In a perfect world, all teachers would have the budget that is necessary to purchase ALL of the supplies that are needed for the day-to-day function of the classroom. Most teachers quickly realize that budgets only stretch so far, and that some of those supplies come out of pocket. For the record, the Science Department at my school has a good budget from which we are able to purchase hardware, chemicals, glassware and technology. Obviously, there are always things on our “wanted” list, but most of the big-ticket items are taken care of by the principal’s allotment to our department. In addition to those things that we can purchase from science catalogs, we also have an account through Office Depot.
What slowly drains the wallet are the LITTLE things. I know that elementary school teachers are the well-established leaders when it comes to out-of-pocket purchases, and that is probably because a lot of what is needed in the elementary classroom are the little things.
Years ago I started to call my room a “full service classroom.” I want students to be able to focus on learning, and to that end I try to stock up on those little things that keep the gears of the classroom turning smoothly. Some of these are oddball items that are needed only rarely, but when they are needed it is an emergency. Others on my list are things that COULD be ordered from a catalog, but are more easily picked up at the local grocery store or drug store.
So, here is my list of some of things that I keep on hand. I’m sure I’ll forget a few. For new teachers, this might provide a checklist.
- Band-aids. I stock all sizes, and these frequently allow students to cover a cut or abrasion and avoid a trip to the nurse.
- Safety pins. Buy some of every size. These are great for temporary fixes to backpacks as well as “wardrobe malfunctions”.
- Cups. Because I have a refrigerator in my prep room (I bought that, too) I keep cups on hand so that students can get a drink of ice water and not have to leave class for that expensive bottled water.
- Paper plates and plastic flatware. I don’t throw parties in class, but I frequently have students eating lunch in my room.
- Tape. Duct tape. Scotch tape. Electrical tape. Label tape. Masking tape. Shipping tape. I love tape. I’m the King of Tape.
- Poster board. There have been a lot of times that this has saved a student whose family couldn’t afford to buy a pack at the store.
- Zip-lock bags. Big ones, small ones, medium sized. I need them and so do the students.
- Hand soap. Hand-sanitizer too, but bars of soap are important to have as well.
- Batteries. AA, AAA, and 9 volt all come in handy with graphing calculators, classroom response clickers, conductivity testers, etc. School catalogs are notorious for over-pricing batteries, so I keep my eyes open for sales in stores when I shop. I usually pay less than half of the catalog price.
- Paper towels. These double as napkins at lunch, and for cleaning lab goggles for my germ-a-phobes.
- Cloth towels. I bring the ones from home that are no longer fit for bathroom use, and we use them to clean up after lab work and student spills.
- Kleenex. Every year, the school provides ONE box of “tissue”. I buy Kleenex brand tissue and leave a box available in class all of the time. We probably go through 15 – 20 boxes a year.