George Lucas Educational Foundation
New Teachers

The Rookie Survival Kit: What to Buy for Your First Classroom

July 10, 2014
Rookie Survival Kit

Preparing for your first year teaching can be daunting. You’ve been prepping all summer, meticulously working on lesson plans and excitedly decorating your classroom in anticipation of the first day of school. But despite how prepared you may be, the first few weeks as a new teacher are bound to be filled with surprises.

I recently stumbled upon a Reddit thread where a new teacher asked the veterans: what is the one thing I should buy for my classroom?

I’ve compiled a list, a “rookie survival kit” for new-teacher classroom essentials based on the responses. Please continue to add to this list with your own helpful suggestions!


1. A reliable three hole punch & electric pencil sharpener
These will be used A LOT throughout the year, so make sure you’ve got durable ones.

2. Absent work folders
Having an organized system for absent work can save you time and limit classroom interruption. Here’s one idea: number hanging file folders 1-31 (one for each day of the month). Add work in each day, so when a student is absent, he/she can find the work missed from the previous day easily and conveniently.

3. Band-aids
Because you never know when disaster might strike.

4. Hand Sanitizer
You can never have too much...Seriously, never. Invest in a giant bottle from somewhere like Costco and it should last you the whole year.

5. Comfortable shoes
You will be on your feet constantly. Invest in some comfortable shoes, even if you don’t have any preexisting feet/knee/back problems. Said one Redditer “do yourself a favor and be kind to your feet from the start.” Commenters recommend brands like Clarks, Merrell, Danskos, or Teva, just to name a few. 

6. A timer
Having a timer in the classroom can be useful for a variety of different tasks, from timing quizzes to keeping students on task. A classic egg timer will work, otherwise you can use one online or from your mobile device.

7. Extra pencils
Inevitably your students will forget a writing utensil. In order to ensure that all your pens/pencils don’t mysteriously disappear, one teacher recommended taping fake flowers or leaves to the them and storing in a nice vase on your desk. When class is over, students are less likely to stick a flowery pencil in their backpack mistaking it for their own.

8. One or two generic sub plans
In a perfect world you’ll have ample time to prepare detailed instructions for a substitute when you plan to be out, but it’s best to prepare a few generic sub plans just in case of emergency.

9. Aspirin (for you!)
Always good to keep on hand in for when a midday headaches strikes.

10. SLEEP! 
This one may seem obvious, but the first few weeks can be highly stressful and tiresome. Taking care of yourself and getting enough rest is essential for gaining the patience and calmness you need to effectively manage your class, especially in the first few weeks when everyone is still getting settled.

Reccomended Books:

Bergman, Kelly: “Quick Tips: Making the First Six Weeks a Success!” (Scholastic)

Wong, Harry: “The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher”

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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