Sunday, August 16, 2009

The first, official test of primary school is for parents

I knew it was coming: The letter that would send me off the deep end.

When it arrived, I could tell by its thickness that the legal-sized envelope contained a brewing storm of discontent.

Even my husband, who normally opens only those things addressed to him that he believes contain payment for services rendered, couldn’t wait until Ittybit got home to tear open the missive and see which Kindergarten teacher she wrangled.

He called me immediately. "Well … Ittybit’s teacher is …" he said over the phone at mid-day. He sounded disappointed after saying the name. "Do you remember her?"

He was hoping she’d get a teacher we knew from the community or one recommended by a friend. But neither of us wanted to be "THAT PARENT," the one with the squeaky wheels, always needing grease.

"I’m sure it will be fine," I said, believing our first born could charm a snake if she needed to. Not that I’d want to make that comparison with respect to a teacher of five-year-olds. Or would I?

When I got home and thumbed through the brightly colored pages filled with welcoming words and informative warnings, it was the light pink sheet with its tiny print that made the hair rise on the back of my neck.

I’d expected that, too.

I have enough friends with school-aged children to know budget cuts have meant parents shell out for all sorts of items that, when they were in school, used to be procured through purchasing departments things such as art paper and tissues, art supplies and in some cases cleaning products and disinfectants.

For years, frazzled families have told me all sorts of stories – using teachers’ names in vain – detailing how they’d nearly driven themselves to the edge of insanity trying to procure all the name-brand supplies, which inflate the over-all price of the Back-to-School shopping spree by 20 to 30 percent, listed on their supply sheets.

I also know that parents who stray from list find the offending brands sent back home with a note of derision.

When the following items:

n Kleenex (no lotion or perfumes)

n Crayola Twistable Crayons

n Crayola Washable Markers

n ZipLoc Gallon-sized bags

n Expo brand dry erase markers

n Elmer’s glue sticks

n Fiskars scissors (blunt)

n and Dixie Cups

were specified on our supply list, I can’t say I was surprised. But I was still disappointed.

"Tell me again," I asked my friend, who is now in her last years of public school procurement, "why do teachers demand Fiskar scissors and Ziploc bags? Why do they want Mead binders and Kleenex brand tissues? Why do they specify Elmer’s glue sticks? I mean, I must have two boxes of generic glue sticks that are probably made by Elmer’s but sold to companies who sell them with a different label anyway …"

She just looked at me with a pained expression and told me the same thing my husband said …

"Oh, you are going to have such a hard time with school, aren’t you?"

I know, I know, I know … I’ve been saying it all along. Ittybit will be brilliant and I will be bucking the norms.

I’m going to be that mother who sends generic tissues and glue and baggies … the one who sends her kid to school with generic glue and no-name dry erase markers, poised for battle.

Now, I understand the arguments that teachers have preferences, that students having the same tools lessens jealousy and other boneheaded (excuse me) reasons for brand uniformity but in public school, where uniforms have been fought tooth and nail, it just seems disingenuous.

Perhaps a more plausible explanation is that teachers are testing parents trying to learn early on which ones will be compliant and which ones are destined to roil the waters.

"Wait until she gets to high school," my friend laughs. "You are going to need a lifejacket."


JL said...

I think that there are different quality items and the brand names are the standard. While you could easily pick up dollar store glue sticks, I've found plenty that just don't work as well. And tissues that say they don't have additives but actually do.

Do you want to tell the kids who are breaking out or the art students with the pieces that just don't stick that you wanted to buck trends out of principle.

I totally get it. They shouldn't ask, but there it is. Brands deliver standard.

toyfoto said...

They do ... and they don't though. Some teachers swear by RoseArt. Some Crayola. Then you have the situation where one "brand-name" company actually makes the item sold by the store brand.

Remember the dog food debacle? Buying expensive brands didn't matter. It all pretty much had the same tainted ingredients.

Whirlwind said...

I never really stopped to think about it with the brand names, but I've also never had a teacher complain if I sent the wrong brand in.

Your list is easy - I'm posting mine later.

toyfoto said...

I know. The kindergarten supply list is easy compared to those from higher grades. Our sitter had to buy a $65 calculator. It kills me how some kids are relying on churches and other organizations to donate school supplies.

We will pay for anything for wars and prisons but not education and healthcare. sad. We're "throwing money" at those.

JL said...

Totally true. I see your point. But I can say from experience, dollar tree glue sticks suck. =)

toyfoto said...

Yeah. ... but when they don't put the caps back on Elmer's is also rendered useless. ;)

Kylie Clark said...

WOW - so specific! here in Australia, we are given the booklist, and then we send in the money. The 'booklist company', purchases everything for us! SO much easier! said...

THAT is a bunch of bull. Seriously.

"Brands deliver standard." I am sorry to pick apart a comment by someone else, but I honestly cringed and then seethed when I read that statement. Because THAT? Is not true. Perhaps, IF there is a chemical in one that is a common allergen for students, the school should ask for a specific brand that is deemed "safer." But specific dixie cups and ziploc baggies?!? Kleenex brand instead of tissue for 79 cents?

No way. I never paid attention to the specifics on their lists. And a teacher never complained. Be happy I am actually sending in the supplies, was my thought. Also, in the early grades, most supplies are tossed into a big bin for sharing. And kids do NOT differentiate between the generics or name brands. Or rather, if they DO? Then their parents are too focused on such nonsense, themselves.