Community supplies vs. individual supplies: what’s a teacher to do?
Should classroom supplies be owned and used by individual students or combined and distributed equally among everyone?
How you handle school supplies as a teacher depends on your preferences and the needs of your class.
If you’re still deciding community supplies or individual, I break down the pros/cons of each situation.
I also offer practical solutions to the community supplies vs. individual supplies dilemma.
Related: classroom desk arrangement ideas
Community Supplies vs. Individual Supplies
Community Supplies Pros
- There’s no hassle labeling every item with individual names.
- The teacher has more control over the distributed supplies. No one ends up with five glue sticks while another only has one.
- Everyone has the same brand and type of thing. There’s minimal fighting over a “special pencil” or “cool eraser”.
- Materials can be placed in caddies at the center of table groups during collaborative work. Learners don’t waste work time digging around for items.
- Maintaining a stash of sharpened pencils is easy plus practical. You don’t have to worry about who brought pencils and who didn’t. If a student needs a pencil, they just grab one and go.
- At the beginning of the school year, some students arrive to school without supplies for various reasons. Community supplies mask the have and have-nots.
Community Supplies Cons
- Some families don’t contribute. And then there are those students who break or damage items frequently. It can be frustrating for others.
- Parent complaints. There are families who save and sacrifice to purchase things for their children. It’s understandable that they’re frustrated when supplies need replenishing, knowing that they’ve purchased more than enough materials for their child.
Individual Supplies Pros
- A plus for individual supplies is that students are responsible for their own resources.
- You’ll experience fewer parent complaints. If you send a note home asking guardians to replenish supplies, they usually do so with little question because it’s for their child.
- As long as the materials aren’t a distraction, students are allowed to have unique items such as special pencils or notebooks.
Individual Supplies Cons
- With individual supplies, there will be those students who don’t bring anything. This is when many educators end up spending their own money to ensure learners have what they need.
- There are parents who buy an abundance of supplies or unique items for their child. At the other extreme, you have students who arrive with just the basics or nothing at all. Those with nothing may feel sad or embarrassed.
Solutions to Community Supplies vs. Individual Supplies Dilemma
Here you’ll find the best ways to solve your community supplies vs. individual supplies issue.
1. Organize Materials.
Whichever method you choose, keeping items well-organized is a must.
For individual supplies, students simply store materials in their desks or individual supply boxes. Cubbies are another good option.
For community stuff, once teachers distribute each student’s portion, students store materials in a personal cubby.
Extra items are stored and distributed as needed.
2. Explain Community Supplies to Parents.
If you decide to do the community supplies method, clearly communicate your intentions with parents.
Before the school year begins, email parents and explain how the process will work. It’s understandable if a few guardians voice strong concerns or don’t like the system.
Word your communication from the perspective of creating a more community-based classroom.
3. Use a Hybrid Approach.
You could allow students to keep some individual supplies while making other materials community-based.
This hybrid-type of approach works well for many teachers and parents.
4. Seek Funding.
If you decide on individual supplies, investigate whether the school has extra funds to purchase materials for students who need items.
5. Ask for Donations.
During Open House or Back-to-School night, consider asking parents to donate money or contribute supplies.
Place requests on a class wish list.
Community supplies vs individual supplies … it’s a personal preference and depends on the needs of your class.
As a professional, you’ll make the best decision for your students.