At the end of every summer, parents load up their shopping carts with bags of school supplies, hoping they’re sending their kids packing off to school well-prepared and ready to work.
As a former teacher, I can tell you that half of what they need, most kids don’t have, and what they don’t need probably ends up in Mom’s cart anyhow.
Let me save you some trouble. I’ve asked teachers from all over the country to name those basic school supplies you’re least likely to need in your back-to-school shopping cart, and which supplies they wish students had in surplus throughout the school year.
What do teachers across the board wish parents would supply at the beginning and throughout the school year? Lined paper and “something to write with!” emphasizes Melissa Grace.
High school teacher Nicole Bonville agrees. “A lot of my students ask to borrow paper, pens, and/or pencils. They should at least have that, but often don’t.”
Ah, yes. I remember those days well.
Top ten must-have basic supplies:
- Lined paper
- Ruled composition notebooks
- Colored pencils
- Extra erasers
- Lunch box
- Glue sticks
There’s plenty of other things you’ll want to avoid spending money on unless the school or teacher specifically requests or requires them. Unless that happens, most teachers I interviewed agreed that the following items were probably the least likely to be used during the school year for most students, and you can probably mark them off your supply list.
The top ten items teachers feel you can do without:
- Pencil box (with a little cleaning, last year’s model works just fine, and older kids can’t use them at all)
- Protractor/compass set (you probably still have one from high school sitting around in your junk drawer)
- Markers or felt-tip pens (over and over, teachers noted: “they bleed through!”)
- Liquid glue (too big and messy to keep in a desk or in a backpack, and teachers usually have it on hand anyhow)
- Highlighters (if you purchase your own textbooks every year, they’re great, but for most students, they’re a waste of money)
- Large, carryall binders (did they work any better for you when you were in school?)
- Wheeled backpacks (unless the child walks home long distances, kids trip all over them)
- Pencil sharpeners (“they play with them and they make a mess” and there’s no such thing as a classroom without a large pencil sharpener as part of the standard decor)
- Glitter (you’re not doing the teacher any favors here)
- Rulers (“they’re not used for their intended purpose, ie: rulers = swords” and teachers usually keep them on hand)
Why? Unless your child’s teacher has given specific instructions to keep these items on hand, the consensus is that the above supplies are unnecessary: they are usually either supplied by the school or you already have them at home, should the need arise.
“I think everything has the potential for use,” says second grade teacher Grace. “It depends on the grade level and the teacher. I had my students bring glue and scissors this year. Next year there will be no glue or scissors requested. They just play with it, cut the paper to smithereens and spill the glue in the desk. I’ll give students scissors and glue if I want them to have them.”
Get Crafty With Your Supplies
Teacher Keri Bell-Driscoll takes a positive outlook on it. “I don’t feel that any supplies are a waste of money as long as they are grade appropriate; every supply would be used.”
It’s always a good idea to keep basic craft supplies on hand anyway; most take-home projects with an art element will require the use of those scissors, glue and markers.
Raid the school supplies aisle when they’re clearing out before the holiday sales, and you can net plenty of basics to keep you supplied all year, and then some.