Back to School Must Haves: Teachers’ Secret Supply List

Wednesday, September 9, 20154:44 PM

For students, back to school shopping means buying, borrowing, or otherwise scrounging up the typical supply lists: binders, folders, pens, highlighters, etc. This year I’ve added post-it notes to my list, but otherwise it’s fairly unremarkable.

But for teachers, back to school supplies take on a whole new meaning. If you’re anything like me and many of my colleagues, you know that you will spend untold hours in your classroom or office, working with students, grading papers, planning, and just catching your breath from time to time. The official school day may end before most other jobs, but the real responsibilities of a teacher take far more hours than the school day allows. And we deserve the supplies to be effective and comfortable in doing so. I’m taking more than a Staples shopping spree or supply closet raid--although those are essential--I’m talking the hidden supply list for teachers like us.

Teachers’ Secret Supply List

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

I won’t say I’m addicted, but that cup of joe around second period every morning really helps get me on my way to a good day of teaching. Substitute tea or your preferred beverage, but when the end of August rolls around, my Amazon cart is filled with K-cups so I can make a fresh cup of caffeinated goodness any time of day. Bonus points if you have some fancy coffee machine at work, too.

Snacks (and more coffee)

Teachers wake up early and it takes time for our bodies--and stomachs--to adjust. When I’m eating breakfast at 6 AM, normal meal hours are all out of whack. Stock up on your favorite non-perishables, whether it be new granola bars or the oatmeal that’s been there since 2005. Always make sure you have someone to turn to and ask, “how long after the date does this really expire?”

Hot Sauce (or your condiment of choice)

We all have that special ingredient that makes our meals better. Whether it’s a salad dressing, topping, spice, or sauce, have it ready to go. I might get called “hot sauce” around the office, and have gotten some strange looks when I ask students to bring me the bottle of Frank’s in my desk, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pets (as applicable)

Meet Fish Balder. He survived cousins Fish Loki, Thor Fish, and Odin Fish, and has lived a long life of around a year and a half. We travel home together for the big vacations, but otherwise he enjoys hanging in the office, nibbling some fish pellets for lunch, and long swims around his filtered bowl. Bringing your pets to work might be frowned upon--or illegal--but let’s ask forgiveness instead of permission here, because Fish Balder makes me smile.

Don’t Forget to Hydrate!

Teachers talk a lot. Whether it’s teaching, collaborating, or reaching out to parents or administrators, a lot of our day involves talking. Always keep the water bottle nearby to quench the thirst and save that dry throat. I’m a straw guy--when I use this water bottle with the straw, I drink 10x the water I used to in a nalgene. We have a water cooler in the office, and weeks like this one I think I drink it all.

Class Decorations

We practically live in our classrooms, so let’s have some fun there. This year, I mounted all of the posters from the theatre program I was involved in, and bought a few new Star Wars and super-hero posters to bring some life and fun to my classrooms. One day I’ll fight for designing a new, student-friendly, 21st century classroom, but until then, at least I have my posters.


This year, I got smart. The $20 on Amazon for an extra iPhone charger and Chromebook charger will probably be my investment of the year. How many times has your phone ended the day on 11% battery life? Never again, I hope!

Cleaning Supplies

Our custodians work hard but they maintain the entire school. Sometimes, I want to give my classroom an extra touch. The bottle of 409 and some paper towels are must haves. Add to that a Tide Stick for the unexpected coffee stains on my white shirt that somehow only happen when I’m wearing white. Like a boy scout, prepare for anything!

I had some fun with this one as I did my shopping for the new school year. Sure, I needed pens, white board markers, and binder clips, but the secret list was much more fun. 

What’s on your secret list of teachers’ school supplies?

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  1. I like to get myself some unnecessarily nice pens or other art supplies. I only share them under tightly controlled circumstances, if ever. This year it was gold and white pens for writing on black paper.

  2. Great additions for next year's list, Wendy. I used to love good grading pens in all colors, but since I've got mostly paperless, they've become less essential for me.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!!


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