I don’t know if this is happening in your town, but where I live we have entered the Case-it debate phase of the year.
If you don’t have children in school yet or your kids are finished with school and have left the nest and you have no idea what a Case-it is, it’s basically the modern day Trapper Keeper. A super fancy zip-up binder that has all sorts of organizational stuff in it so your kids can keep all their papers and information in one place.
In our school district, school supply lists are posted online so students have an idea of what they will need for the school year.
And every year, middle school parents in my district start blowing up Facebook with Case-it questions and complaints in the last week of August.
I know, because we’ve had at least one kid in middle school for the last nine years.
The teachers in our district are not big proponents of the Case-it.
In fact, on some of the supply lists, it specifically says, NO CASE-ITS.
But there are parents who love them and want them and buy them — even when teachers specifically request that students not have them — and then complain when their kids can’t really use them.
IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR.
As a former 4th and 6th grade teacher, I can see things from the teacher perspective.
While we live in an anti-Case-it district, some other school districts love Case-its. I think there are even school districts that require them.
I can also see things from the parent perspective.
You see these fancy binders on display in Walmart and Staples and Target and everywhere, and you think to yourself, “THIS IS JUST WHAT JOHNNY NEEDS!!!” He’ll never be disorganized again!!!
So you buy it. You are sure this will set your kid up for school success.
And perhaps it will.
Plus Case-its are not cheap. They are like $20. So you are making an investment when you get one for your child.
And then there is the excitement factor for the kids. I remember being SO EXCITED when I got my Trapper Keeper — GULP — thirty-five years ago. Parents are happy when anything excites their children about going to school.
I was the kind of teacher who would have liked the Case-it. It would have appealed to my style of teaching.
So there are the parents who are pissed their kids can’t exclusively use Case-it’s and there are the teachers who annoyed that people keep buying them and then there are the administrators who are annoyed that they have to deal with adults on both sides of the equation who are annoyed.
The administrators don’t come out with a black or white statement because if they ban them, there will be parents who go ballistic, and if they condone them there are teachers who will go ballistic.
Ultimately, I believe the teachers should have the final word.
Just like all students are different, so are all teachers. What works for one teacher doesn’t necessarily work for another. And when you are in middle school and have five different teachers for five different subjects, they are going to run things differently.
Kind of like we moms run things differently.
The systems I have set up in my house are not the systems my friends have set up in their house.
Even my husband and I don’t do things the same way in most areas, and we are in the same house.
And if you want the teachers to work with their strengths so that they can be as effective as possible, you have to let them use the system that works best in their classroom.
That may include the use of a Case-it.
Or it may not.
As a fourth grade teacher, I taught in a self-contained classroom and I had all my students set their binders up exactly the same way. I was pretty on top of the kids and I gave them all time to put their things where they belonged and I devoted time to organization every day. I felt really strongly about teaching my students how to organize their papers and how to instill these habits in them.
I would have loved Case-its for my students.
My neighbors down the hall?
I have no idea what structure they used. Case-its may not have worked for them at all.
So Case-its in middle school are tough when kids have multiple teachers.
And my own children have zero desire to own one.
It annoys me that parents get so worked up over a binder.
There are worse things to worry about.
But I think many parents don’t understand the logic behind teachers’ reasons for not wanting and/or not wanting certain supplies in their classrooms.
I think maybe teachers are offended — especially seasoned and experienced teachers who have been around the block a few times– when their methods are questioned. They know what works for them. What happened to the days of trusting the teacher’s judgment?
Could you imagine if you sent in a note to all your kids’ teachers letting them know that you didn’t allow your kid to watch PG-13 movies and they all started bashing you on Facebook and questioned your way of parenting and saying I SERIOUSLY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PARENT AND WHY SHE IS RUNNING HER HOME THIS WAY!
You would not be happy.
Especially if they were posting that stuff in a group on Facebook and you belonged to that group.
So parents, my (unsolicited) advice to you is to back off on the composition books vs. spiral notebooks and the Case-its and whatever other things your kids’ teachers use.
If the teachers say don’t get them, then don’t get them. If your teachers say get them, then get them.
My (unsolicited) advice to teachers and administrators?
To avoid the inevitable Case-it Debate, prepare a Case-it Statement.
Let parents understand the WHY behind the no Case-it policy. This could apply to the elementary school supply lists asking for 5,000,000 sharpened pencils and four thousand glue sticks.
If parents understood why so many of those were needed, I bet they’d complain a lot less.
I know it would be great if parents would just have faith in you and not question your reasons for making the decisions you are making.
But unfortunately, people don’t work that way. People need to understand why a rule or a policy is a rule or policy. And many parents are completely clueless about what goes on in school all day.
So maybe the kids don’t have designated time to organize papers, and the Case-its cause more problems than they solve in many cases.
Maybe some teachers collect notebooks in class, and Case-its just don’t work for that.
Maybe you want composition books or spiral notebooks or loose leaf paper or whatever for reasons X, Y, and Z. That’s cool. Whatever works best for you.
But make it easy for parents to understand. Because when parents understand, they are much more likely to be on board with your policies.
And that will stop the complaints which will reduce the number of fires you need to put out. Nobody wants to spend their first few days of school putting out fires.
Of course there will still be plenty of unreasonable people out there. There always are. But making the WHY clear will take care of the reasonable ones who just need to understand the logic behind the decisions.
Parents, if you have a real concern that a teacher or an administrator doesn’t understand the truly unique needs of your kid, send an email, and discuss it privately.
Make sure your WHY is understood.
Chances are your child will be just fine. Most kids who really need extra help and different systems in place already have an IEP or a 504 that addresses these things.
If you have no idea what an IEP or a 504 is, then chances are your kid can handle whatever system the teachers put in place.
Trust the teachers.
Understand and accept the school supply rules, just as you expect people to accept the rules in your house.
If you have an issue with a certain policy, educate yourself so that you understand the reasoning behind it.
Contact the school. Talk to the teacher.
And most importantly, remember how you’d want your parenting decisions handled.
And keep it off of Facebook.
In the end, it’s not a life or death situation.
It’s just a silly binder.