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Get school supplies before teachers do!

Allen Teng

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Tess Vigeland: We talked earlier in the show about how retailers are a tad worried this back-to-school shopping season. Will the deals on clothes, shoes and computers go unheeded? Will pencils, notebooks and locker decor languish on the shelves? At least one segment of the school population will be shopping. Commentator and teacher Allen Teng raised his hand to tell us about it.


ALLEN TENG: Nothing can ruin a teacher's vacation more than a "Back to School Sale." Those four little words mark the end of summer. That's when teachers begin to worry about being ready for the next year. That's when the nightmares start -- the one's where you're teaching with no pants on.

The other problem with back-to-school sales is that teachers have to go. While these sales might have been designed for parents, trust me. Teachers are the ones trying to hoard 30 sets of colored pencils.

Unlike office jobs where you are free to steal from the supply closet, teachers get a very modest budget to last us the entire year. It's never enough for the 150 students you are assigned. So when we see the ads for 1 cent erasers, our ears prick up.

The office supply places used to invite us in. Now, they cringe when they see us coming. It was perfect: Go to the register and check out with a year's worth of supplies for under $30. But once enough teachers caught on, there was barely anything left for the students. And with the shortages have come store limits. At most: 5 pencils. Limit: 10 protractors. But did that deter us? On the contrary.

Once the radio and TV ads start running, teachers pounce on the Sunday paper. We zero in and circle the 19-cent glue sticks -- limit 10 -- and go to every Office Depot in the county on the hunt for more. Sure, we come up empty a lot. And with gas prices, we are spending more on transportation than we're saving on supplies, but it's the principle.

So for parents, a friendly warning: you do not want to come between a determined teacher and a stack of 10-cent notebooks.

VIGELAND: Allen Teng teaches at Woodland Park Middle School in San Diego and is a coach with the San Marcos Writing Project.

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