A First Year Teacher’s Back to School Shopping List

The 2018-2019 school year is my first year as a teacher, what I hope in my youthful idealism will be a long and fulfilling career. I’ve been in my classroom almost every day for the past week and a half, and now that I’ve got my desktop up and running, we’re off to the races. As I’m setting up the room, suddenly I’m realizing things that a teacher has to get on their own – they don’t just magically appear in the room. Here are a few of those things:

35 Dollar Tree Neon Plastic Boxes:

You can see how I’m setting up the classroom library. Featured books on each shelf are either “Staff Picks” (my favorite books) and “August Theme: Back to School”

I was once told “the best teachers beg, borrow, and steal,” and so when I read a classroom tip I’m pretty quick to try and incorporate it into my own work. The most recent book I’ve read is Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, and not only is a lot of the advice going into my lessons, it also gave tips on how to build a classroom library. Now I have been hoarding curating a book collection for ten years, and so: 35 Dollar Tree bins. I wanted a place to organize the books so that they would be able access texts they enjoy. These plastic bins hold books perfectly.

A Pencil Sharpener:

As a kid, schools always had pencil sharpeners drilled into the walls. Now, it seems like very few places have them anymore. But pencils still break or get blunt with too much writing, and someone’s got to buy that sharpener. I’m planning on getting a few manual pencil sharpeners that make very little noise, don’t break very easily, and are inexpensive. Staples had a $10 brand that I like so far.

Now, the Wisconsin board has some introductory info about me and some photos of travel and my dog.


You know, I only remember buying one pair of black Walmart scissors. Somehow though, I have three. Now, am I going to make these black, adult size scissors available at free rein in my classroom? Hell no. But I still need them to build bulletin boards and cut out paper trees. Also a Wisconsin symbol, despite the fact I am not a UW alumnus.

Masking Tape:

My absolute MOST favorite purchase I have made by far are this colored masking tape set. Is it the best quality in my opinion? Not really – the brown seems to fray as I pull it out. However, it is awesome to add color everywhere – frames around posters, labeled shelves for different student groups, accent colors on bulletin boards. I highly recommend it to teachers who want some color with minimum hassle.

A Box to for Students to Turn Papers In:  

So, I didn’t think about this. Where are students going to turn papers in? Ummmm…the floor? I looked at Target, Walmart, Goodwill (multiple locations), and the Dollar Tree. Nothing. Until I went back to Target a few days ago and found big, thick black plastic bins. They will fit 8.5×11 papers just fine, and the black color means I can add bands of tape to decorate. To top it all off, it came from the clearance section of Target so I may be headed back there to pick up there more for a better paper management system (one for each class).

Sticky Notes:

As an English teacher, sticky notes are invaluable. Students can use them to track their thoughts while reading independently without messing up books with notes in the margins. They can write down their thoughts again during a mini lesson before sharing them with a partner – ensuring everyone has something to share. They make for a great silent discussion tool where students respond to a prompt and then categorize the different strains of thinking. I use them all the time, and so they need to be in my classroom. But there is no magic Sticky Note Fairy (sadly), that person is me (new nickname maybe?). I probably have about 20 pads now, and I know after a couple months I’ll be needing more.

A Paper Cutter:

So the last thing I’ll say about myself is I consistently take on so many ideas (I blame Pinterest) that I end up doing more than I can or should do. This week that thing has been creating two projects that require me to individually cut out pieces of paper for each student to either see or use. And actually, it might be three if I stick with my current bulletin board plan. I’ve been using plain old scissors for all of these, and I’m sick of it. So while I haven’t purchased a paper cutter yet, it’s on my school supply list to save my fingers and my sanity.

And for all my teacher friends out there, here’s our favorite video for this time of year.


One thought on “A First Year Teacher’s Back to School Shopping List

Thanks for making it all the way down here! Like what you read or have a question to ask? Comment here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s