Tuesday, September 7, 2010
First day of school in my town. I still feel the pull. I have the dreams, the anxiety, the inspiration, the curiosity...it never leaves. Instead of 100-150 new students, I'll have a few student-teachers this year.
First it was those "Back to School" commercials and ads that began in July. Then, lots of stories and solicitations for donating school supplies to kids that otherwise might not begin the year with what they need. Mostly it's local news stations that initiate these drives. Occasionally a commercial encourages consumers to collect "box tops" for school supplies and reminding prospective buyers that "you can make a difference."
It's all well and good, right? Or is it? What does it say about a nation that has so many children that require the kindness of anonymous thousands to give it's students a proper sendoff to the new school year?
I would never begrudge a donation for a public school student, classroom, program, teacher or curriculum. The particular kindness of parents helped me get through more than one school year without running out of paper.** Yet this seemingly innocuous method of helping those less fortunate obtain school supplies has me thinking.
This is different. Why, in a nation that supposedly values education, are so many in such need? Yes, it's the economy. Yes, unemployment is abnormally high, yes poverty is just as hidden as ever, yes many of these kids really need new notebooks, pens and pencils, and plenty of paper. (Do they still use paper?) Of course they need paper. But I wonder if I'm alone in wondering about the bigger picture?
I know it must feel great to donate school supplies. I sure have done a bit of it myself on a one on one level. Still the dissonance. Does it mean something for every student to be able to get their own stuff with no assistance? How does that impact their attitude to the entire notion of being a student?
**The guilt that some teachers have for using too much paper is palpable in some faculty work rooms. Where administrators often failed to see this, I had parents who got just how important it is for a teacher to be able to have supplementary materials or a specific article that might require 300 sheets to reproduce for 60-90 students. Teachers who do not rely on questionable textbooks for everything are able to supplement their curriculum with current, relevant, thought-provoking resources. Never understimate the need for paper or a working copy machine.