To finish up my thoughts on school supplies, I offer some general thoughts for pondering.
The items discussed before offer some specific challenges, but I would also like to speak to the challenge of cheapness. Like I said before, as a mom I am familiar with the need to budget, but as an art teacher I have discovered that cheap price usually goes along with cheap quality. Watching students try to make poor quality items work well for them, and growing frustrated in the process, makes me see the value in spending a bit mor (when I can) in order to facilitate my own children's learning experiences. Because once in the classroom, the real issues change. Can the student learn with the tools provided? Can the student do the work with the tools provided? Do the tools provided steal and waste student time? For example, one second grader complained that her pencil sharpener seemed to always be jammed because it never made her pencils any sharper. She brought it to me so I could clear it and we discovered that the reason it didn't sharpen was because there was no blade in it! It hadn't fallen out—there was no way it could have. It had never had a blade inside, ever. This particular sharpener still bore the logo of a large discount office supply store on the side and sells for quite cheap at the store. Sure, it's just a pencil sharpener, but the bigger problem is the amount of time wasted by the poor supplies. In this case, she had spent over half the year trying to sharpen pencils with something that NEVER would have done the job. After minutes spent fiddling with her sharpener, she would then ask another student to borrow one and now at least two students, but more likely three to five (because nothing ever happens that quietly), have now been disturbed by the problem sharpener. What seems like a bargain really isn't in the end.
I'm not trying to place an extra burden on parents or blame anyone for buying materials that turn out to be bad quality (I've done it too, and I'm not really sure how to recommend choosing something like a pencil sharpener!). I like to see good prices, just like everyone else. But until I started seeing these items in action I didn't realize the frustration some of them can cause. My goal is to educate, and in this letter I hope I have been able to give you some information to help you make choices. For younger students, who are more prone to losing things (most classrooms have a crayon/marker/pencil lost and found just for this reason!), the investment might not be wise, but they won't always be so young, either.
If you do decide to invest in better paints and colored pencils, etc., and want to re-use some of those supplies, remember to talk to your teacher and let it be known that you might want some of those items back at the end of the year. Some classrooms have community boxes for some supplies, but others keep individual items in their desks, so communication is important. Also, make sure to label anything you might want back. Finally, if you have extra supplies and you don't know what to do with them—ask me. Your art teacher can always use donations, or you can find a home for them elsewhere, such as VBS or summer camps. And if the items are still in good shape you can always use them again next year. Blessings to you for a great summer!