Parents

Teacher Shares Powerful Lesson For Parents Buying School Supplies

This teacher's encounters with parents at Walmart inspired him to speak out.
08/31/2016 03:00pm ET | Updated August 7, 2017

An Iowa teacher’s viral Facebook post is offering a different perspective on school supplies.

Leland Michael, who is a math teacher at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, shared a powerful message about parents’ roles in their children’s education on Facebook.

Michael posted a photo of some school supplies and told the story of an encounter he’d had that day. He said he was feeling “jaded” while shopping at Walmart after two sets of parents complained to him in the school supplies aisle.

“This is just ridiculous, I don’t know how these teachers think we are supposed to get all this stuff,” the parents said.

“As they complained, they seemed to be oblivious to the fact that my cart was filled with a class set of all the supplies they were buying ... which should have been a pretty clear indication that I was one of those greedy teachers they were complaining about,” Michael wrote in the post.

Later in the checkout line, a dad in front of him brightened his day in an unexpected way. The man was buying school supplies with his daughter, and after paying, he turned to Michael and handed him a $25 Walmart gift card.

“You are a teacher right?” the dad asked. “I just want to thank you for everything you do. I see your cart is full with supplies, and I just wanted to help out as much as I can.”

Michael said he was touched by the heartwarming encounter and also struck by the contrast between that exchange and what he’d heard earlier from the other parents. He wrote about the different messages these parents were sending their children:

“The kids who heard their parents complaining heard this message: ‘School is not important enough to spend money on it, teachers are not to be trusted and have bad judgement, and learning does not require investment.’

The kid who’s dad handed me the gift card heard, ‘School is important enough that we should give more than required to make sure it is successful, teachers should be respected and valued, and learning requires us giving it everything we have.’”

Michael said he understands that money is really tight for some families, who have to struggle to buy kids school supplies.

“However, as a parent, do your best to send the right message to your child,” he added. “The man [who] gave me the gift card not only made my day, but I know that his daughter will enter the classroom this year with a very different perspective about her teacher and her education, and that is extremely powerful!”

Michael’s post clearly resonated with parents and educators, as it’s been shared almost 70,000 times. Though there’s a great deal of debate surrounding school supplies ― particularly with regard to costs and quantities ― many commenters thanked the teacher for the important reminder and perspective.

Ultimately, kids are not oblivious to the messages adults convey. And when it comes to education, these messages can be crucial.

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