Shared School Supplies: Why Don’t They Warn Us?

My older son started kindergarten today. He’s been nervous, excited, and ever-so-ready.

I found the school supplies list for kindergartners on the school’s website (they don’t send it home in advance) and went to Staples to pick up the crayons, glue, a glue stick, and markers. I also bought him pencils, a pencil sharpener, a pencil case, and scissors. I had a new box of tissues (also on the list) at home, and I planned to buy the disinfecting wipes within the first week of school.

He happily organized all his new stuff into his new backpack. I wrote his name on everything, including the crayon and marker boxes.

At drop-off this morning, I noticed another mom handing the teacher a gift bag labeled “school supplies.” What? Maybe she was giving some extras to the classroom.

No.

When Max got home from school, I asked about his day. He had a good day and a great time and seems to be getting the hang of it (on his first day!), but when I asked if he’d given the box of tissues to his teacher, his face fell.

“She took all my stuff,” he said.

What?

“My new markers and my crayons and stuff. She took them and put them into a box for the whole class. I didn’t like that. She only left me my pencil case.”

I didn’t like this, either. At all. I’d be happy to buy some school supplies for kids whose families can’t do so for them, but don’t have me send my child to his very first day of school, with his own special school supplies, only to take them away from him!

I kept calm and looked through his backpack to see what was left. Pencil case, pencils, scissors, pencil sharpener.

“And my glue stick! She took my glue stick!” he wailed.

“Shhhh,” I said. I’d bought a four-pack. I gave him another one, putting it into his pencil case. He zipped it shut. “She won’t find this one,” he said, sniffling.

What the fuck. I have read several posts and articles about this: good arguments about allergies, or about toxins in some of the regular classroom supplies, or about how having their own supplies teaches kids to take care of their stuff. I fully agree with these arguments. I also would love to buy supplies for another family who can’t afford them.

But to not let us know in advance that this is how it works? Really? What about even a small quick note on the school-supply list: These items are for communal class supplies, not for your individual child. If he or she wants his own special supplies, he or she can keep those at home. This list is for combined classroom items.

Would that be so hard? Then I could have warned him. The child already has to deal with protecting his stuff from a younger brother. To worry that his teacher will take his stuff, too? Nice way to start the school year.

Just a tiny bit of communication would have let me warn him that the shiny new things were for his classroom, not for him. Just a few simple words.

Instead, now he’s worried the school is going to take his stuff.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

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