By Natalie Young
Meeting the needs of every student does not end at ensuring every student is provided with your classroom’s school supply list. Students need much more than just materials and supplies. As an elementary classroom teacher working in a high-poverty school district serving mostly minority students, I created an essential stash of goods for my students each year. This “cache stash” went beyond providing typical school supply needs—it provided students with peace of mind.
Ms. Young, my grandma tried to do my hair, and now it look a hot mess.
Ms. Young, I ain’t get to eat no breakfast today.
Ms. Young, I forgot my gloves at home.
Throughout my teaching career, I’ve had many conversations that began like that. I just recently discovered that some preservice and new teachers are unaware that every teacher needs a cache stash. Research has shown a correlation between poverty and school achievement. Low-socioeconomic kids often earn lower scores in core subjects like reading, writing, and math (Jensen, 2010). Creating a stash for your students is simple and you can easily remembered it by using this simple acronym: STASH.
S—Snacks: You should consider snacks one of the most important items in your stash. When children are hungry, it’s difficult for them to focus and pay attention in class. Try to provide a variety of options, but also include go-to snacks like cheese crackers, popcorn, and pretzels. Be aware of any allergies students may have and keep only peanut-free items in your stash.
T—Talking: Students talk all day long, so having fresh breath is important. We ask students to share and collaborate multiple times throughout the day. However, a turn-’n-talk isn’t always the best strategy if a student has bad breath. Making sure to have mouthwash and mints in your stash can help students avoid being on the receiving end of ridicule from other students.
A—Apparel: Being a teacher in the Midwest, I am deeply aware that our winters are long and fierce. Extra gloves, scarfs, hats, and earmuffs are an essential part of fighting our cold, windy weather. Supplying your students with essential clothing items throughout the year can make a big difference.
S—Skincare: Adding items like lip balm, lotion, and sunscreen helps soothe and protect students’ skin. When adding skincare items, be sure to include fragrance-free items to avoid issues for students with sensitive skin.
H—Hair: Hair is very important in African American culture. As a Black woman, I grew up understanding the importance of Black hair, and I possess a vast quantity of Black hair knowledge. If you don’t have a full appreciation and thorough understanding of the uniqueness of Black hair, I strongly advise against any attempts to adjust African American hairstyles. Regardless, your stash should always include essential items like combs, brushes, hair ties, and common hair products used by students in your school’s community.
Be sure to ask close friends and family for donations to your cache stash. Give them a list of essentials you need at your next family gathering or text them your list. Most people are aware of the monetary struggles teachers face and are happy to donate items. As a new teacher, creating your own cache stash will help you meet the needs of every child, including the unexpected needs.
Dr. Young is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. She enjoys preparing future teachers to be successful in today’s diverse classrooms. She has been active in KDP since 2016 and is a faculty co-counselor for the Delta Epsilon Chapter.
Jensen, E. (2010). Teaching with poverty in mind: What being poor does to kids’ brains and what schools can do about it. ASCD.