Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not your personal Office Depot

One of my Tuesday art class students and I had the following conversation:

Student: I wish we had art every day.

Me: Well, you can.

Student: Yeah! I can draw any time! Instead of just watching TV when I get home.

Me: Drawing is always better than watching TV. But I don't recommend drawing while you take a bath at the same time though.

Student: *laughs* But really? I can draw any where?

Me: All you need is paper and a pencil. It doesn't even have to be the art paper we use; you can use the back of something that already has writing on it too.

(note: I had recycling/reusing/not wasting paper, and being resourceful in mind, but apparently that was not what my student had in mind)

Student: What if I don't have a pencil?

Me: Then you can use a pen.

Student: What if I don't have a pen?

Me: Then you can use a marker, crayon, or color pencil.

Student: But I don't have any of those things at home. I never buy them myself.

Me: *slightly annoyed by this time* Then you can borrow a pencil.

Student: But none of my friends have that stuff because the school gives it to us.

I wanted to tell the kid that if there is paper at home, then the probability of finding a pencil or pen lying around somewhere is quite high. Just go and look for it! Thankfully, I didn't have to continue this exasperating conversation. One of my major pet peeves of students is their lack of initiative/independence. Which is why I always try to cultivate that in my students. This particular student is smart, exhibits outstanding behavior, is motivated, and takes direction well. She is one of the oldest students in my Tuesday class, and she naturally takes the lead in my art class routines.

However, she doesn't seem to have that same get-up-and-go attitude when it comes to home life. That allusion to the commonest of all media addictions can't help matters either.

I fully understand that students from low SES families do not have the same quality and quantity of resources mid-upper-class students have. I'm not telling my students that top-of-the-line computers are necessary for school. They don't need a Kindle (although in terms of college textbooks, this seems to be a good deal). They don't need expensive software. They don't even need the myriad of $5-a-pop notebooks with Hannah Montana's face plastered all over it.

I believe anybody can afford a box of 24-count yellow barrel pencils at $0.92. I believe single subject notebooks - which can be $0.25 each during back-to-school sales - are a reasonable purchase since each student probably will only need one or two for the entire school year.

Most importantly, I believe students should take care of their own school items. The most annoying thing is to have a student come up to you and say, "I lost my notebook/pencil/eraser" AND EXPECT YOU TO GIVE THEM A NEW ONE. IMMEDIATELY. Dear students, I am not your personal office supply store. There is a reason why I'm teaching you ownership and responsibility, so get with the program!

That said, students really can't practice taking care of their school items if they don't own any school items in the first place. So:

Dear parents, BUY YOUR KID SOME SCHOOL SUPPLIES. Seriously. A set of magic erasers is nothing compared to four years of higher education. That is, four years IF YOU ARE LUCKY. Because sometimes kids have been known to spend 10 years on their undergraduate degree. And if your kid does this, then you'll know one of the reasons why.

So enjoy it while it lasts. Get the cheap stuff because no matter how careful your kid is, they are bound to lose something on accident. Get a backpack and a pencil bag. LABEL YOUR KID'S STUFF. Because I label your kid's desk and cubby at school. This labeling process will make it that much easier for your child to pick up their own stuff, and pedagogy 101 tells us that the easier/more fun something is, the faster/better the kid will learn it. You will thank me, parents, when your child is 20 and has a working knowledge of how to keep his/her own space clean.


tena said...

I totally agree w/ you on the whole students saying that they can't afford supplies or have lost it and expect you to hand them some. I don't know what age you teach, but I'm in college and even some of my classmates do that to my instructors. It even annoys me.

bun2bon said...

That IS annoying. Especially if said student is scrimping in order to buy something ridiculous. Like an LV bag. Priorities, people!