At the start of the year, teachers (or schools) often give out lists of supplies for each family to purchase for their child. Many parents enjoy getting materials for their child, but these “private stashes” can leave some children with inferior supplies and cause bickering and hurt feelings when children lend supplies only to certain classmates. I’ve found that switching to a community supply system—all supplies are shared by everyone—makes for a much more peaceful classroom. Here are a few guidelines on making the switch to this way of handling supplies:
Let parents know about the new system.
Some parents may be confused or even upset if there isn’t a list of supplies to get for their child. Early in the year, send a note or email to each family to let them know how supplies will be handled in your classroom.
Tell parents why.
I’ve found that parents are very understanding if I explain my reasons for having community supplies: This system helps foster a sense that the classroom and everything in it belong to everyone; it helps children learn how to share and cooperate; it cuts down on competitiveness and one-upmanship; and it ensures that all children have what they need.
Invite parents to provide community supplies.
Create a wish list of needed supplies so that if families want to do some back-to-school shopping for the class, they’ll know what to get. Ask each family to donate a quantity of one type of supply—pencils, markers, glue sticks, etc.—for the whole class to use.
Remind parents that they can still buy special supplies for their child.
Gently explain, though, that to be fair to the other children, special supplies will have to stay at home to be used for project work done there.
Explore other ways of obtaining community supplies.
Try using one of the websites set up to link classrooms needing supplies with interested donors. Here are two:
Do you have a different way of handling supplies, or other good supply sources? Share your ideas!
Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including What We Say and How We Say It Matter, The Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: www.leadinggreatlearning.com. Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.