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Ten Must-Haves for New Teachers

Kick the year off right with the right stuff.

Found in: back-to-school; educational equipment & supplies; new teachers

Disclaimer: I’m not being paid to say nice things about any of these products, although that would be pretty cool. I just love them.

  1. Student Supplies Center
    Don’t fight your kiddos to get a hold of a stapler or a three-hole punch. Get two sets and create a student supplies center. Mine is right in the front of my classroom and includes scissors, a tape dispenser, glue sticks, a stapler, a three-hole punch, and drawers with loose-leaf paper, rulers, black permanent markers, and red ink pens. I try to get supplies that look different from my own. On Day One I make it clear that these supplies are theirs to use. The supplies on my desk are not. Helpful hint: Don’t go cheap on your stapler or your three-hole punch.
  2. Pencils and Pens
    Before the year begins, decide what you will do when students don’t bring their materials. Usually, I only have a problem with kids showing up without a pencil or pen. Many of them (especially the boys, it seems) keep pencils in their pockets and lose them throughout the day. You could keep your pens and pencils in your student supplies center for easy student access, but be prepared to spend a lot of money replacing those items. You could also tell a student without supplies “tough cookies.” But this creates two possible outcomes: Either they will hound the other students incessantly every single day to borrow a pencil, which is annoying, disruptive, and builds bad blood, or they might shrug their shoulders. This creates a bigger problem: a student who has chosen to sit and do nothing. To avoid those two scenarios, I do a collateral system in my class. I’m happy to loan a kid a pencil or a pen, but I want their cell phone or something else that they hold dear (no stanky shoes, thank you!)
  3. A Calendar for Student Reference
    I like to keep a monthly calendar in my classroom with school events, classroom events, etc. I even include our units of study, due dates, test dates—those kinds of things. It helps everyone. This is one of three classroom calendars. I also have one on my desk for personal information and a “sanity saver” calendar for class planning purposes.

  5. Trashcans...Not One...Not Two...But Three
    Prevent students from making a big trip across the classroom to throw away their chewing gum and stopping at three friends’ desks along the way.
  6. SORTKWIK Fingertip Moistener
    Teachers handle a lot of papers, usually papers that kids handled first. How often are your fingertips so dry that you can’t get a grip on paper? For me, that used to be all of the time. Then I noticed just how often I was casually licking my fingertips before distributing or flipping through papers. YUCK! I picked up a SORTKWIK last year. It’s a must-have!
  7. A Sanity Saver! Or Something Like It Anyway
    Make sure you have a paper grade book and attendance record that fit your needs. Many times last year there was a dispute about student attendance and I was happy to have two records: the digital record sent to the office daily and my personal paper record.
  8. A Homework Landing Point
    Figure out your homework collection system and keep it. I’m a big fan of those little plastic trays, but everyone has their own style. You do not want that gut-wrenching "oh crap I just lost that student’s homework assignment and of course it’s that student" feeling. Personally, I don’t like to collect student work because it could get lost from Point A to Point B. Instead, just have the students turn in their homework at Point B. Then, the responsibility is all on them.
  9. An Information Center
    I have a bulletin board dedicated to classroom rules, procedures, consequences, fire drill maps, dress code rules, and everything in between. Posting these things is a school mandate, but I like having all of the information together in one spot. The students like it, too.
  10. An Absent Work Something
    I love my absent binder! It’s the simplest, most effective absent work system that I have ever used. Whatever you decide to use, every student should know where to find his or her absent work, missed assignments, etc. I keep mine with my student supplies center. Its location should be a place your students see every day.

  12. A Variety of Storage Solutions
    The amount of stuff that accumulates in a classroom is amazing. Without storage, things can start looking really crazy, really fast. I use little plastic drawers for my copies and extra paper, baskets for scissors and glue, small buckets for pencils, pens, and highlighters, trays for homework, art boxes for colored pencils and markers, and coat hangers with clips on them for the poster board.


Stephanie Richardson is a fifth-year English teacher and theater director at North Harrison High School in Ramsey, Ind. She shares her classroom adventures and dishes out unsolicited teaching advice punctuated with funny gifs at The one thing she wishes somebody had told her before she began her teaching career? That you do not have to give homework every single night to qualify as a great teacher.


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