I remember my first year teaching many moons ago. I was so excited to get started, to impart my wisdom and mold young minds. When I saw my empty classroom and knew my first paycheck wasn’t coming until after a month of classes, my heart sank and my budget cried. How was I supposed to teach engaging beautiful lessons without supplies in an empty boring room? The sad reality is that almost all teachers are forced to buy their own class supplies and while we can all agree that its not fair, it isn’t likely to change anytime soon so I would like to give our new teachers what their absolute necessities are to begin the year without breaking the bank.
Before You Buy
I’m going to give you some friendly advice that might be difficult for you (it was for me) but it will save you a fortune. Firstly, buy USED as frequently as possible. Anything and everything you put in your classroom is going to get scratched, drawn on, or broke -yes even in upper grades- so go ahead and save yourself some of the heartache and buy it used. Hit up thrift stores, Goodwill, and Facebook Marketplace. If your sense of aesthetic and Pinterest board demands it, you can always paint whatever it is to give it fresh life but avoid buying new unless its really on clearance (like cheaper than you could get elsewhere).
My second piece of advice is to try to get others to pay for your stuff. I know that doesn’t sound the best but it is what it is. There are a few ways to do this that wont hurt your pride. All of these start with you making an Amazon wish list. To do this, go to your account drop down, select lists, and add lists. Name it something cute and start adding all your needs. Once its done, the next part can take multiple different forms. You can do them all or some, but hopefully they will help get your needs met. The first option is the easiest- stick the link to your wish list on every single social media platform you have to your name. Explain your situation and that the list is for your first classroom then pray that lots of people with money are in the gifting mood. This is surprising effective and you can get quite a few things, especially in the summer when parents goodwill toward teachers is at a high.
The next option is to use a website like DonorsChoose.org and post your needs. Amazon is one of the websites they allow you to use for your lists so having that already made wish list will come in handy. This site is good because it allow people to choose a project to support ( like your first classroom) and buy some or all of the needs for it. This gives them record of a charitable purchase for tax purposes so its a win/win.
The last option is probably my favorite because A) you get to have a party and B) its to celebrate your huge accomplishment of becoming a teacher. You can have a “Starting my Career” party that you either throw yourself or have a friend throw for you. Its basically a birthday party but instead of growing a year older you are starting your life as a teacher. Make sure you put the link to your wish list on the invitation or you may end up with a bunch a teacher theme randomness. This is by far the funnest option.
My last bit of advice is strictly related to supplies your kids will use. Firstly make sure that if you can , you put it on your classes supply list. Trying to buy enough of anything for the amount of kids you have will be expensive so try to avoid as much as possible. If you cant avoid it though, then you need to WAIT. Do not buy things until they all go on sale for back-to-school. Bonus points if you can manage to wait until 1-2 weeks after school starts and then you can get it all on clearance. I know that not what you want to do but they say waiting is the hardest part for a reason.
Things To Put On Your List
ALL TEACHERS NEED
Dry Erase markers should be on your supply list because you will go through roughly 30,000 a year. Don’t worry about buying magnetic ones, no matter how cool and convenient they are, because you will need to hide and hoard markers. No kidding, you don’t want to be that teacher who is desperately trying to write with that last dried up wrecked marker.
These are the Amazon Brand and you get 12 for $7.74.
The holy grail of teacher supplies are these felt tip pens. There is something so right about using these to write on your teacher planner or leaving notes for students or parents in these fun colors. I think every teachers owns these and loves these.
Get a 12 pack here for $7.85.
Its a running joke that teachers tend to pack up work to take home but it always just sits there until the next day. Hopefully that wont be you but just in case you do need to take your laptop home or have a staff meeting you need to take notes at then you’ll need a sturdy teachers bag. This one is large but not too much and is water repellent so when you spill your coffee it wont ruin everything inside.
Get it here for $26.99.
I know that we are living in the digital age and everything is online now but you are still going to want a teacher planner. They have all kinds from fancy to minimal but I like this one because it has what you really need. There is a student information page that lets you keep parent contact information handy- it can be a pain to log in to different systems to look up a number or email address when you only have a few minutes. It also has a month, week, and day view for you to help structure and align your lessons to curriculum. Even if you put it into a computer, its helpful for the planning process.
Get it here for $9.99.
You are going to want a heavy duty pencil sharpener for your room. Even if you happened to be blessed with the old school crank version, it will drive you crazy and takes forever. The less time they send at the sharpener, the more time they can be learning. You also don’t want to skimp on this. They will angrily jam pencils in and it will break quickly if you don’t get a good one.
This one has a large tray and a powerful motor but wont take up your whole desk for $14.98.
This is something no one talks about but you are going to need so many pairs of sharp trusty scissors. I don’t know what it is about scissors but you could teach high school English, use your scissors once a month, but they will still go missing. Every stinking time. I think they go where ever all the dry erase markers are. Do yourself a favor and buy your scissors in bulk.
This is a 5 pack for $9.99 and I hope you make it until the end of the year with at least 1 pair left.
Elementary and Special Education
There is an ungodly amount of laminating that you are going to do and this baby will sometimes safe your life. Yes your school probably has a giant laminator that is perfect for doing large scale jobs but there is usually a line for it, you’ll have to wait for laminate to be ordered, or you’ll just plain not have the time to get there so you’ll want your trusty little back up. Its also much easier to do small pieces on this and you wont feel judgement when you are laminating for the 10th time…today.
Get it here and a pack a 100 sheets for $36.09.
Because you wont be able to laminate everything, you are going to want a class set of these handy pockets. You can slide in morning work, worksheets, or just use plain paper to make a dry erase board into these. They have an elastic holder to keep the marker with their board and metal eyelet (put a command hook on the side of their desk so they have quick access to their work). Tip: get a pack of sponges from the dollar store and cut them up them velcro it pocket so they always have and eraser handy.
Get 30 of these here for $22.85.
The back bone of every morning meeting ( a staple of elementary and special education classrooms) is the calendar. There are tons of cute ones available but its best to let the kids actually use and do the pieces meaning that you are going to need something sturdy. This one has pockets to hold all the pieces as well as covering the concepts of time (yesterday, today, tomorrow), the seasons, and weather. It comes in blue or black and can be hung form your white board, bulletin board, or command hook it from a wall.
Get it here for $29.99.
Let me tell you about the scam that is the sticker corporation. You buy a huge pack to use on papers and as rewards- they are so cute with all the stars and smiley faces- but you know what happens? You end up peeling them off furniture, out of kids hair, or someone steals someone else’s sticker creating WW3. Its not worth it. This pack of washable and kid safe ink stamps have it all. Use them on the top of hands for a reward, in daily send home folders, and on graded assignments. You can thank me later.
Buy them here for $13.99.
Middle School and High School
I know this one is not conventional but let me explain. Middle and High School students often believe that the primary purpose for attending school is to be social- the hallways, the bathroom, and even your classroom. To get their attention, you could try yelling but that will get old. Some use a wireless doorbell, which I can testify works well, but really all you need is something that makes a loud enough sound to be heard over the talking. This hand little device will get attention and maybe even a few laughs, if not from the kids then at least from you.
Get yours here for $10.34.
I don’t know what your schools or personal policy is regarding students cell phone but I can guarantee you will have more than one student break it. It what teenagers do, they push boundaries, and since they tend to be permanently glued to their devices it often comes from unapproved use. Now you could just take away the phone and keep it in your desk but wheres the fun in that? Nope. If a student breaks the phone policy, they have it locked up until the end of the period (keep the key on your lanyard). This is also handy because while it keeps it away, it also keeps it viewable for transparency.
Get yours here for $9.69.
I love these file folders because the file folders are super thick plastic and the holder is heavy duty and you hang it from a wall (i.e. doesn’t take up valuable table/desk space). You can label each folder as a class period and have students turn in there assignments to their folder (maybe keep one as graded behind your desk so you can remember to pass back assignments too). You can label them with the days of the week and the last one as notes or the previous weeks work and make it so that absent students can be responsible for getting their work when they return. There is even a calendar on the front so you can mark due dates!
Get a single one for $9.19 or 2 for $19.49 here.
There is going to come a time when a student is going to need to leave your room and most schools require some form of pass for this. This set is awesome because its lanyards- meaning they are going to accidentally leave it somewhere – and you can wipe it off! Yes for no germs! It has a space for your name and room number so everyone knows where they are coming from and where they should be returning to. Literally the most perfect passes known to teachers.
Get you this set here for $5.99.
I’m truly thrilled for you and this new adventure you are about to begin. There is nothing like teaching. Its way more than a job, you might say its a lifestyle choice, but it can be the most rewarding thing you do with your life. I’m proud of you and I hope that this list helps you some. Don’t feel that you have to have the perfect room or have everything at once, as much as you may want it. Teaching is a learning profession and you will find what works and what doesn’t for you ( as well as what you need and don’t) as you go along. Trust in yourself and your capabilities. You’re gonna be great!