Schools have finally opened again after a long pandemic hiatus where the classroom was a screen. Educators may be a little out of practice for making checklists of supplies. To help, we’ve compiled this list of 11 things every teacher needs in their classroom.
You thought this was just going to be a list of school supplies, right? Well, we’re starting with the personal characteristic of patience, and for good reason. Interruptions in education caused by waves of COVID-19 infections, quarantines, and the difficulty of teaching and learning online have caused millions of school-age kids to fall far behind their grade levels. Reading and math skills, plus knowledge of science and history, suffered badly. Educators know that getting their students back up to speed will take hard work. It will also take loads of patience.
Hand in hand with patience is compassion. Kids will come back to school knowing they’re behind, and they may be worried about it. They also might be embarrassed or afraid to talk because they don’t want to look lost. They may not ask for the help they need. They may feel unmotivated or even depressed.
Also keep in mind that students’ home environments may have changed drastically since the last time they were inside a classroom. They may even have lost a parent or grandparent to COVID-19. Teachers will have to meet students where they are and adjust their lesson plans to help these students ease back into classroom education.
When you’ve been lying on the floor with a laptop in front of you for two years, swatting your little brother away and being interrupted by the family cat, it can be hard to remember expectations for classroom behavior. Teachers need to establish rules of behavior and set clear, age- and grade- appropriate expectations.
Award Certificates and Congratulatory Stickers
Okay, you knew we’d get around to physical supplies eventually. Teachers are expert in the usual types of school supplies like pencils, paper, and three-ring binders, so we’ll branch out a little here with a reminder about reward systems for academic accomplishments.
No “E” for effort, “caught doing good,” or “perfect attendance,” please. Teachers need a supply of award certificates and congratulatory stickers to be distributed to unsuspecting students as a means of acknowledging real accomplishments. It could be finishing a reading assignment, getting a best-ever score on a math quiz, or working up the courage to make a presentation in front of the whole class.
Storage and Organization Supplies
An uncluttered, organized space gives students space to think and breathe. The traditional elementary classroom where every inch of wall space is plastered with number lines, alphabets in block lettering, and bulletin boards can be overwhelming to students with sensory issues. But neurotypical students also benefit from a well-organized environment. It’s easier to know what you’re supposed to be working on in a space that permits doing one thing at a time without multiple distractions.
Don’t forget the boxes, bins, file cabinets, shelving, and “cubbies” that help teachers and their students know where everything belongs, where work in progress can be stowed, and where to find seasonal items.
Labels or Color-Coding Tapes
All those storage bins and cubbies won’t help things stay organized if they’re not labeled. A label machine can be a teacher’s best defense against organizational chaos in the classroom.
Colored tape (a non-damaging type like painter’s tape or masking tape) also helps students find a place for everything and put everything in its place. It’s also easy to write on masking-type tape using a marker to add a name or category.
Dry Erase Boards and Markers
Every day is a new day with a whiteboard. Lists of assignments, the current weather, a quote of the day, or “this day in history” can bring something fresh to the classroom each morning. Whiteboards also enable a quick pivot from one activity to another.
There are never enough dry erase markers, which tend to walk off without warning, so a spare package of them stowed in a drawer is always a good idea.
Sooner or later (probably sooner) someone is going to cry. Someone else will show up with a very runny nose, and a change of seasons can throw the whole classroom into a sneezing fit. A good supply of facial tissues is non-negotiable in the classroom. Even if families are expected to supply a few boxes, a classroom supply closet should be well-stocked with extra boxes.
Distilleries pivoted to make vats of it in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as supplies of hand sanitizer flew off store shelves. Hand sanitizer is back in supply now, and teachers still need it in the classroom. Playgrounds, lunchrooms, and restrooms are germy places, and many a little student finger has found itself inside a germy little student nose. Teachers can protect themselves and their students by keeping a supply of hand sanitizer in the classroom. Just make sure to control access to it to prevent kids trying some idiotic, poisonous challenge involving drinking the stuff!
Another thing the pandemic taught us was how to wash our hands—and how washing them so often made them cracked and red. Combine that with the drying effect of hand sanitizer, and you have a recipe for hands that feel like sandpaper. Hand lotion is one of the 11 things every teacher needs in their classroom. A large tube or pump bottle of it in the bottom desk drawer will get used up quickly.
Opening schools came with a dizzying checkerboard of “mask on, mask off” rules, often put in place after alarmingly contentious school board meetings. Keeping a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, visors, and gloves in the classroom closet makes sense. After all, it’s impossible to predict when the rules will change again in response to a new variant or a completely different outbreak of illness. Teachers can buy PPE online and have it ready to go when students return to the classrooms.
Shopping for school supplies is an annual ritual for families and teachers. Combining the physical supplies with a little emotional intelligence that includes patience, compassion, empathy, and a sense of humor will make the transition back to the classroom easier for both teachers and students alike.