New Teacher Shopping List for the First Day of School

Title with paper airplane

The rookie-teacher shopping instinct is to buy every object you might use for any possible lesson you might think of one day. When I cleaned out my fourth-grade classroom, I found a strange collection of toys, magnetic letters, and dollar-store puzzle books, still unopened in a cabinet after two years. I also spent my own money on supplies the school gave us for free later in the week. Yet my first day I didn’t have a stapler or rubber bands—two things I needed badly. The following is a list of supplies you may want in stock before school starts, but check what your school provides before buying anything on your own.

Supplies to Buy at a Dollar or Discount Store

Hit the cheap stores first. You will blow a high enough percentage of your puny salary on classroom supplies this year—you don’t need the best-quality staples.

  • Manila folders (one for each student and at least 100 extra).
  • Colored computer paper (buy white paper only if your school does not provide it or you have to slay an evil dragon to get 20 sheets of paper).
  • Colored pens for grading.
  • Staplers.
  • Staples.
  • Paper clips.
  • Rubber bands.
  • Sticky notes.
  • Scissors.
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers.
  • Scotch tape.
  • Clear packing tape.
  • A three-hole punch.
  • A digital kitchen timer (not one that you turn and that makes a ticking sound).
  • Dry-erase markers or chalk for the board.
  • Wet-erase or overhead markers if you use a projector.
  • Chalkboard or marker board erasers.
  • A spray bottle.
  • Paper towels.
  • Tissues.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Spray cleaner or disinfectant wipes (lots and lots of these).

Supplies to Get at an Office Supply Store

Office supply stores are a little more expensive, but they offer a big, professional-looking selection. Don’t forget to ask for your teacher discount.

  • Anything on the preceding list you couldn’t find at other stores.
  • File boxes (if you have no file drawers or plan to use hanging folders for student work). Hanging folders (if you buy the file boxes).
  • Stackable trays to organize incoming papers (at least six if you plan to use the system described in the Piles and Files chapter of See Me After Class).
  • A box of pre-sharpened lotto pencils (to lend to students as needed).
  • A giant, paper desk calendar that matches the months of the academic year.

Supplies to Get at the Teacher Supply Store

Teacher supply stores are the most expensive, but they sell things you can’t find at other stores, like pictures of animals making inspirational statements. Keep in mind that the teacher supply store the week before school starts is like Toys “R” Us on Christmas Eve. It can get ugly.

  • Something to cover your walls: Most schools supply paper for your bulletin boards. Some provide the border that goes around them, but if you want the fancy stuff with pictures on it, you probably have to buy it yourself. You may also want posters or decorations to make your room feel like a real classroom.
  • Sticky stuff to put up posters: Sticking decorations to your classroom walls for the whole year usually requires more than tape. There are many options, but I recommend double-sided foam tape.
  • E-Z Grader: This tool helps you quickly calculate percentages on assignments. It costs about ten dollars, and you’ll know why it’s worth it when you grade your first 17-question quiz.
  • Stickers: This is one area where the teacher supply store usually has the best value. You can get packages of 800 stickers for five dollars or so.
  • A whole bunch of other stuff you didn’t know you needed: You’ll see what I mean.
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