When people see all the back to school sales and advertisements, they think of students. But for the multitudes of teachers, those sales have other significant meanings. For teachers, back to school can mean putting the kids back in daycare, returning home from that extensive trip, finishing s major home project, or leaving that summer job. Yet, I know from years of experience as a teacher that back to school also means stocking up on necessary school items. Although back to school probably doesn’t mean purchasing a dozen pairs of jeans and cool t-shirts, the shopping is an important end of summer ritual. Still, it may not be easy to know that items to stock up on. Having gone through the ritual many times myself, and having snooped around the desks of many of my colleagues, I can recommend some central purchases to help teachers maneuver the back to school frenzy and make the beginning of the year just a little bit easier.
Ever year, teachers ask students to keep journals or take notes in one notebook. For some students this means getting off on the wrong foot because of not purchasing the notebook. Many stores such as Target, K-Mart, Walgreens, and Rite Aid advertise back to school sales on notebooks for as little as 10 for a $1. You can purchase folders and filler paper for the same or less money. Keeping lots of these items stocked in your classroom can save on frustration later on. I know one teacher who keeps items with the school bookkeeper and sends students to the bookkeeper to purchase missing items. Whatever your style, it is a good idea to take a proactive approach and purchase notebooks, folders, and filler paper during the back to school sales. It can save you money and aggravation.
Besides purchasing notebooks, many teachers recommend hitting back to school sales for pencils, pens, and school planners. One of my friends checks the store flyers in each Sunday paper so that he can shop whenever they offer a tremendous back to school sale. If you’re not one to flyer shop, I recommend your local Dollar Store. By filling out a form at some local Dollar Stores, you receive a card for another 10% off of educational purchases. I usually pick up at least a dozen planners at the dollar store. When a student has trouble keeping track of homework in the first week or two, I try to give him or her a short encouraging talk and a planner. It gets us off on a better track, and directs the student towards an important skill. Not all my planners are used, but by giving some class time for students to fill in their homework, I’m increasing the odds that they will use them. The Dollar Store also sells stickers and other motivational items at a good price. Remember that just because it is a dollar doesn’t mean it is a good deal. Check around. During one back to school sale, I found 200 rewards stickers at Target for only a little more than 20 would cost at the Dollar Store.
Finally, I recommend visiting your local library to learn about book sales. In my city, the library system has its own store where they sell discontinued books for as little as a dime. I always visit this outlet a few times a summer to stock up on my classroom library. Summer yard sales, used book stores, and teacher discount cards for chain retail stores are also a good way to stock up. Try locally owned book store proprietors too. By talking directly to a comic book store owner, my friend got a great deal on an enormous box of comic books for his reluctant readers.
I highly recommend two essential back to school wardrobe items for any teachers.
The first back to school must-have is a solid pair of shoes. Teachers stand on their feet for most of the day and need the support. I talked to a physical therapist who told me that one of the first pieces of advice she gives patients is to invest in a pair of comfortable work shoes. For men or women, I recommend Dansko and Dr. Marten brand shoes. Both companies make shoes with comfortable soles yet are stylish enough for work. I used to buy cheaper pairs of shoes and found that, in this area, the investment is definitely worth it.
The second back to school investment is a suit jacket with pockets. I use the word “suit” lightly. The jacket can even be a button-up sweater or vest and it does not need to be formal. In fact, the zanier the better, but good, deep pockets are essential for teaching. In my pockets, I store hall passes, board markers, and pens. This year I bought a purple jacket. Last year I wore black. I know some elementary teachers who, instead of a jacket, bought aprons with pockets and then decorated them with themes from their classroom. Whether a jacket, sweater, or apron, remember, when you’re out doing your back to school shopping, that pockets save time and help you stay organized by keeping every day items right at your finger tips.
Depending on the subject and grade you teach, I’m sure there are additional items you may need. These are just those essentials, like a can of beans in the pantry, that I recommend for any returning professional. If you’re reluctant to hit the back to school sales, at least invest in a comfy pair of quality shoes.