Every August parents, grandparents and guardians gather their “back to school” savings and head to Pierre, Rapid City, or Bismarck to buy new school clothes, athletic equipment and academic supplies for their children and grandchildren.
Most schools provide a list of what students need for the coming school year. In Walmarts across the country, stores have circular stands with printed copies of the supplies students need to buy for local schools.
Different supplies are needed at different grade levels, but there are a few goods that all students need throughout the school year, but that many students end up not bringing with them to class: a writing utensil and paper.
The best time to shop for supplies is the weekend after school has started, so that you can be sure to get the specific materials students need, and do not waste money on supplies that the teacher or school may already provide.
For example, your student may find that he or she needs a scientific calculator for Physics because the school no longer has enough for each student, or you may find that your child does not need a scientific calculator at all because the school has one for each student.
Of all the supplies a student will need, the most basic is to have something to write with and something to write on.
Most teachers make sure they have a back-up set of pencils and paper so that the students who come to class unprepared will still be able to participate.
Often, if the teacher does not have extra paper or writing utensils, then a fellow student or a nearby teacher will have what is needed.
While parents help their students prepare for the new school year, they should consider several things so that they are purchasing items that will help students keep organized and be prepared for their classes.
1. Whatever you buy, make sure it will be used.
For example, some students receive a new backpack for the school year and take it with them the first week of school. By week two, the backpack is nowhere to be found. Ask your child if he or she actually uses the backpack you purchase. Some students like to walk the halls with papers hidden in their pockets rather than in their backpacks. If your child is one of those students, then clothes with deep pockets may be a better purchase than a backpack.
2. Talk to your child about practical ways to carry supplies, or making a plan to keep supplies in the classroom.
Elementary students have it easier than junior high and high school students because most of them have a desk in which they can keep their supplies. By the time students get into 7th grade, they usually have a locker, but not all students use the locker, or remember what to grab from it when they head to class. Students may want to ask teachers if there is an area in the classroom where they can stash a few pencils and a notebook so that they always have the basics they will need for that class right there. That may mean the student has 3 or 4 pencils in each classroom and a notebook for each classroom.
Make sure students have a take-home folder for homework assignments.
Most elementary teachers provide a homework folder that parents know to look for, but when students get into Junior High and High School, the homework folder is not always required and parents begin asking, “Do you have homework?” rather than checking the homework folder. For older students, parents can still require a homework folder from students. A teacher has 20 to 30 students per class, and is not always able to communicate with parents that a student has homework. To hold students accountable, parents can require students carry a homework folder that is signed off by teachers each day — so and so does or does not have homework. This folder can also be a way parents can help teachers reinforce the importance of doing any given homework.
Make sure students are dressed for the school environment and in line with the school’s dress code.
Some of the schools on CRST have consistent heating and cooling systems, while others do not. Most teachers have little control over the classroom’s temperature. At C-EB junior high and high school, one room can be comfortable and another room sweltering. Parents should ask their students how comfortable they are in those classrooms, and encourage them to dress in layers and attire appropriate to the environment. Loose-fitting clothing that covers the body from mid-thigh to neck is good for hot weather. Students should wear a jacket or cardigan over a comfortable and appropriate shirt or top so the jacket can be removed when a room is hot and left on in areas of the school that are cold. Being comfortable in the learning environment is one way to ensure students are more successful.
There are many schools and nonprofits that provide supplies for free for students, but not all students want those free supplies. Some teachers end up using the leftovers as back-up for students in their classrooms.
Parents are challenged to provide practical supplies for students who are very self-conscious, often making it hard to buy what the students need for classes, because it is not packaged in a way the students like.
There are numerous arts and crafts projects that parents and guardians can do with their students to dress up backpacks and folders, pencil holders and other supplies so that they are cool enough to be carried, and so that students will be sure to carry those supplies with them for class.