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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Friday, August 19, 2005

Diamonds Dollar Stores Are A Girl's Teacher's Best Friends

Many times I get the question or variations on the question, "How do teachers do it?"

The answer, at least in part, is simple.

If there were say and Oscars for teachers and they finally got the credit that was due to them, an acceptance speech would go something like this:

"I'd like to thank my family for putting up with me asking them to make various photocopies on their company's dimes. I'd also like to thank the little people, literally because I work with eight year olds every day. Without them my job would have not been possible. And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to thank the dollar stores of America who make an underpaid profession a little bit brighter, just by being there with a selection and a smile."

Many of you have probably already discovered the wonder known as dollar stores. Some are only so-so, but just like with men, when you find a good one, you hold on to it for dear life. Good dollar stores can truly be a one stop shopping scenario, if you play your cards right. In fact, you can get playing cards there too. See how perfectly this works out?

Say you just bought a home and want to get odds and ends like salt & pepper shakers, tupperware containers and cleaning supplies. All this and more is at your disposal at dollar stores across the country.

And the satisfaction doesn't stop there. If you are on your way to your husband's friend's co-workers baby shower and haven't had the time to buy anything? It's ok. Dollar stores can provide you with cute little picture frames, bibs, cards, bags and balloons.

There are only two things about dollar stores that creep me out a little bit. This is the sale of food and religious items. But first I'll start with the food. Picking up candy and a bag of chips from the dollar store? Aces. Feeding a family of four for a week off their "frozen food" selection? Not so much. See usually dollar stores are great because they get their merchandise from discontinued or surplus vendors across the country. I don't know about you, but I'm not down with a 5 minute, make your own tuna package, no matter how great a deal.

Then there is the mysterious selling of all things religious. Why this disturbs me so is really a two fold theory: I can't tell if no one is buying these items and THAT's how dollar stores get 'em, or if they're just targeting the religious lot and apparently, many of them frequent dollar stores well, frequently. I have seen everything from Jesus nightlights to Bible stories for kids. I've never seen people actually buy any of it, but just like fruitcake, there must be a market for it somehow, somewhere.

Yes, dollar stores are great for everyone, but now I'm going to tell you why dollar stores are even better for teachers. For starters, there's the toy selection. In my classroom, I have this thing called a treasure chest. Really all it is a box filled with cheap stuff that eight year olds go ga ga for. I have a traffic light system in my room. Every child's name is written on a clothespin and attached to the traffic light. If you're good all day, you stay in green. If you break a rule, you get a warning. Break another rule, you go to yellow. Break a few rules, you're in red. A note goes home, phone calls are made yadda, yadda.

Anyway, at the end of the month, I tally up those green days and depending on how many you get this determines the size prize you receive (if any). Now dollar stores are great because they have all size prizes, for a one size fits all price. They even have educational prizes like multiplication flash cards and books to read which incidentally, are my favorite type of prizes because the kids are gaining a gift, but I'm "fooling" them into learning in the process.

Another reason dollar stores are so fab for teachers is there candy selection, which is very different in my book, from the food selection. Candy is a staple in my classroom. Everyday a child is in green they have a choice between a piece of candy or a sticker. And with candy, it's nearly all sugar and for the most part, tootsie rolls just don't go bad. Plus you can test it out. If you plunk a bag o' candy down in your cart and it makes a loud noise, chances are the freshness seal has worn off on that particular package. No worries. There's plenty more where that came from.

Last, but certainly not least, dollar stores are full of seasonal items and random goodness. I need to make back to school goodie bags. I need bulletin board border. I want Christmas window clings. I want extra worksheets for my students. I found an adorable "teachers touch children's lives" feel me, you're picking up what I'm putting down. All of it and more is there for the taking.

But perhaps the greatest trick all dollar stores pull is the cost itself. Hear me now, believe it later. You will never buy more stuff that you don't really need then when you are at a dollar store. Even if you are were at say Target and saw the same exact item for $1.25, you most likely would hold off. But you enter a dollar store and suddenly you find yourself saying, "Well it is only a dollar..." The irony here being that if you had just gone to Target for that one item and paid the $1.25 you would have your item and be on your merry way. Instead you decided to go digging at the dollar store and 45 dollars later, you are impressed with all the great "deals" you found. For that power alone I salute you, dollar stores of America.

Sure, sure some of the selection is tacky, but just like a diamond in the rough, if you search hard enough, U2 will manage to finally find what you're looking for.



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