Back-to-School Sale

I have been kind of struggling with getting into the “back-to-school” groove. This is not a good thing when you’re a professor as all of your lesson planning is best done before the semester begins. (For me, at least, since the first month of school is usually preoccupied by fall TV season premieres.) It took me awhile before I realized that my disassociation from excitement concerning a return to campus coincided with my complete disconnect from television this summer.

With all the traveling I do between the last and first day of school, I had my cable turned off to save myself the expense. Which means that any TV I did watch–because you know I didn’t just go SVU-less–was watched on download, thus, no commercials.

This sparse, TV-viewing summer parallels the summer of 1996 when I was working a dismal corporate job and a trip to Europe was my answer to getting me as far away as possible from my cubicle. I spent some time in Prague and I remember standing on the Charles Bridge, looking out over the Vltava River. In an effort to jot down some tidbits in my travel journal, I noted the date and realized it was Labor Day. School had started back in the states and I had totally missed it.

Are you getting the picture? I had not seen any Back-to-School commercials! Which means, I had not seen (or heard) anyone talking about the best thing on the planet to spend your money on: school supplies.

I used to LOVE buying new school supplies as a kid. I loved having a brand new pencil box—always pressed cardboard for us, no plastic boxes, so a new one was a big deal since it still both opened and closed and wasn’t held together with masking tape (which was usually the standard by October). I also loved the full Elmer’s glue bottle. How many of you spread glue all over your hands then spent most of First Friday mass peeling it off your fingers? (Catholic school. What can I say?) And of course, the brand new box of crayons, with in-box sharpener.

Shopping for school supplies got me excited about returning to school. When that list arrived in the mail (they didn’t post them at Office Supply simply because Office Supply didn’t yet exist), you ran around the house trying to get your mom to confirm a date for shopping. All of those new products were yours, yours alone, and you didn’t even have to share them with a sibling since you were never in the same grade.

I realize that in missing the back-to-school commercials on TV, I have missed the excitement over new school supplies. The best solution, of course, is to just head on out on my own timeframe, bring my list and have at it. So I did.

I seemed to have traded in a lot of the types of supplies I buy these days. Since my teaching is paperless, out are notebooks, folders and new pens. For this new school year, I bought a new 2T external hard drive, a flatbed scanner and updated my Mac with Lion.

And you know what? I am still damn excited about school supplies.

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5 thoughts on “Back-to-School Sale

  1. Shopping for school supplies was always one of the best, and most stressful, days of the year. Three girls, three shopping lists, and one cart: Talk about a retail adventure. Luckily for us, my mom was super organized, making one masterlist and noting which store sold the items for the best price.

    The one back-to-school item I distinctly remember buying was the TI-83 Scientific Calculator. I thought I was so cool because I made the cut into the accelerate math program (I know, I used to be good at math then), so I had to purchase it one year before the rest of my classmates.

    (PS – Michele, I love the new layout! Grand Central was my subway stop for my internship this summer.)

  2. Ashley says:

    I think these photos gave me a small orgasm.

    Small, but very, very real.

    School supply shopping was the absolute highlight of my summer. Every August 1st, the date I used to demand my mom take me shopping, I still get a little bit restless and look around my room. Where’s that flash of primary color? (Because let me tell you, they did NOT have pink binders when I was a kid–something I am very, very bitter about today) Where’s my new 24-box of Crayola crayons? (because as Stephen said, Crayola’s where it’s at….none of that RoseArt shit; they’re too waxy). And oh, the decisions to be made. Binders, or folders? A binder per class, or maybe a 1.5 or 2-inch binder to be shared? And before I could start LABELING my stuff, I needed my schedule. Stalking the mailman, 6th through 12th grades…starting the beginning of August, though inevitably that coveted packet from Pittsford Schools didn’t arrive until the Friday before Labor Day. And then the frantic phone calls (and later, IMs and Facebook statuses) would begin. “Who do you have for English? NO WAY! What period? ME TOO! Okay, well, we can walk lunch together.”

    My birthday is August 15th and somewhere in my mix of presents, there has ALWAYS been something back-to-school related. A gift card to buy some back-to-school clothes. The summer I turned 16, before my junior year of high scool when I would be taking AP US history, I got a “book sock” that was all covered in US flags. Can we TALK about how excited I was over that?

    And then, given my total OCD, and lack of anything better to do in the summertime, around 8th grade, I started labeling things. I had a program that could make labels on the computer, and I would spend hours deciding what my “theme” would be for the year. Once decided, I’d print out a whole sheet, and everything–every folder, binder, pencil case (I never liked the bulky plastic onces; I liked the nice flat cloth ones that could lie flat in a binder), even stuff that ony stayed in my locker, like my magnetic mirror and locker basket–would be meticulously labeled. By high school I started labeling my PENCILS because I was sick of them getting lost. (My favorite teacher wasted no time in “curing” me of that habit though. She’d walk around the room during class, and as she passed my desk, snatch up my pencil and start peeling off the label, shouting, “I’m curing you, Yang, I’m curing you!!”)

    As for commercials, I’d have to say: the best back-to-school commercial ever that I’ve seen was in 2004, before I started 10th grade. It was for Old Navy. It featured a girl out with a bunch of her friends and she was shouting, “School? I LOVE SCHOOL!!! All the LEARNING and the POSSIBILITIES and ooooh the SCHEDULES and the HOMEWORK….” and,frighteningly, she looked a little bit like me–long dark hair, plain t-shirt, jeans. And her friends just stood there staring at her in horror. The commercial was something along the lines of, “School might not be THIS exciting…but back to school shopping can be!” But everyone I knew just loved that one girl because she was just like me.

    This year is different. I don’t have 4 matching HWS folders and binders, the way I have for the last 4 years, beacuse I’m not taking classes. And it feels really weird. Instead I have a lesson plan book. I ordered posters and borders and bulletin board materials off a teacher website. I need to go back to the basics: having pens for my desk, scissors, colored Sharpies to do those damn economics graphs.Some sort of system for writing student passes. A LOT of paper clips. A working stapler. Because this year, I’m the one telling THEM what they need for the class.

    And I’m definitely not sure if I’m ready for that kind of power yet

  3. Jolyon Davis says:

    Jolyon Davis
    Aug 18, 2011

    “Back to School Sales”

    Growing up as a child going to school was always an exciting and fun part of the year. Not only was going to school fun, but getting prepared and shopping for school was even better. I remember I would always go to Wal-mart to get my school supplies. It would be in an organized object, that had the list of every school in the district, and it listed all materials for every class. I knew when I got my piece of paper I would try to get the best and coolest of all supplies, from the cool colored pencils, to the whole punched folders.
    The shopping aspect of getting ready for school was maybe the most exciting thing when school season hit. As I grew up, and moved on from grade to grade I started to see a change and difference in my attitude toward school, I was less excited every year, but at the same time started to love school, more than getting prepared for it. School became a passion of mine, knowing it was going to take me where I wanted to be. Even though my attitude changed with school shopping, shopping became a lot easier. Instead of buying all these notebooks and binders, things such as lab-tops were becoming more of use, and instead of having pencils having to sharpen, you had mechanical pencils.
    The supplies from year to year are becoming more enhanced and becoming better suited to adapt in any class setting. I am now in college, and the supply I use today compared to when I was elementary, middle school, and high school, has no match. All I have today is a folder, notebooks, and my lap-top, and I didn’t buy it all at Wal-mart, I went to Dollar General. I rather have chap and useful things, than the most expensive and stylish. My attitude has changed completely about becoming ready for school in some ways, but I still love the feeling of getting new supplies, and the first printed word written along the lines. School not only teaches you, but it brings excitement in all dimensions.

  4. Jackie Minnehan says:

    Looking back at my childhood, I can remember the dreadful feeling of summer vacation coming to a close. No child looks forward to the long and agonizing school days after a summer full of freedom and fun. However, despite all of the negatives, there is one positive experience that all kids look forward at the close of summer – school supplies shopping! As lame and dull as this may sound, you would be surprised by the reaction of kids when they first receive the letter from their new teacher, telling them what supplies will be necessary for the upcoming school year. Knowing that this letter is in the mail, and will soon arrive, is like waiting for Christmas day for many kids. Although this letter represents a time of the year that most people try to avoid, it is hard for kids not to become a little enthusiastic – especially with all of the fun and decorative options that school supplies distributers have created. Name any cartoon character, movie star, or famous singer that you can think of, and there is a ninety percent chance that there is a folder and matching notebook with their face on it. When I was in the store a few weeks ago, did they have Sponge Bob Square Pants notebooks, but they had matching folders, pencils, markers, binders, and crayons – you name it, they had it. It is amazing how much time and money school supplies producers spend to match their consumers’ wants! Although it may be awesome and great that anything a child wants on their books or pens they can probably get, what does this say about our society? Do we ever stop wanting? Is it sending the wrong message to kids – whatever they want, they can get. This may seem to be an unnecessary or stupid critique, but I feel that our society is continuing to send younger generations the wrong message. Do we really want the future of our society to be filled with people who believe they are entitled to get whatever they want? Though this does not apply to every individual, it is still a major problem that will continue to grow until our cultural mentality changes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Back to school shopping NEVER gets old. When we were younger, after waiting on pins and needles for our class lists and shopping lists to arrive, my two sisters and I would beg our parents to take us back to school shopping. Around the end of August, we were usually visiting my grandparents in Canandaigua. If the timing was right, my grandfather would offer to take us back to school shopping. We kindly accepted, but if I remember correctly we always held back a little, not wanting to overwhelm him by the excitement of 3 kids going back to school. If it wasn’t Grampa leading the trip, it was always Dad. We probably scarred my mom enough by back to school clothes shopping, so at least school supplies was something she could hand off to my dad. When we were little, everything had to be the brightest, prettiest colors. The pencils had to be super sharp, and we would buy new glue sticks and Crayola markers over and over again despite the growing collection from previous years building at home.
    Without question, my favorite part of back-to-school shopping is buying Sharpies. Yes, Sharpies. Seems to be random, right? Not in my household. I can’t remember when exactly it started, but years ago we bought the 24 pack of colorful Sharpie markers. I don’t know what it was about them. Maybe we thought we were cool enough that our parents trusted us with permanent markers instead of washable? Either way, as soon as we got home, we would cut open the package and test each marker on a paper. Then, one by one, my sisters and I would go in a circle and pick our collection of Sharpies. Boy does this get intense. There is strategy involved. Knowing which ones our sisters were eying, and debating which to take first. It is intense. We are now 15, 18 and 21 and we still do this every year without fail. Of course I now have a growing Sharpie collection multiple of the same color, I might add) but it doesn’t matter. Half of the fun of back to school shopping is the competition.

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