An open letter to primary school teachers
Working parents need a heads up when it comes to school projects.

Dear Teachers,

Firstly, thank you for all that you do for our children.  The comfort and kindness, the hours spent dealing with difficulties with their learning, the marking at all hours, the extra mural activities.  We know and appreciate how much you do and we are grateful.

There are however just a few things us working parents – who are in offices from 08:00 – 17:00, come home, spend time cuddling and playing, make lunch boxes, bath children, make supper, oversee homework, give attention to our husbands (you know what we mean), and then sit and study or do left over work that we had to bring home because we had to leave at exactly 5 sharp to fetch children from after care or granny or get nanny to the bus.

I’m talking about items for projects and the dress up outfits you send the little note home about the day before you want them.  The only shop open by the time we are reading these notes is the garage shop in the dodgy road around the corner.  It doesn’t sell wool, planks of wood, T-shirts in the colour of the sports house, rosettes, white boxer shorts, packets of beans, elastic bands, stuffing to stuff dolls with, fabric of any description or face paints, cakes, or bags of wrapped sweets.  It is all very well to end with the line “we don’t expect you to buy these things, just use what you have at home” – Why on earth do you think we would have these items at home?  Not all parents sew or have a workshop with off cuts or want to be baking at eleven at night.  

It is only fair that these requests are sent out on the Monday prior to the Monday they’re needed.  That way, once we’re home, we can load all the children into the car and visit the over crowded shops, or we can use our lunch break and we can go and buy the required items.  It also gives us the option of going over the weekend (after we’ve spent all morning watching sport at some school that didn’t open its tuck shop to sell us coffee of course). 

Please, we are begging you, help us out with this little bit of preparation and organisation so that we can help you and our children.

This is probably a bit of a stretch in terms of pre-planning, but if you gave us a list at the start of the year or each term with items we should keep at home in a project box for the projects you’ll be doing that term or year it would be really helpful.  For the sake of my fellow working parents, here is what I’m gathering this year for grade 5:

  • A variety of bits of masonite and off cuts of wood (I’m going to ask at a local hardware store), as well as a set of tools

  • A variety of balls of wool and sizes of knitting needles, cotton, thread and needles

  • Batting / stuffing

  • Off cuts of fabric in a variety of colours and textures

  • Rolls of cardboard and A4 sized coloured card

  • String

  • Elastic bands

  • Beans, rice, pegs, black bin bags and other bits and bobs that I might actually have around the house

  • Colour ink cartridges for emergency pictures of Pyramids and such that need to be printed at 22:00 because work on the project starts the next day, or I might stock up on some travel agent brochures.

  • A home version of PowerPoint for the slide shows that now have to accompany orals and projects

  • Yoghurt cups, empty tins and peanut butter jars, ice cream containers and shoe boxes, coloured pencils, kokis and marker pens

  • Paper plates

  • Rubber mallet

  • Boxes of muffin mix and cake mix and bags of wrapped sweets (though I may of course eat the sweets)

Teachers, what else do you think we should have in there?

It is a huge relief of course that projects are assembled at school and we don’t have to compete with the parents who are engineers or handy men and women or dress makers, so thank you for that improvement in the way projects are done. 

What other reasonable forewarning do you think working parents should be given?

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