A three-inch what?


Every summer after vacation is over I take the kids shopping for school supplies, but it’s not like they can have fun and pick out whatever they want. There are lists we have to follow very carefully. The items are very specific: ultra-fine point permanent markers in assorted colors (not fine point and not black), gray erasers (not white, because those are the ones that smudge), and wide-ruled black and white composition books, not college-ruled and not any other color. I usually don’t complain too much about how specific these lists are. It can’t be easy for teachers, what with my children and 20 others in their care all day long. The least I can do is get them what they want.

But this year was a little different. First, my daughter is in the 6th grade and it’s a whole new ballgame at the junior school. Her list was much longer and more expensive than I anticipated. I spent $85 on her list alone, and that doesn’t even include this super cute shag rug for the bottom of her locker. Or this very practical locker chandelier.

One item on her list in particular had me aghast: the index cards. She needed no less than 800. Yes, I said 800, or 200 away from 1,000. I can only speculate as to why she needs all these cards. Will they be used for building a Guinness Book replica of the Washington Monument in history class? Or maybe they will all be glued together to make some kind of giant index card quilt in art that will be shellacked and preserved for generations on the wall of the cafeteria?

The other thing that had my underwear all twisted up in knots was the list that came home from the elementary Spanish teacher well after I thought the joy of school supply shopping was over. I initially ignored this list, tossing it aside because I just could not believe it. Once I summoned the courage to look at it, I saw that I had to buy more pencils, more index cards — and a three-inch binder. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but three inches is enormous when you’re talking binders. I don’t know much, but I know my third grader doesn’t need a three-inch binder. Orthopedic surgeons don’t need three-inch binders. Just what this Spanish teacher plans to put in a binder that big is anyone’s guess.

Within a few hours of the Spanish list going public, there was nothing else in town to talk about. “Did you see that Spanish list? Are you kidding me? Judas Priest, how much is that going to cost me?” Facebook was en fuego. Parents were going rogue, shoving two-inch binders into backpacks and sending their kids off with notes explaining that three-inch binders were against their religion. Homeroom teachers were fielding questions they were not prepared to answer. It got ugly.

The next day, a clarification note was sent home via student folders. Señora backed off and said a two-inch binder would be sufficient. Hooray! It was a victory for the parents, and we danced a salsa right there on the playground at pick-up.