I believe that the colorful displays of school supplies at the stores are like the sightings of the first bright orange-breasted robins in the spring. School supplies are the harbingers of renewal and new beginnings.
As a child, I always eagerly awaited the end of summer vacation to prepare for the start of a new school year. I could only speak Greek when I started first grade in a Chicago public school, but not knowing English did not keep me from using my new shiny scissors to cut out shapes and my equally new brightly colored crayons to shade in the different designs. I knew I could succeed, and I was just like my new English-speaking friend sitting next to me in school. I repeated this happy and promising cycle of purchasing new school supplies for many years.
As an urban high school French and English teacher for the past 30 years, I came to realize that purchasing school supplies, at the beginning of each school year, took on new dimensions. As I inventoried what supplies I needed, I always asked myself, “What will help to motivate my students?”
My school supplies expanded from my usual purchases of bulletin board items, pens, pencils and folders to include some items not often thought of as staples for a successful school year. One year, I purchased a large bright yellow rubber chicken; and, at the start of another school year, I bought a frog that squeaked and various monster finger puppets. Another year, I added a small poster that simply said, “This is a new day, with new beginnings and new dreams.”
During the last ten years, my annual search for school supplies turned to specific items in bulk, items that manyof my students could not afford. I looked for the best bargains I could find and purchased large quantities of pens, pencils, markers, folders and cough drops. My most recent school purchases included a pair of school shoes, special shoes to run track events and even a portable sewing machine, to help some of my needy students achieve.
This school year, I will not need to focus on the colorful displays of school supplies because I am now officially retired. While I have not yet completely processed this change in my yearly life cycle, I am comforted by the thought that students and teachers throughout the world will continue to purchase school supplies and will carry on this “rite of spring”.
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