for free. Buses roll into school parking lots packed to the gills with supplies ranging from pens to notebooks, binders, and clothes. Proceeds are gained either through grants or businesses who understand the benefits of students being prepared in an educational setting.
3.) The Hallway Sweep
This final idea is a time-honored veteran teacher secret. Well, okay, it is not exactly that big a secret. Once the school buses leave for the day, many teachers sweep the hallways for items left behind in the hallways or their own classrooms. One would be amazed at how many pens, pencils, markers, and unclaimed composition notebooks can be found! Supplies can be kept in a favorite old mug on an educator’s desk for students who “forgot” to bring something to write with to class.
The last thing a teacher wants to do is make a public spectacle of a student without supplies, because his or her situation may be one of poverty and hopelessness. Education is the way forward and supplies mandatory toward this progression away from destitution. And if the student was just trying to avoid work? Supplying the pen and paper extinguishes any excuse for the lazy as well!
More from this Contributor:
5 Items to Supply for Parents on Back to School Night
5 Things Parents can Provide to Assist Educators’ Pocketbooks
Absenteeism and Parental Accountability: Please Get Your Child to School!