Back-to-School shopping

A teacher's real wish list. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

TAMPA, August 8, 2012 - Forget shorter days and cooler nights, many parents are taking part in another event that signals the real end-of-summer in most communities: back-to-school shopping.

Mothers maneuver carts through crowded aisles, carrying lists provided by their children’s schools. They carefully check off glue sticks, composition notebooks, and pocket folders. Uniforms and backpacks are tried on and discarded, only to be snatched up a moment later by someone else.

My twin sons used to take half an hour picking the perfect lunchboxes, debating the merits of several superheroes before finally settling on Spiderman. I always allowed them time to work it out, remembering my own struggles between Nancy Drew and The Bionic Woman. Nancy won several years in a row.

As a mom, I enjoy rituals that begin each new school year. Frazzled parents are doing more than searching for specific pencils. They’re supplying children with the tools they need to learn. I appreciate their efforts. However, school lists should contain a few more items to gather before classes begin. These additional supplies aren’t found at Target or K-Mart. Still, your child won’t make it through the school year without:

Guidance: Schools can be overcrowded and scary; most children learn more from fellow students than from textbooks. Have dinner with your kids and get to know their friends. The complicated issues students deal with every day, from elementary through high school, would land most adults in therapy. Children cannot handle it alone.

Support: Turn off television and help with homework. Be willing to pick up kids after tutoring sessions and reinforce lessons at home. Go to school and meet their teachers. After all, parents and teachers are on the same team and odds are you’ll win if we work together.

Patience: When all else fails, take a deep breath and smile. Use humor to deal with the frustrations of youth and encourage within children the idea that nothing is insurmountable. They need to know that a loving family will cushion even the most devastating blows.

These are essential items on every teacher’s wish list. Go shopping for papers and pens; dig deeper to stock up on the rest. Remember that a parent’s participation is one of the most important tools for a successful school year. Teachers need your help. And so do your kids.


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Catherine Durkin Robinson

Catherine Durkin Robinson is an award-winning humor/parenting columnist and mother to twelve year-old twin sons who, despite a fondness for Latin and stringed instruments, can still throw a perfect spiral and name everyone in the NBA. She writes columns about how American parenting can improve in a voice that’s as familiar as a hunting permit and apple pie. In her spare time, she investigates missing socks.

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