Here we are again! It’s the Sunday of the summer, as I like to refer to the month of August. There’s excitement, some nerves, back-to-school dreams, a few last impulse-trips to the beach, and of course, back-to-school shopping. Teachers, parents, and students are all browsing the aisles of folders and colorful pens, picking out the perfect accessories for the new school year.
As school budgets shrink from year to year, many teachers spend a good deal of their own money on supplies. Unfortunately, that’s often not enough and teachers must reach out to parents as well. There is no teacher under the sun who is not eternally grateful for each and every contribution that a parent makes to the classroom. Teachers painstakingly make choices, knowing that many budgets are limited, and send out the lists with the understanding that everybody will do their best to get what they can.
One question I’ve seen floating around social media, however, goes something like this: Why is my kid’s teacher asking for specific brands? Does it really matter?
The short answer? No. In the end, teachers are just grateful for parents’ generosity. That said, if you have the time, money, and patience, following the supply list as closely as possible can really help a teacher out. Spending your days with groups of children has countless rewards, but it is also a lot of work and takes an abundance of patience. The needs that parents and caregivers strive to meet throughout the day are multiplied many times over when you’re a teacher, especially with the youngest ones. Eliminating the little things like pencils that just won’t sharpen, or markers that last for one or two uses, can make a teacher’s day a little bit easier, leaving more energy for the important stuff.
Buying quality brands is also a better use of your money. I always felt terrible when I would break out a pack of new markers, pencils, or pens, and they would essentially have to go directly into the garbage. Some brands are just better suited for the wear-and-tear of a classroom, especially at the elementary level where supplies are often shared by the community. So, without further ado, here are five supplies, brand specific, that always helped my classroom run smoothly. You can click on the image if you want to do some of your supply shopping from here!
1. Pencils: Ticonderoga Is My One And Only Love
There’s just no way to anticipate the way pencils will impact your life as a teacher: There just HAS to be somebody EATING THESE PENCILS! Where are they going??
Teachers have to design these ridiculously complex systems to ensure that everyone is armed and ready to write without having a constant line at the pencil sharpener. I could get into it, but really, it’s comical…and kind of nuts.
Despite these elaborate efforts, sometimes there’s just no avoiding a pencil emergency. That’s where quality of pencil comes in. I can always tell when there’s a non-Ticonderoga pencil in the sharpener. It’s grinding away and yet nothing productive seems to be happening. You pull it out to inspect, and the graphite is all the way to the left. For some reason, you still hold out hope and begin to pick at the wood a little bit, thinking all will be well. Back in the sharpener it goes. Watching and listening to this while you’re trying to teach? Well, let’s just say, it’s nice to avoid.
The luxury option! Pre-sharpened Ticonderoga. When your kid’s teacher has to unexpectedly jump up from small-group work to rescue a pencil-less child (So weird…I JUST put 1,000 new ones out…) all he or she has to do is grab one of these and get right back to business. It’s a little bit like winning the lottery.
2. Erasers: Staples Brand Pink Wedge
Erasers, my friends…they cause trouble. When kids get new pencils with that beautiful, perfectly sculpted pink eraser, they turn into the ultimate destructors. You’ll see full-arm sweeps across the paper, little curly-Qs of rubber flying in all directions. In no time, kids are positioning their pencils upside-down, with surgeon-like precision, using that last corner of eraser. Once that’s gone…Can I borrow your eraser? Just for one second…5 minutes later and nobody has anything done because they’re all patiently waiting for their turn with the one pencil that still has an eraser. So, extra erasers are a must in most elementary classrooms.*
Potential Eraser Hazards:
- Fun erasers may not be fun for teacher. You had the bug eraser last time! You said I could use the purple one for math!
- Erasers that fit on top of the pencil. Big disappointment. They rip pretty much immediately.
- Extra-hard or extra-soft erasers. You know the kind. They just rub the graphite all over the paper until…rip!
- Erasers becoming like swiss cheese due to multiple pencil-stab wounds. Well, that one’s hard to avoid for some reason.
Deal breakers? No. Making a teacher’s life easier? Yes.
*Pens or pencils without any erasers at all can be a good thing, sometimes preferable, but the pencil/eraser dilemma still crops up for art projects, final drafts of writing, etc. Just for you problem-solvers out there. 🙂
3. Post-Its: No Pop-Ups, Please!
For teachers everywhere, please stay far away from these trouble-makers, unless they’re specifically requested. That may sound a little dramatic, but even the most well-intentioned second-grader, upon dropping this unwieldy snake on the floor, will stumble around for ten minutes trying to put it back together. Just kidding, that’s me.
Not to mention, what do I do when I’m by myself with a pack of Pop-Ups? I pretend I’m playing the accordion, or that I have a slinky, or any other crazy thing that an insta-toy would inspire. So you can only imagine the wide-eyed glee when a child realizes that the teacher has mistakenly placed one of these wondrous distractions in front of her. Then taking it away just feels mean because who doesn’t want to play with that thing?
The standard Canary Yellow 3×3 Post-Its are great, but a lot of teachers will request specific colors that will help them execute their lessons, so if you can meet those requests, you will have a grateful teacher. Sadly, most fun shapes and extreme sizes can make Post-Its more of a distraction than a learning tool, so in the absence of a specific request, simple tends to be best.
4. Dry-Erase Markers: Expo All The Way
These guys used to be just for teachers. Not so anymore! This is a good thing for learning, actually, but not so much for laundry. Sorry all you laundry-doers out there! You’re welcome, stain-remover companies!
There is so much that is awesome and fun about working with little kids. They’re loving, kind, energetic, and hysterical. It’s when you start giving them a lot of stuff to hold that things can get dicey. White boards and dry-erase markers are used so that all kids can participate in a lesson at once. Rather than having one child raise his hand to give the answer, they all write or draw their answers and hold them up. That means that 20-something kids are holding white boards, markers, and erasers. What could go wrong? Actually, it’s usually only one thing:
Kid: Ummm, my marker’s not working!
Teacher: Didn’t I just give you a new one?
You would not believe how bad some of these marker brands are. Some of them are dry right out of the package! If buying Expo is in your budget, you can rest assured that it will be worth it for the class, and you’ll know that you saved your child’s teacher from plowing through the marker supply, despite his best efforts at making them last.
Often you will see a request for thick dry-erase markers as well as thin. The thick markers are usually for the teacher, and the thin ones will be used by the kids. If you can only choose one, go for the thin. And if you can stick to color preferences, usually black, you might even get a hug. Wait, why does Joey get a green one??
5. Crayola Everything
It’s not that other brands aren’t any good, it’s just that Crayola is better. In my experience, their products stand up the best to the constant use and abuse they get in a classroom. Whether it’s markers, crayons, colored pencils, or watercolor pallets, they just go the distance.
Well, that does it!
On behalf of teachers everywhere, THANK YOU for providing much-needed supplies in whatever way you can. Anything extra is just a bonus. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and happy shopping!