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It’s a Teacher Thing: Gearing Up for the New School Year

Must Have All the Stuff!

I know I’ve been away from the blog for a while. To be honest, I went to a writer’s conference in Kentucky and kind of got depressed afterwards so I haven’t done much writing. Then, my father passed away and that has kind of taken up a lot of my time and energy so I just haven’t really been focusing on the blog or book much at all.

Today, that is going to change. I am “re-starting” my blog and jumping straight into my new goal – helping new teachers. Each week, the blog will focus on a teacher tip (called It’s a Teacher Thing) to help new and relatively new teachers. There will be one main post covering that week’s topic and then I might do a smaller post later in the week on specifics within that topic. I’m also starting up a Facebook group (hopefully) geared towards new teachers that will parallel each week’s topic as well as a YouTube channel with videos on said topic. My Instagram (@tales_of_a_sixth_grade_teacher) will also feature content on that week’s topic. Sounds like a lot, right? Let’s just all keep our fingers crossed I can maintain the momentum I have today! 🙂

So this week’s topic is: preparing for the new school year, especially with purchasing supplies. As I said, the blog is geared towards new teachers so I’m going to focus on those young (or older) individuals getting ready for their first classroom, although the tips can surely be used by veteran teachers as well. Let’s get started!

As the summer winds down (don’t remind me), there are countless new teachers across the country getting ready for their first classroom and, hopefully, getting excited about all the adventures that await in the next 180 days. Whether you are a first-year elementary teacher or a first-year high school teacher, preparing for your first ever classroom is something fun that you will look back on fondly. And, if you are like me, you can’t walk into Target or Wal-Mart without getting sucked into the School Supply section (seriously, why is their stuff so dang cute??) Therefore, I am going to outline four tips here in this blog that will help you prepare for your first classroom and make smart choices to help your money spread farther. Let’s do it!

First, see what is already in your classroom that you can potentially reuse or repurpose! There’s no need to buy half a million colored pencils if the previous teacher left all their colored pencils when they left. Find out from your building supervisor (principal, plant engineer, front office clerk) if you can get down to your room to see what is already there. This will give you an idea of what you already have so you don’t buy duplicates (unless you need a million colored pencils but trust me – no one needs a million colored pencils).

Second, find out what your school and/or your district will provide. Do they give you Kleenex, hand sanitizer, etc.? If they will supply stuff for you, don’t buy it. And, keep in mind, sometimes you can ask the students to provide things! My school puts 1 box of Kleenex, 1 hand sanitizer, 1 pack of computer paper for each student’s 6th period class on the school supply list. But at Orientation, each teacher also posts a Wish List in their Classroom of other things they’d love to have donated if anyone would like. The Wish List generally consists of things you’d like but don’t necessarily need, such as colored copy paper, USB flash drives, and more hand sanitizer. You can never have enough hand sanitizer.

While you’re at it, find out if your district is giving you any teacher supply money, how much, and what is the process to spending it. Some districts may require you to use that exact money given to you for supplies. In my district, you can use your own money (after July 1) and just provide clean receipts that total up to the amount they provide. Then, when we get our checks, I just deposit that into my account because I already spent the money. But it’s a good idea to know how much money you’re going to be given so you can try not to go over that (I am really bad at that part). When you’re first starting out, it’s tempting to break the bank but I encourage you to keep track of how much you spend and try your hardest to stick close to the amount given to you by your school/district (assuming they provide you with supply money).

Third, think about what you can get for cheap at places other than Target or the cute school supply store. I recommend checking Goodwill, yard sales, Facebook Marketplace, even CraigsList (if you’re careful) because you never know what gems you are going to find. Now, granted, most of what you are going to want for your first classroom you won’t be able to find at a thrift store but you’d be surprised. My first year, I got a super nice, wooden tall chair at a yard sale for 8 bucks. Price tag on it from Garden Ridge said $80. It was a great teacher chair until four years later when I gave it to the students for flexible seating and they broke it…but that’s another story. Reach out to your friends on Facebook if you’re looking for certain things. Last summer, I found a legit Roman gladiator costume (for my time traveling theme) on Facebook Marketplace for 30 bucks. Bottom line? It never hurts to look. Just keep those receipts (and remember that you probably can’t use teacher supply money for things bought on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace where you don’t get receipts).

Finally, you’re going to want all the things. Everything in the school supply store is cute. Everything in the Target Used-To-Be-A-Dollar Spot is cute and inexpensive. But it adds up (trust me, I had to be pulled away from the Target Dollar Spot and still spent nearly 50 bucks) and you don’t always need it. So my last piece of advice is to ask yourself “do I really need this?” If the answer is no, put it back. It doesn’t matter how cute it is. If you’re not going to use it, don’t buy it. I have an adorable owl hall pass in my desk drawer that I bought seven years ago because it was cute. It has never come out of that drawer. My school has an agenda with a restroom log in the back that students use for their hall pass. I spent ten bucks on a cute hall pass that I didn’t need and have never used. Save your money for the things you are actually going to use and that you will use again and again. You can find plenty of cute stuff that you actually have a need for. Just don’t get caught up in the crazy.

Well, there you have it! Four tips on preparing for your first classroom. Next week’s post will also be about getting ready for the first classroom and first year but it will be geared more towards procedures and expectations so I hope you’ll check back. In the meantime, keep an eye on the YouTube channel (which I’m starting this week so I’ll come back and add the link here once it’s live), the Facebook group (again, check back for the link), and my Instagram! I’m off to do a video from the Target Dollar Spot on how not to get caught up in the crazy of the cuteness.

And, as always, I’d love to hear from you about your first classrooms, any words of wisdom, anything like that! Catch you later!