In this series I'm going to cover some classroom basics, these are the things that any teacher who has been in the classroom for more than a few years probably takes for granted. For the most part, anyone willing to stay in the profession for more than a few years will eventually find their "teacher identity". This identity includes how you see yourself as a professional educator, how you manage relationships with your students and their families, and how you want the administration to view your work. All of these things evolve over time, but until you've made a conscious effort to develop and improve these processes, you're probably going to feel unarmed every school year. That being said, fewer things are more frustrating than dealing with students who come into your classroom everyday without any supplies. Rather than pointing the finger at the students, the parents, or yourself I'm going to share the secret of how I nipped this issue in the bud on day one.
My End Product
First thing's first, I encourage you to head over to my "supplies" page (link). I set this page up after I spent an inordinate amount of time hounding students to bring so much as a pencil to class my first year as a high school teacher. I spent a few nights wondering, "why would a parent send their child to school unprepared?" and for the sake of argument I came up with a few "good" reasons along with logical rebuttals.
- The parents/guardians got them the stuff, but they forgot it at home.
This seems ridiculous, they have their backpack... if they don't have a pencil, what's in there? I don't even want to know.
- The parents/guardians don't have money for school supplies.
I could relate with this. I grew up with a single mother and we cut corners everywhere, I can't say that she ever sent me to school without a pencil and a notebook... But, who knows how bad some folks have it.
- The parents/guardians don't know what to buy.
Well... the internet exists, and they've been going to school for 10 or 11 years, so I can't understand the mystery there.
- The parents/guardians bought the supplies, but the student lost them.
This is tricky to deal with. What's to stop them from losing it again?
- The student lent the supplies to someone, and then never got it back.
Do I hold them accountable? How do I do that?
- The parent/guardian is too busy to go to the store.
I could also relate with this, my mother worked almost continuously when I was a kid. I can't say that preparing me for school wasn't a top priority in late August. But again, who knows how bad some folks have it.
After a brief period of pondering these questions (and more) I realized...
It doesn't matter why my students aren't prepared,
I need to fix this and move on to more important things.
My Mission (and yours)
What I needed to do was make purchasing school supplies as easy as paying bills online. Before my students walked into class after Labor Day I needed to do all of the following:
- State in writing exactly what my students needed for school (and for the year),
- The supplies had to be reasonably inexpensive
- And the parents needed to be able to order them online.
I chose to focus on making it possible for parents (or the students themselves) to buy the school supplies online because it would ensure that they were getting the best price, they didn't have to take time away from work or caring for their families, and they would all get everything they needed.
Amazon is your best friend
My solution was to find a bundle on amazon, link the bundle on my site, and make sure that parents and students both saw the page on day one of class. The students saw it when I went over it the first day, and their homework assignment was to go through the supply page (and the "What If List") when they got home. For my freshmen I actually had them fill out an online form (mini quiz) to make sure that they were paying attention. I used lots of forms in my class, sometimes as an instructional assessment, but I also used them for managerial tasks.
What are my alternatives?
So, if you don't have a website, you aren't tech savvy, or you don't have time, here are a few suggestions:
- Just use my school supplies page.
Note: If you use my page send me some love in the comments,on twitter, or pinterest!
- Create a handout like this one (or just use mine if your students need the same stuff that mine did). You can also email a handout like this to parents, this way you're going at this from multiple fronts.
- Send students home with one or more links where they can get the stuff they need. I don't suggest this because students can say, "oh I copied the link down wrong!" I like leaving students with fewer opportunities to make excuses.
I can't think of any more options that fit the three criteria I listed above, If you come up with something or you've had success with another strategy please feel free to leave them in the comments. Or you can always reach out to me through twitter.
KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING
Please leave a comment letting me know what you think of the post, what strategies I should add, resources I should include, and/or general feedback. Also follow me on Twitter for more more posts like this one, and share the ones you find useful.
Thanks for reading!
[header photo credit: Jeff Sheldon]