The Tyranny of School Supply Lists

I am a teacher. I understand the need for school supplies and for lots of them.

But the Grade 3 school supply list for my twins’ school seems ripe for humor.

What originally shocked me was the need for 50 pencils. 50? I don’t think I’ve used that many in my life. As one of my friends pointed out, that’s one every three days of school. She also added, “That seems about right.”

So what did I do? I rebelled and bought Vivian and Will only 24 pencils each. But the pencils are pre-sharpened. Just in case they are to be used as weapons.

Here is a close up of the first part of Vivian and William’s list.

Here is the rest of the list:

  • large package wax crayons
  • 1 package thick felts (Mr. Sketch)
  • 1 package of thin felts (Crayola)
  • 2 large, 21 g UHU, glue sticks
  • 1 bottle white glue
  • 1 pair scissors
  • 3 boxes of facial tissue
  • 5 large Zip Lock Freezer Bags
  • 1 pair indoor shoes
  • 1 white, 72 paged, half lined/half blank 7×9 scribbler
  • 1 interlined 72 page notebook
  • 5 Hilroy exercise books (80 pages) 27.6 X 21.3 cm (available at Staples) not coiled
  • 1 coiled manila scrapbook (30 pages)
  • 15 duotangs
  • 200 sheets loose-leaf paper
  • 20 sheets of unlined paper (no holes)
  • Rainy day activity book ie: crosswords, mazes, word search
  • Headphones (new or used)

Some of these supplies may need to be replenished throughout the school year.

Please ensure that all classroom materials are sent in the first week of school.

Now, funny readers, entertain us in the comments. Do any items surprise you? What school supplies do you remember from your elementary school days?


  1. says

    Never had ANYTHING like this. On the first day of 3rd grade my mother sent me to school with a lunchbox (incl. lunch) and that’s it. (This was 1978, remember…)

  2. says

    Tech goes through 75 Ticonderoga pencils a year. It’s insane. It’s like he eats them. Them come home in nubs.

    More importantly: what the heck is a “duotang” and why do you need three of them? It sounds like you are supposed to buy six Austalian animals. :-)

    • Peggy says

      Haha… Duotangs are just assignment covers, but specifically the ones with the three sets of metal prongs that hold the paper. The “duo” refers to the fact that there are two prongs that go through each hole in the paper.

      I’m also from Canada, but we used to just call them assignment covers.

      15 is an insane amount for elementary!

  3. Mom says

    Leanne, would you have had a ball with all those supplies when you were young!!! I remember how you loved your school supplies!

  4. says

    I particularly love the “rainy day activity book”. I know it’s hard to keep the children occupied ALL day when it rains, but it’s like she’s practically admitting defeat to the parents. “Yeah, as a teacher, I can only last about five hours max. And with six ADHD boys in my class, I really need that outdoor time to reset my brain.”

    I come from a family of teachers, and I know how true this can be, but come on, did she have to say it out loud LOL? You just have to suffer through it all until summer vacation.

  5. says

    I have to say I am jealous of your list! I live in S.Fl. My kids lists are front and back of a paper! We have to bring in 3 reams of white comp. paper. 3 reams of colored. 2 boxes of ziplock bags (differ. sizes according to gender), headphones, paint shirts, large containers of baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and hand soap. The lists go on and on…

    • says

      Hand soap? Wow. I guess they’re passing on costs to the parents to (hopefully) put what money there is into teaching and smaller class sizes, but sheesh. I really wish the powers that be would start seeing education as an investment, not an expense.

      • says

        Oh don’t get me started. I have one son who is in ESE and it is like pulling teeth to get these kids an equal education like any other student. Last year I ended up taking to the news media to get anything accomplished for my son. Same story every year-we have no money in our school districts anymore. Very frustrating.

  6. says

    I don’t have kids, so I don’t have any personal school supply stories to tell.

    However, I had a parent tell me that they asked the teacher about the excessive number of certain items requested on the supply list. I think this parent’s gripe was that they asked to supply multiple boxes of kleenex (or tissues). The teacher explained to this parent that many students did not ever bring their school supplies. Thus, the other kids were asked to bring multiples in hopes that it all evened out. Upon learning this, the parent was less than thrilled.

    Anyway, just sharing a little tidbit. 😀

  7. says

    You clearly have some Canada-specific items. I’m guessing your half-lined/ half-blank scribbler is like our composition book. I’m not surprised about the pencils. My kids eat them, I’m sure of it. I know for a fact that the dogs do. I just broke down and bought a gross of them last year. Then I hid them in various places so the kids didn’t know where they were in hopes of not running out of pencils. But I forgot where some of them were.

    Oh, and the other thing is that my kids believe that all these items have to stay at school and never consider bringing them home to do homework.

  8. Kim says

    I teach with Leanne and we teach many American children. All these comments about duo tangs suddenly explain a lot of the confused expressions I get at the beginning of the year as we’re sorting out our school supplies.

    For the record, duo tangs are folders with three prongs inside into which you can fasten loose leaf papers. Do they exist in the U.S.? Do they go by another name?

  9. Jodi says

    Obviously, your kids will be buying chicken in bulk, seperating it into 4 or 5 pieces and using it later for meals. Why else would you need 5 large freezer bags?

    Duo tangs……. My son needs 12… I didn’t realize that not everyone has heard of this term and now I am laughing at what a silly word it is.

    3 boxes of Kleenex seems a tad excessive….but I guess it’s better than “wear long sleeves during flu season”.

    And I love your mom’s comment about you loving you school supplies….. I was the same way. I’d stare at them as they were laid out on my bed, touch them….and promise myself to do my neatest handwriting all year and not doodle all over my duotangs. That usually lasted until September 2nd.

  10. Kim says

    My feelings are torn about pre-sharpened pencils. The nostalgic side of me thinks it’s a rite of passage to get blisters on your fingers as you sit sharpening your 24-pack of Laurentian pencil crayons over the garbage can the night before school starts.

  11. says

    I’m SO glad I don’t have kids right now. I don’t even know what half of this stuff is! How hard is it just to say “You’ll need a pack of markers, pencils, and a few notebooks”?!

  12. Toni - Lynn K's friend says

    So many of your comments brought back fond and funny memories of my childhood. I too “loved” getting school supplies – I think that is when I first decided to become a teacher. Now 14 years later I see another side of school supplies with my grade 2 daughter. Our school where I work and she attends has it all figured out. In grades K – 2 all we have to do is send a $45.00 cheque and voila our school supplies are there and labelled! There are no fights over cheap Hello Kitty markers or Princess pencils etc! We do have to pick up the back pack, water bottle, headphones and shoes but THAT is it! The teachers have it all ready and laid out so they even start writing and working on the first day! Not spending 6 hours trying to put stuff away and get it all labelled for those that missed that!

  13. Tracy says

    As a teacher, I see 150 high school students a day. They will go through roughly 1-1 1/2 boxes of tissues a week. There’s 36 weeks of school…I teach English so I’m not doing the math, but that’s a lot of boxes. It gets worse during cold season or allergy time.

    Last year I ran out and made the kids steal toilet paper from the bathroom. Vive TP!

  14. says

    I hate supply lists and they only get worse as the kids get into middle/jr. high and High school. First of all, in our district there are “general” lists for all classes. Great, let’s buy those now at Target. I’m supplying for his entire class two reams of printer/multi-purpose paper, pencils, kleenex, and hand sanitizer (in elementary it was baby wipes). I’d love to have some smart-ass parent just organize a rebellion and have each parent of the classroom buy a CASE of one item and have it delivered to the school on first day.

    THEN, the first day of school for my middle schooler, there are INDIVIDUAL CLASS specific lists by teacher. Problem 1: all the stores are out of most of the items by now. Problem 2: I have 48 hours (yes two days) to purchase all items and have my student bring them to school or they lose a grade point for the semester. Problem 3: See problem 1.

    I hate the first week of school. Between the frenzy of finding one composition notebook with graph ruling that’s not in a “girlie” color and the guilt of not driving my child the 1.5 blocks to school (or the horror of me actually doing it and embarrassing my student), i’m ready for a drink by 9:30. AM.

  15. says

    Sometimes i get frustrated by the rigid nature of the lists but as a teacher i can relate. thanks for teaching me a new word. Here we call duo tands-3 pronged folders.

  16. says

    You know how I hate the school supply list. My most hated items are the spoons. Unlabeled because apparently I’m providing spoons for every other child who does not bring their own spoon for their pudding. I rebelled on this one.
    I REALLY love that none of the American’s know what a duotang is. Except of course when I was in Target looking for my 25 duotangs (5 blue, 5 yellow, 10 red, 5 green) times TWO.

    My other huge pet peeve is that know one seems to have sourced these lists. They ask for four glue sticks when they come in packages of three, a yellow, green and pink hi-lighter when they come in packages of yellow, green and blue.

  17. says

    People seriously don’t have duotangs outside of Canada? And where I am, we were asked for “cahiers Canada” (the Hilroy copybooks with the Canada on them in black). And always we had to have cahier catéchais (a tall blue copybook with three “Jesus fish” on the cover that had about 8 lines at the bottom of the page, leaving the rest blank, generally used for religion class). I had no idea that school supplies were so geographically specific.

  18. says

    What is a “duotang”? What killed me was how specific our school supply lists got–often telling parents which brand and where to shop. By 5th or 6th grade, I was able to stop buying so much and just “shop” among the supplies brought home from previous years. By junior high, the teachers around here say to ignore the official list and bring what they tell you on the first day of school; The List is made up by administrators, not the teachers themselves.

    Oh, and if you need more crayons, from prior years I have about 3,592 of them. I’ll be happy to send however many you need.

  19. Sara Habel says

    I teach 4th grade. We have a similar list. You’d be amazed at how fast kids go through pencils. I’ve tried every trick in the book. By Christmas I’ve usually bought several 100 count packages myself and always ask for more in my news letter. I was surprised at how brand specific the list is. We could never ask that at our school. We do have duatangs but we just call them pocket folders.

  20. SkagitMomma says

    I don’t see hand sanitizer on the list. This is one thing I’ve seen on my niece and nephew’s lists. I myself homeschooled, so usually my purse was the source of writing implements, germs were shared freely and there were many beachy ‘teachable’ moments. Seems like schools are going overboard on the supplies.
    How much, may I ask, did your supplies come to?

  21. says

    Who knew a duotang was such a Canadian icon? “Toni-Lynn K’s friend” – left the most sensible solution to this whole crazy issue. Have each parent send a cheque so the supplies can all be at school waiting to be handed to the kids as needed. Bada-bing, bada-boom!

  22. says

    Dear lord, why do you need to supply a pair of “indoor shoes.” Here in Southern California, I think we assume the child will arrive at school in shoes. They don’t need an extra pair at school. Does this have to do with the snow?

    • says

      up here where it snows and rains all sorts of stuff, kids often arrive at school in sensible shoes – instead of gym shoes or inside shoes…. on a rainy wet day or a day after a rainy wet one, I have observed our hallways tracked with mud and up and down the stairs… gotta wonder what their houses look like!

  23. says

    I teach middle school, 7th grade, and have kids going off to 4th and 9th grade… school supply lists – love ’em and hate ’em, the elementary list is always full of stuff you wonder if they use, and each teacher has a slightly different list gotta wonder. as for high school, I haven;t found a list yet, but I know it’s out there! thanks for the laugh!

  24. says

    Last year my then 5th grade son had a bag of pencils that were sharpened clear up to the eraser, as short as they could possibly be. When I asked him how he could possibly have used so many pencils up to the nub he confessed that him and his friends purposely broke the pencils to make them that short. NICE.

  25. says

    I was confused about the duotangs, though I’ve read the comments so I understand now (apparently you had to be Canadian to know what that meant). I’m surprised how many specific brands are listed. And yes, I’m surprised by the sheer volume. I have a rising third grader too, and our list isn’t quite as long, but it’s close! The rainy day book is funny too!

  26. says

    Leanne, I also teach (7th grade Language Arts English). My requests for supplies are simple. For some kids, those 50 pencils would be history before the end of the week. I’ve found many broken and discarded ones in the hallway.
    I’m amazed by how many students come to class with no supplies. I guess they figure they won’t have to do the work if they don’t bring pencils, pens or paper. (That excuse doesn’t work in my class as I’ve bought many of those same supplies just for events such as these.)
    Have a great year. Students return to our middle school on Aug. 8th.

  27. says

    I LOVED, and still do love, anything that’s in a Staples or OfficeMax. Those school/office supplies are like a library to me. Not sure why.

    That list is CRA CRA crazy!! How many types of paper are there? And the pencils, and the kleenex, and yet only ONE highlighter? Where’s the highlighter love?

  28. says

    What in the world are the head phones for?? When I was in school, I would have gotten in trouble if I used head phones in class. Can’t wait to see my future kids’ school lists. What’s going to be on there – thumb drives, SD cards, smart phones? We’ll see!

  29. says

    Like others, in my day, headphones were banned.

    My favorite is the 5 large freezer Zlploc bags. What are those for? Perhaps to send home the indoor shoes after they’ve been worn outdoors?

  30. says

    Whoa — 50 pencils! Yeah, that’s waaay more than average. With this year (already 60,000 classrooms worth of lists posted), we’re getting a really deep look into avearge (and excessive!) on lists. BTW — the headphoes are for a lot more learning/drilling being done on computers and iPads and the like — with audio cues.

  31. says

    Found you via WANA. Why only 50 pencils? What if a child lost one each day? Or if someone was a compulsive sharpener and kept peeling away the layers of the pencil all day long? :)

    Just my attempt at humor, but I get your point!

  32. says

    Crikey! I don’t even know what some of these things ARE. Apparently these kids should look into pencil manufacturing as a lucrative career option.

    I used to get excited shopping for school supplies. Annnd that is why I sat at the geek table. Now I spend my money on therapy (and by therapy I mean blogging).

  33. says

    This is why I stick to high school. I think this list is ridiculous. I tutor about 25 hours of math each week and don’t think I use 50 pencils in a year. Maybe they should be teaching students to not lose their pencils rather then buying so many.

  34. says

    I’ll admit I can never find a sharpened pencil around my house when I need one. Or paper. Or tape, scissors, glue. Pens. But mostly the scissors and pencils. And tape.

    Yeah. I think I need KITCHEN SUPPLY LIST. I’ll tape it to the refrigerator and see what turns up.

    As soon as I find the tape.

  35. Amoo says

    That’s awesome!! Probably saves alot of whining over what all the other kids have! Every school should do this!!

  36. Judi Simes says

    My grandson is heading back to school next week, Gr.3. I saw the list my daughter had and it was comparable to yours. My daughter purchased all the things on the list, labelled them all, then put 1/3 of the supplies aside to take to school at the beginning of the term along with a note to the teacher explaining that they were on a tight budget and unfortunately woud not be able to assist any other students with supplies. Her son tells her when he needs something and she sends it the next day. She also got a great deal on pencils and had his name printed on them, guess she was serious about not supplying the rest of the classroom lol. The note also stated very nicely that if the teacher had a problem with that she was more than welcome to call and they could discuss it,,,,,,,,,,unfortunately the teacher will not be calling because they are still on a work to rule and not doing any parent/teacher conversations about their child or school unless it is an emergency!!!!! Interesting, eh?

  37. Mythili McGregor says

    I’m a Mom of two, moved to Canada from India four years ago. I had no idea what a Duotang was when my kids came home from their first day of school and said we had to buy some. I went to a Staples store and asked one of the employees if he knew what it was. He gave me a huge smile and walked me across to where the Duotang’s were. I picked one up and thought, ‘Three prong folder?’ Why do they call it such a funny name like Duotang? Now, four years later, the word Duotang is a part of our vocabulary.

  38. says

    1. What’s a duotang?
    2. Since when do glue sticks come with letters by them? UHU? Huh?

    Now that I realize that third graders get THIS list, I’m going to go change up my list of school supplies for my high schoolers. I’m going to throw on a Remington typewriter (1), aglets (4), and artichokes (6). Because who doesn’t love the practicality of artichokes?

  39. Pcola Dad says

    I’m glad you are not teaching in my son’s school. Congrats on the union pay and benefits. I hope you can ‘last’ til retirement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *