Back To School Then and Now

Photo by Lee Cannon

School has started, and with it the flurry of shopping for school supplies, clothes and other necessities. After coming out of Target $50 lighter, I was thinking back to my own school days, and the experiences.

Basic Supplies

There is always a set of basic supplies needed. Back when I was in school, this consisted of paper folders, lined notebooks, pencils and erasers. And once you were past 3rd grade, ink pens. My school would purchase the supplies, package them up in waterproof pouch, and have them at your desk the first day of school for a small fee.

My daughter’s school supplies range from specific colors of folders (always with the brads in the middle), composition books, dozens of pencils, packages of pens, sticky notes and index cards. Last year required a zippered binder. This year requires a 2″ plain binder, so re-using last year’s supplies are out of the question. Then there is the pouch vs. box debate for pencils, and glue sticks vs. glue bottles. I ended up purchasing many more supplies than I as a child would ever have used.

Last year she had some leeway in choosing her notebooks and folders. This year everything was specified to be “plain” and “no-frills”.

The Board

One thing that gets me is that the school district has replaced all the chalk boards with white boards and “smart” boards. These require special writing implements. So I am now asked to provide dry erase markers (at $5 per 2).

When I was in school, we used chalk, and the students were never asked to provide it. Chalk lasts a lot longer, doesn’t dry out, and is less expensive. Granted, it throws a lot of dust if the boards aren’t cleaned regularly. But who am I to stand in the way of “progress”?

Infection Control

When I was in school, each child was required to have a box of tissues in his or her desk. Now we are asked to give 3-4 full size boxes for the classroom to use. I wonder if today’s children sneeze more than we did? I doubt it, and we had the chalk dust to contend with, too.

Individual vs. Shared

My grade school classrooms had a lot of shared supplies: we had a shared stapler, hole punch, wall mounted manual pencil sharpener and scissors. Today I have to purchase individual staplers, hole punches, adult-sized scissors and pencil sharpeners. All of my daughter’s teachers each year have had an electric pencil sharpener on their classroom wish list.

Other supplies, which I would have had my own, such as pencils, glue, folders, composition books and erasers, are demanded in bulk and put into a class bucket. You need a new pencil? Go get one out of the basket. (Seems to me that is a good way to pass infection…)


I find it odd that so many things have changed, and it doesn’t seem for the better.


Photo by Lee Cannon

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