It Will Get Done
I remember walking into my first classroom a week before the start of the school year. The desks were all huddled together in the center of the room and a file cabinet and teacher desk stood against the wall. Open space and four blank walls surrounded me. With my first paycheck still a distant two weeks away, I knew nothing short of a miracle would turn this jail-like room into an inspiring classroom for 24 eight-year-olds. Feeling overwhelmed, I repeated this to myself: “It will get done”. This has become my motto over the last three years and I have realized that although teachers often feel like they are drowning, somehow it all gets done in the end. I’d like to share a few tips that I learned in my first three years to help create that learning atmosphere and help you “get it done”.
1) There’s No Place Like Home
I am amazed at how many items in my classroom originally were in my home at some point (or my parents/brother’s/sister’s/best friend’s homes for that matter). If you are looking for essential furniture for your room such as bookcases, benches and small tables the first place to look is in your own home. I like to live a clutter free life and I often “shop” my own home for new classroom fixtures.
2) To Infinity And Beyond
Technology is your friend and it seems to stretch out forever and beyond the horizon. I cannot possibly list all of the spectacular deals that I have stumbled across while searching educational forums and teacher blogs. Don’t be afraid of ordering online but do make sure you are at a secure site when passing along credit card information (look for “https” instead of “http” in your address bar).
Here is a quick list of some of my favorite sites with great deals:
Oriental Trading: Cheap art supplies and knick-knacks. Their products are great for making Christmas and Mother’s Day gifts. This is also a good site to go to if you have a classroom store. Make sure to read the online reviews of a product before purchasing because some of their items are of poor quality (but most are great!)
ClassroomFriendlySupplies.com: This site sells the “Quietist Classroom Sharpener” and I swear by it. Previous to owning this sharpener I was going through 2-3 pencil sharpeners a year. This one is a manual sharpener, but it works with little effort and is very reliable (and insanely quiet)!
Scholastic.com: Okay I admit it ‘” if you are a teacher then you probably already know about Scholastic. I considered leaving it off this list for that reason. However, I have purchased about ½ of my classroom library from this site. I’m now up to 2,000 books! The great news is I didn’t pay for many of those books with my own money! Every time students in your classroom purchase their own books, you earn free books and points to purchase other items such as furniture and technology. Even if your classroom is of low-economic status I still recommend Scholastic because their prices are so much lower than any book store.
UniqueTeachingResources.com: This is a teacher created site that sells pre-made project ideas for your students. I especially like the themed book report sets. If you are the less creative type then this is the site for you because the creativity is done for you! Prices are decent and if you sign up for the monthly newsletter you receive free downloads of calendar sets and other supplies.
3) One Teacher’s Trash is Another Teacher’s Treasure
Used supplies are a great way for a brand new teacher to fill an empty classroom. I recommend the three G’s: garage sales, Goodwill and grab bags. For the most efficient garage sale Saturday, be sure to visit a neighborhood sale where many houses on the block are selling at once. This will increase the likelihood of finding classroom supplies. Goodwill (or Salvation Army, or other resale shop) is great for quickly stocking a classroom library and finding miscellaneous furniture. Lastly grab bag. Walk around the hallways of your school about two weeks before school starts and you will find a grab bag of quality items that teachers are literally throwing out. I know because I’ve done this! Summer is the only time teachers really have to give their classrooms a good organizing. This often leads to teachers purging many items that are perfectly good. Of course you will get some teachers who are quite opposite and hoard everything they possibly can. Just make sure to get to the hallways before they do!
4) A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
If you just got your first job offer you may be tempted to run out to Staples, Walmart, and Office Depot to snatch up all of the school supplies you can lay your hands on. However, make sure to stop and think before pulling out your wallet. Almost every store will host a “Back-to-School” sale at some point during the summer. You can find terrific deals during these sales such as 5-cent packs of pencils and dollar clipboards. Make sure to read the weekly ads and wait until the best deals come along. Many stores put limits on their weekly sales (such as limit 5) but they will often bend those rules for teachers. Be sure to ask.
5) “Oh by the way, I’m a teacher.”
Whenever you are purchasing something for your classroom, whether it be books, markers, cleaning supplies, or even granola bars, ALWAYS mention that you are a teacher and ask if the store has any kind of teacher discount. You would be amazed at how many stores do have discount programs. Also, the discounts aren’t just for classroom supplies. Don’t be afraid to ask about teacher discounts at stores that you buy personal items at. Two discounts that I wish I would have known about sooner are the Verizon Wireless discount (I save 15% every month but percentages may vary) and Ann Taylor Loft teacher discount (my favorite clothing store).
I leave you with this. “It will get done.” Your classroom will not have every supply that you wish it had during your first year of teaching, just like your first home will not be your dream home right when you move in. Give it time and enjoy this amazing career you have chosen.