August 1, 2016

Teachers Know These Things: 10 Practical Tips for Parents


My girls head back to school in about a month, which means stores around here are stuffed with supplies.

Now when I'm shopping, the only thing more confusing than trying to decide which yogurt to buy--Greek? nonfat? full-fat? Icelandic? fruit-on-the-bottom? no fruit but with a sidecar of crunchies?--is trying to figure out what kind of glue stick will provide the most adhesive power before it dries up in the tube at the exact moment one of my children has some massive posterboard project due the next day.

Enter to the rescue my friend Julia, a stellar second-grade teacher and one of my former college roommates who's still speaking to me. (On account of my worshiping at the throne of the almighty 4.0, I was very difficult to live with during my college years. Sorry, roomies. Not that I'm all that easy to live with now. Sorry, family.) Julia shared a life-altering post on Facebook about what kind of pencils professional educators wish their students would bring to class. Buoyed by this bit of consumer clarification, I asked Julia what else parents need to know when they're staring down The Great Wall of School Supplies.

She graciously answered that question and, along with a few of her teacher friends, also offered a few hints for general school-year success. 

Parents, consider this your teacher-approved back-to-school cheat sheet.



1. Presharpened Ticonderoga pencils are IT in the leaded writing implement world. Julia says that when these do need sharpening, your little scholar won't end up shaving most of it off the way they will with cheaper pencils. Seems like this falls in the "you get what you pay for" category of life stuff.

2. Pass up paper folders for more durable, longer-lasting plastic versions. (See "you get what you pay for," above.)

3. Wide-ruled notebooks are the rule in elementary school. Wait on college-ruled until college itself is a little closer. 

4. Crayola crayons. Yes. 

5. On lunch supplies, from an actual student (thank you, Brock): "pack enough for lunch 'cause kids are used to eating snacks in the summer." 

6. Also in the food-and-beverage department: send no-spill drinks in lunches. (While I'm not a professional educator and am in complete awe of those who can be and are, I will say that my girls are still going strong with the Contigo AUTOSEAL water bottles we bought last summer. No leaks, no breakage, no weird taste, no snapping off of the one minuscule part essential to the operation of the whole deal. (Zipper pulls, I'm looking at you.)


7. Buy extra art supplies now while they're readily available. In December, all the seasonal shelf space currently allotted to glue sticks, markers, and crayons will be given over to Ghiradelli chocolate gift sets. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, only that you should buy those markers before the changeover happens. At which point, of course, you should buy the Ghiradelli.

8. If a specific brand of something is on a supply list from your child's teacher, it's probably there for a reason, and it's not because the teacher is getting a kick-back from the XYZ Staple Company. If possible, try to get the brand listed.

9. Just checked mechanical pencils off your list? Great. Did you get the refills? Of course you did. Good job.

10. Stock up on envelopes and zip-top baggies. Because these are what your child's teacher wants money you send to school to be contained in. WITH your child's name on it. AND labeled with what the money is for. Please. Also, thank you.

Extra credit:

Julia and her colleagues also chimed in with a few other suggestions for a successful school year. Between these and your killer school supplies (and prayer...lots of prayer), I think you've got this, mama.
  • Designate one area of your house for school "stuff"--packets, handbooks, notes from the teacher, etc. That way, when the question is "where in the world was that [insert specific school-related piece of paper]?" you'll already know the answer.
  • Drop off all medications to the school nurse; don't send them with your student. And inform the nurse and your child's teacher of any diagnoses.
  • Sign and return forms right away. Or sooner.
  • Don't be on the phone when you pick your kids up or when they get home. I love the why behind this advice from Diane, a first-grade teacher: "they have missed you!"
  • Check assignment notebooks or take-home folders nightly.
  • Charme, a K-2 Literacy Coach, says, "Be sure to share anything going on with your child or home life, as it affects their day and how [their] teacher may respond to certain things [your] child does."
  • Find out when your child has PE so you'll know when they need to take their gym shoes.
  • Backpack clean-out is best done once a week, not at the end of the year when entire new colonies of living things have taken up residence.
  • Notify the school ASAP if contact numbers or addresses change.
  • "If you have to report an absence or dismissal change, contact the office, not the teacher. Teachers are busy teaching and can't always get to their phone or computer. They may be absent or in a meeting and the sub doesn't have access to their email or voicemail box." (School secretaries like Cindy know these things.)
My thanks to Julia and her colleagues--Sandy, Loree (and Brock), Diane, Susan, Rachel, Ann, Charme, Stephanie, and Cindy--for giving parents this crash-course on all things school-related. Got anything to add? Please share it in a comment or over on Facebook, because among other things, The Great Binder Decision still awaits me.


**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**






20 comments:

  1. I am so thankful to have that info about the best pencils to buy!! We bought mechanical pencils for both girls, but my younger daughter asked for some "regular" pencils as well, and I am beyond tired of the cheap ones that don't sharpen well. :) You may have just saved our school year.

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    1. Well, then, dear Tracey, I'd say my work here is done! ;) I'll be sure to pass along your comment to my friend Julia. After all, we moms take the school-year help however can can get it, right? Thank you so much for your faithful encouragement and support. Happy August to you and your family!

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  2. Great post, girlfriend. I can attest to so many of these truths! Add this: Don't buy school supplies at The Dollar Tree! xoxox

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    1. Aw, thanks, Amanda! Glad this rings true. And I know what you mean about the dollar store. I love the place and can get a few school supplies there, but stuff that needs to go the distance usually requires a trip elsewhere. ;) Thanks so much for stopping by..."happy" school shopping to you (is that on oxymoron?)! :)

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  3. "Pack enough lunch" LOL that is absolutely going to be something I have to remember! I've been trying to get the kids to stick to only mealtimes for weeks, but they are sneaks!

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    1. I know, right?! That was my favorite tip of all. And it's SO true in this house...my two teen girls are eating machines. Which I'm actually thankful about, so I don't complain too much. But I'm not sure I'm ready for the school-lunch routine again. P.S. Love your blog name...you're a riot! :)

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    1. That's great to know, Alexis! I wouldn't argue with any of the wisdom of the teachers who shared it for my post, but I didn't realize this about the crayons. Note to self for future reference. ;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  5. LOVE this list. Luckily, I was a middle school science teacher so we didn't really have these very specific things that they require in elementary school. I was just happy that the kids had any supplies! I can't believe that it's that time of year again! How does that keep happening??

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    1. Oh, good, Christine...I'm glad it rings true to an expert! As to how we're back to school-shopping time again, I have no idea, either. Didn't we just do this? ;) Thanks for taking time to stop by, my friend. xoxo

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  6. OhMyGoodness, #1, 2, 7 and 10 - Yes Yes Yes!!! As well as at least half of the extras, particularly the final one because teachers have approximately 4,738 other things they have to be doing during those precious "morning news" minutes!! P.S. Lucky you for having another month left with them - G went back this past week!

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    1. Hi, Lisa! I've missed you! Thanks so much for giving your experienced "thumbs up" to this post...that's very reassuring since you are most definitely one of the experts! I am indeed thankful for the month we have left...starting before Labor Day just seems wrong to me. Of course, ask us how we feel in May when that month is still out ahead of us in school! ;) So glad you're back. xoxo

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  7. Now I know which kinds of pencils to get my kids. They go through pencils like there is no tomorrow during the school year. Now I know why.

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    1. Isn't that the truth! ;) I had the same "who knew?" reaction when I saw my friend Julia's post. Which is why I thought other moms might like to get in on her wisdom. Thanks so much for affirming that instinct and for stopping by my little piece of the blogsphere! May long-lasting pencils be yours this school year! :)

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  8. These are awesome tips! I always save envelopes from junk mail. As long as it doesn't have an open window for a return address, they are great for sending money in to school. And THANK YOU for the water bottle recommendation! I am always looking for one that actually works. Why is t so hard to find a good one? My migraine boy needs to carry water along with him all day, so it's important to find a good one for him. :)

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    1. YES, Jamie, to saving envelopes! I also write my grocery list on them and then put coupons inside (along with my weekly menu on the back so if I see something on the list and can't remember why it's there, I can flip the thing over and get a reminder). I'm so sorry for your migraine boy...I get them myself. :( (As an aside, has your doctor ever suggested vitamin B2/riboflavin for him? I take a high dose every day and have for years, and the only side effect is that it helps my migraines significantly.) My daughters do LOVE those water bottles, and they truly don't leak. My youngest just bought another one for this year b/c she's a germophobe and said people "touched" last year's. (We're keeping it for a back-up.) The new version has a push-button release for the cap that covers the spout...very handy. Blessings to you and your household in the new school year! :)

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  9. Ooooh, this is great! Yes, sometimes paying more for quality really does make a difference in the long run. Crayola is our #1 colouring brand around here - and the quality is awesome.

    Thanks for sharing all of these tips! Awesome stuff. Pinning to my Back to School board!
    xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer! I especially appreciate you "amening" the Crayola recommendation. Honestly, I never thought it really mattered, but I stand corrected! ;) Thanks so much for stopping by from the #ShineBlogHop!

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  10. Before stepping out of the workplace to become a stay-at-home mom, I was a school nurse. I definitely echo the tip to take medications to the nurse (along with the doctor's orders to administer them, if required by your district) and to inform the nurse of any medical conditions. I can't tell you how often very important things (such as bee sting allergies) weren't shared with me until we had an emergency on our hands!
    Bonus tip: If your phone number changes during the school year, be sure to provide the school with your new number. You'll want them to be able to contact you if something important (like a gashed open head) happens to your child. :-)

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    1. Hi, Shannon...it's so nice to hear from you! Thank you for sharing your voice-of-experience feedback...what a helpful perspective. And WOW about parents not sharing critical health information ahead of time. How nerve-wracking for school nurses and staff! I can tell you that all my contact information with my girls' schools is up-to-date, but I would just as soon NOT get any call about a gashed-open head! ;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!