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Education

Why back-to-school lists are so long and specific. And what's up with the 3 dozen glue sticks?

I just need someone to tell me: Are they eating the glue sticks?!

Why back-to-school lists are so long and specific. And what's up with the 3 dozen glue sticks?
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
selective focal photo of crayons in yellow box

It's back-to-school time (yaaassss!), but that means it's also the time when you have to tackle those super-long, super-specific school supply lists (uggghhhh!).

You know what I'm talking about — the 15-plus-items-long list of things your kids need for school.

As a bonus, they're often brand-name specific. Seriously. Because Elmer's glue is apparently just that different from generic store brand glue.


Based on the venting ( "OMG, everyone is sold out of pre-sharpened Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils!") and cries for help I'm seeing from my fellow parents on social media ("Where did you find three wide-ruled draw-and-write composition books?" — OK, I admit that was my question), a lot of our public school kiddos are being given supply lists quite similar to this one:

woman in white and multicolored floral long-sleeved mini dress with green backpackPhoto by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Sample school supply list created from actual lists I've collected. Some items have been switched between lists to protect the innocent.

While many public schools send these lists to parents, in certain states they're "requests" not "requirements" (even when not clearly presented that way) because some states cannot legally require students to provide their own school supplies.

Optional or required, however, these school supply lists are important.

I know, I know — lots of us parents have many feelings about them, like:

  • We didn't have to buy a specific list of supplies when we were kids (walking uphill both ways, two miles, in the snow).
  • This is public school, not private school! Can't the glue sticks come out of my taxes?
  • This list is so name-brand specific. Are Elmer's glue sticks reallllyyyy that superior to these cheaper, generic ones?
  • Seriously?? So many glue sticks?! Just ... what?

And we can all agree that it's not right that public school budgets are regularly slashed and aren't big enough to cover the basic necessities essential for our kids' success. (You know, like pencils.) And in some cases, budgets are misused, and that's not right, either.

black cordless headphones beside sport bottle and notebookPhoto by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

But as much as parents dread shopping for school supplies, our children's teachers probably dread having to ask.

Katie Sluiter, a mom of three and teacher of 13 years, shares in parents' frustrations about supplies — just from a different perspective. "I struggle every single August with having to ask for [supply] donations. I hate it," she says.

She'd love to stop asking parents to bring in a combined total of 800 pencils and 1,000 glue sticks and just buy them herself. But as a teacher, she simply cannot afford to do it.

"I hate that we have two full-time salaried workers in our house. ... I have an advanced degree, and we are still living paycheck to paycheck. It feels shameful to have to ask every. single. year. for donations. Teachers don't want to ask for handouts. We just want to teach."

"Teachers don't want to ask for handouts. We just want to teach." — Katie Sluiter

Nicole Johansen, a mom of two who was a teacher for 12 years, echoes Sluiter's sentiments. She cites never ending budget cuts as well as the need to stretch other funds, like PTO-raised money, further and further as the reasons supply lists exist and adds, "It is frustrating knowing that schools should be appropriately allotted funds for supplies — this said from the parent AND teacher standpoint."

So most of us are on the same page here. Class supply lists are the pits ... for everyone!

The most significant thing to remember, though, is that if your budget allows, it's important to purchase the items on the list.

If you're not purchasing the supplies, it's very likely your child's teacher will have to — with his or her own money.

Image by Thinkstock.

And we've already established that teacher salaries aren't cutting it when it comes to taking care of their families and their students.

And maybe it's not so much that teachers have to spend their own paychecks on classroom supplies, but they want to because an overwhelming majority of teachers genuinely care about their students.

"I wish all parents knew how much teachers love and sacrifice for their students," Johansen said. "Pretty much all teachers I know will be spending for their classroom despite having to cut back the grocery bill for their family."

"I wish all parents knew how much teachers love and sacrifice for their students." — Nicole Johansen

"No, we don't have to spend all that time and money on our classrooms, but it makes it a quality experience when your children have things like science experiments, books, art supplies, and a comfortable, cozy classroom environment."

woman wearing white sweaterPhoto by Yustinus Tjiuwanda on Unsplash

OK, but seriously, what do they do with all of those glue sticks?!

I know I'm not the only one who opened up that list when my daughter was in first grade, choked on my coffee, and exclaimed, "THREE DOZEN GLUE STICKS?! What, are the kids eating them? [Probably. Little kids eat all kinds of gross stuff.] Are the teachers selling them for profit? [I wouldn't blame them. See above about teachers' salaries]."

Image by Thinkstock.

"We glue kids' mouths shut," Sluiter told me when I asked.

"Totally kidding. They last like 12 seconds ... [and] no matter how vigilant we are in supervising the picking up and putting away of supplies, each time we get the tub of glue sticks out, there are about three to five dead soldiers and lone caps rolling in the bottom of the bin."

(I love teachers with senses of humor!)

But back to the actual issue.

My friend Shannon summed up the class supply list conundrum perfectly, if bluntly:

She wants parents who can budget in school supplies without experiencing a financial burden to "quit complaining about some of the items being communal. Vote for politicians who will quit cutting money from schools. I don't remember my parents having to buy 20 glue sticks, but I certainly don't think any more should come out of teachers' pockets."

Couldn't have said it better myself.


This story originally appeared on 08.11.15.

True

Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

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