When back to school season rolls around, I always have my guard up when it comes to shopping. There is always SO MUCH that I WANT, and so little that I actually NEED. What I’ve done for the past few years is this: I set a budget and I set a limit on my projects. The point of summer break is to recharge and relax, but for me, part of that recharging does involve some school work - the fun stuff that I never have time to get to during the year! But, also knowing myself, my list of projects can get unreasonably long, and so can my impulse buying at Target.
Here are a few questions I ask myself before making a purchase or starting a project:
What is the longevity of the item or project? Will it/should it last?
Does this help solve a problem or frustration in my classroom?
Does this contribute to a classroom management strategy?
How often will I make use out of this product?
How does this benefit students?
Armed with those questions, I spend my summer browsing. I use the save feature on Instagram, I get on Pinterest, and I mostly look for inspiration for things that will help me solve problems or pet peeves I have in my classroom. Now, this doesn’t mean that I never do things that are cute simply because they’re cute - I do! But I try my best to make sure my time and money are spent on things that are functional and long-term solutions for my classroom.
These are my top 9 Amazon purchases for my high school English classroom:
I did not make these purchases all in one summer; I have accumulated these items over time and I only recommend them because they’ve actually worked and I’ve been able to answer my questions above in purchasing them.
I can’t think of a strategy that I use more frequently than stations. At the start of the year, one thing I do is practice my routines (more about that here). As my students move through stations, I use the wireless doorbell to signal when it’s time to rotate. The kiddos get a kick out of it and love that I can change the ring tone.
This one was my new purchase for the 2019 back to school season. My classroom library had always been a disorganized mess, so I decided to reprioritize and makeover my library. I ended up with a mini library on this rolling cart. The money spent on this cart has solved so many problems that I once faced in my classroom and makes an impact on students every single day. Totally worth it!
My go-to classroom management strategy with cell phones is to use a charging station. Using a shoe hanger and a sweet power strip, I’m able to encourage students to stay off their phones and focus on the work we need to get done. More on that policy here!
For ten years, I taught in a classroom with enormous, gorgeous windows. I never turned my lights on and I never needed any lighting solutions for my classroom. Then, I changed schools and my new classroom is a box with some tiny little windows around the upper perimeter of the room, and when my lights are off, it’s a dark place to be! I can’t stand flourescent lighting and floor lamps are obnoxious with teenagers, so I opted for a sting light solution. These lights I hung across my ceiling and they are BEAUTIFUL. They bring plenty of light into the room and set a peaceful mood in the room. Paired with these fairy lights (they come in a two-pack...I bought them for my house and only needed one set!), my room twinkles and glows.
And, for whatever reason, my classroom (and schools in general) always have such a distinct, unpleasant smell. Enter: essential oils diffuser. This one is my favorite and I use whatever oils I have lying around. The scent is light and I’ve never had a student complain of the smell being to overwhelming, so so far, a win!
This is the list that tempts me the most to overspend, but, simply put, after over a decade of teaching, these are my three favorite school supplies. The boxed Crayola markers and pencils last the entire school year. They’re already organized in their own box (no more supply caddies per table!). I can put them away and take them out easily, there’s plenty to share, and it’s a one stop shop. They’re a little expensive (I always make sure to request them from my department - don’t pay for them yourselves!), but I used to just run out of supplies halfway through the year and have to replenish anyway. I’ve never had to do that with these boxes!
Now these dry erase markers fit virtually none of my listed criteria that I shared with you at the beginning of this post, however, they’re still my favorites! These dry erase markers on Amazon are only 12.00 (and there are 12 markers), they’re bold, and they seem to last forever. You should just try them and see for yourself!