The other day, on FB, someone I know asked why her first-grader needed 30 pencils, 8 erasers, and 5 glue sticks. I sincerely think she was just wondering (I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt), but the responses she got in reply boiled my blood a little. These were some seriously ignorant comments, some about "communal use" and teacher supply-nazi's, and others about not giving their kids all of these supplies on the first day, or labeling every single item so other kids couldn't claim them. All sorts of stuff, mostly (from what I can surmise) based on public school experiences, and mostly ignorant of how 6-year-olds work.
So here it is. This is why your first-grader needs all of those supplies (based on my having taught first-graders at one point in my life):
Nobody likes a short pencil.
Sure, you get a rare weird little kid who *loves* using a nubbin of a pencil to write with, but most developing writers prefer long pencils.
Nobody likes a dull pencil.
Most young kids find it hard to write on the lines. Sharp pencils make it a wee bit easier, because they leave a skinnier mark. Dull pencils leave fat marks on the paper, betraying a child's effort to try to stay inside/on the lines. And mechanical pencils break far too easily when the little ones press down hard on their paper with the writing instruments, so the click-leads are useless in a first-grade classroom (in case you were wondering).
The sharpener is appealing.
Little kids like to move around, and when they're not allowed to do a lot of moving in class, getting up to sharpen a pencil is a legitimate excuse to stretch their legs and move their bodies. Plus, the whole concept of dull pencil in, sharp pencil out is fascinating to a first-grader.
Sharpeners don't have an end point.
I mean, when the pencil is sharp, the manual sharpener doesn't automatically stop (the electric ones do, but they aren't long for the classroom when used by students of any age). A little kid doesn't always know when to stop turning that metal handle around, and so that very new, long pencil that was started in the morning is quickly transformed into a nubbin that the student no longer wants to use, by the afternoon.
6-year-olds lose things.
Actually, we all lose things. First-graders just happen to be experts at it. Even the smartest, most organized, most conscientious 6-year-olds will inevitably find themselves without a pencil or an eraser or a pair of scissors or a glue stick. And believe it or not, sometimes it's not because another kid stole it and used it. Sometimes it's just gone. Or maybe it was the elves.
Little kids love to share. But they're also forgetful.
Ever ask if someone has a spare pencil or eraser to lend out? I have, and exactly 21 little hands usually spring into the air (in a class of 22 - do the math). Bless their hearts, these little ones know how to be generous, unlike some of their parents (evidence: those FB responders). But after the day is done, or the class is over, how often do you think the generous loaner retrieves their stuff? Almost never, save for when it is a "special" pencil or eraser. By the time recess has finished, most kids have all but forgotten that they ever even had something to loan out, much less who they gave what item(s) to.
There is a lot of gluing and cutting that happens in Grade 1.
It's good hand-eye-coordination practice, it's "hands-on," and in the first grade, it is commonplace to do a lot of crafty things, even for Language Arts. Go volunteer in a classroom and see for yourself. Glue sticks are used frequently. Daily.
Moderation is a concept yet to be mastered.
Even when you tell a child to use only a little bit of glue, they can't help themselves. White glue is blobbed onto the backs of worksheets, making them dripping messes of sticky, soggy paper. Glue sticks are worn down to the base as little hands run them back and forth, back and forth across sheets of paper over and over and over again.
Even children can be perfectionists.
Some kids really want to please, to the point that when they deem their work to be imperfect or they detect that you are not entirely satisfied with it, they will dutifully return to their desks, wield their erasers mercilessly over their papers, and wipe out all of their hard work for the past 30 minutes. So do try to be approving, and help them limit their erasing to just a few choice areas. Otherwise, 8 erasers won't last til Christmas, much less the entire year.
Communal is okay in the context of community.
No, it's not fair that your kid's brand new, brand name stuff is put into a communal stash for others to use (if it is at all). But is it fair that the kid over there, the one in the corner, can't afford *any* school supplies to bring to school this year? Or what about the other kid, the one whose parents are too messed up to go and buy what is on the list? Those kids have to rely on the communal stash to survive. And it's not their fault; they didn't ask for their life conditions. Would you prefer that everyone just used their own supplies, and, well, those two 6-year-olds can just be shamed by their socio-economic status every time they have to ask the teacher or the class to borrow something?
F*ck!n' cheapskate. Seriously! Every single one of those people who responded to that FB post selfishly should give their heads a shake. I mean, even if a first grade parent had to buy every bloody item on the supplies list, what do you suppose the total cost might be? 30 pencils, 8 erasers, 5 glue sticks. There is Superstore, Wal-mart, the Dollar stores, Target, and every other store in-between having back-to-school sales. You're looking at spending $20 tops for these items. Probably less. Definitely less than what you might spend buying coffee or eating out during the week. Most definitely less than what you pay for a haircut, or a pair of shoes, or some other random thing that you buy that isn't a necessity but rather, a luxury.
Don't tell me you can't afford it if you have the gall to complain about it on social networking. If you really couldn't afford it, you'd be all too glad to know that there are teachers out there who have communal supplies for students to use.
Sometimes I really really hate people.
PS - I did have a communal supplies section in my classroom. This is where all of the homeless unmarked pencils, erasers, glue sticks, scissors and rulers lived. This is also where many "special" pencils and erasers ended up. Some were claimed, many others were not, despite being obviously different than the rest. Most little kids, they don't give two flying figs about their school supplies, and are so preoccupied with important things in life (like figuring out who to play with at recess and how to write the d so that the round part touches the dotted line and faces the right way) that losing their stuff is a non-issue to them. Which is how it is supposed to be in Grade 1.