An Open Letter to Campbell Brown from a Teacher on Leave


I would like to applaud Bailey Shawley for writing an amazing response to Campbell Brown. As a teacher I feel the pressures she mentions almost daily. I am tired of hearing on the news from people who have never worked a classroom a single day in their life talk about how ineffective today’s teachers are at their job. Spend a week in my classroom. Then talk to me about effectiveness.

Originally posted on Life Under the Ponytail:

Dear Ms. Brown,

I saw your interview with Stephen Colbert. I wish I could have been one of those protesters outside the studio. You see, I don’t support people who are not educational experts attempting to reform or really even discuss education in such a public forum. That may be because I am a teacher.

I am certified by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to teach Secondary English for 99 years; in other words, I have earned my permanent certification. I have a Master of Education plus sixty additional graduate credits. I have been in the trenches for eleven years. In those eleven years, I taught English and reading and remedial reading to students in grades seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven. I also tutored students who were performing below grade level and who were not proficient on our standardized state assessments. I was considered a teacher leader in my building…

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Dollar Store Pencils Suck & Other Truths About School Supplies

Dollar Store Pencils Suck

It’s that time of year.  Some parents dread it.  Some parents love it.  It’s back to school time.  The days are starting to get a tiny bit shorter.  The Sunday newspaper is a pound heavier from all the flyers and sale papers advertising their deep discounts on everything from pencils to folders, to microwaves and mini fridges.

As a teacher I have to admit that I love school shopping.  I feel no shame in admitting I am a total nerd when it comes to brand new pencils, crayons that are new in the box, clean and crisp lined paper, and three ring binders that are mark free.  Because I teach in a poorer school district I work ten times as hard to score the really good deals because not only am I buying for my own two boys but I am also buying for 30 students that will show up to my room in September, most of them without the necessary supplies they will need to be successful.  I actually take my boys with me when I run to Staples or Office Max so not only can I buy 10 two pocket folders for 5 cents each, but so can my 13 year old and this year my 6 year was handed a pile of folders so he could check out too!!  Then the next day we drove back to the store and did it all over again!

After 20 years working in a classroom I have made a serious observation about school supplies.  Here it is.  Ready?  NOT ALL SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE CREATED EQUAL.  I kid you not.  In fact, some of them are absolute crap.

I always feel terrible for the handful of kids who do show up to school with the supplies they got at the dollar store.  They are proud of their new stuff, but that pride doesn’t last long.  All too soon they are frustrated.  For the record I have nothing against dollar stores.  As a teacher I shop there frequently!  However, their school supplies suck.

First off, the pencils from the dollar store don’t sharpen.  Honest to god.  I have personally sharpened hundreds of dollar store pencils only to have them time and time again come to a wood point, not a lead point.  The leads are almost always off center and no matter how you try to sharpen it you just won’t get a pointy lead.  Or we run into the other problem of the lead inside the pencil being broken in multiple places.  When you shake the pencil it actually rattles!  So you sharpen the pencil and the lead falls out.  You sharpen it again and the next point falls out.  By the time the child finishes sharpening his or her pencil the once new pencil is now about three inches long.

As a teacher I can recommend Ticonderoga as the best of the best, but I will be the first to admit they are too expensive.  So stick with Dixon pencils, Staples brand, Office Max brand, and even the Target Up and Up pencils.  I know for a fact these pencils all work fabulously.

24 CrayonsNext is crayons.  Again, dollar store crayons are horrible.  They are just like the two waxy crayons you get with a kids menu at a restaurant.  Those crayons don’t color as much as they crumble and leave colored chunks behind it.  Now imagine having a box of 64 of those lousy crayons.

Every single store right now has Crayola 24 count crayons for .50 cents a box.  Do your kid a favor and spend $2 to buy four boxes.  One box for fall, a new box for winter, one for spring, and one for home for homework.  Having 24 colors of really good crayons is worth a lot more than having 64 crayons that don’t work.

I have learned another secret about crayons.  Rose Art crayons, in my opinion, color nicer than Crayola but the wax is too soft.  The soft wax makes for prettier coloring, but the heat of the child’s hand will eventually cause the crayon to break and children hate broken crayons.Washable Markers

When it comes to markers I can say with certainty that there really is only one good choice and that’s the Crayola Washable Markers.  Yes, the regular Crayola ones are on sale right now $1 a box and the Washables are still $3.99 a box, but the Washables really do wash out.  It is heartbreaking to see marker stains on brand new uniforms in September, or on new clothes that were supposed to last all year.  Splurging for the more expensive markers will save you a fortune on clothing costs down the road.

Many schools today now request that you send in Dry Erase markers because a lot of the math programs and phonics programs rely on each child having their own white board.  Before you think this blog post was sponsored by Crayola, I would like to point out that I actually hate Crayola Dry Erase markers.  They don’t erase!!

Expo Dry EraseThe best in this category is hands down Expo Low Odor Dry Erase markers.  PLEASE make sure you get “low odor” ones.  Traditional dry erase markers are a lot like rubber cement.  If you breath the fumes for too long you start to get high.  Last year I had about a dozen students at once using the regular markers because we had run out of the low odor ones.  After about ten minutes of breathing those fumes several kids started complaining of a headache and my ADHD kids went into full hyper mode.  That day after work I ran to the store to by more odorless ones!Child Scissors

Finally, my last item of note are children’s’ scissors.  Here it really doesn’t matter what brand you purchase just as long as they have metal blades.  You can buy metal safety scissors just as easily as plastic safety scissors.  Often the plastic scissors tear the paper as opposed to cutting it.



One last word of advice.  If you can afford to buy an extra pack of crayons or markers for a teacher, please do so.  In the past few years it seems the news and social media have really put a target on teachers but it would shock most people I think if they knew just how much of our income we reinvested back into our classrooms.
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