Congrats! You got your first job and you are PUMPED. Bring on the Target dollar spot!!
Seriously, first things first. I spent thousands of dollars putting together materials for my classroom. Let’s stop normalizing teachers spending their own money on things. Let’s advocate for a budget, for school supplied materials and the like. But also, being realistic, I know you are spending some of your own money. It happens. Just try to reign it in and keep it to necessities! So lets’ talk about things you ACTUALLY need. (Full disclosure: some affiliate links. Doesn’t change your price and I get a small kickback if you purchase)
1. The Classroom Decor
No one wants to learn in a bare classroom and you don’t want to teach in one. But a classroom doesn’t have to be wall to wall decor, streamers, bulletin boards and all of it in 15 colors. Instagram classrooms are beautiful, but whatever you put up, make sure it is student centered, not teacher centered. There are actually studies saying that less is more in a classroom and can cause focusing issues. Now put that in the realm of students who already are fighting focusing issues and we’re setting them up for issues in our room.
What you do need is:
- One or two bright bulletin boards with important info, some of which has to be displayed legally such as fire exits, lockdown info, and things that aren’t legally required but work for all those day to day interactions such as classroom rules (keep them simple!) or any school-wide postings.
- Empty space
- Some calming elements – I like fake plants cause I can’t keep them alive, and some softer lighting.
- Some anchor charts that you will actually refer to. I didn’t like displaying all of them especially because I had preschool-8 in the same room so it would have been way too much. I loved this anchor chart stand so I didn’t have to deal with all the things on the wall.
2. Office supplies
- Binder for student information: class lists, emergency cards, IEP info, documentation, and important papers. Keep it all in one place so you can easily take it to meetings, on drills where you have to take lists, and anywhere else you might need it. If your district allows digital, this is great, but having a paper copy of these in an emergency are important in case the internet goes down. It WILL happen.
- A place to store original copies of anything you make by grade level (grade level over month because, things happen)
- A SMALL stash of writing supplies for you. Not every flair pen in existence…yet.
- Paper clips or binder clips – however you prefer to keep things together.
- A stapler
- A good bag to carry your things – not the kitchen sink. You don’t need to take it home every day. DON’T GET IN THE HABIT, learn from my mistakes and your back with thank you in 10 years.
- A place to store student work by grade, or by class. A cheap favorite is these wheeled drawers. They aren’t super sturdy to be moved around a lot, so make sure you keep them stationary. Other options are paper sorters which can be kept on a shelf or counter top.
3. A few good tools
There are some great tools available digitally if you want to use them instead of paper lesson plan books, grading, etc. I use all of them on my iPad (with Mac desktop versions available) which if you have at your disposal, is an amazing tool and you don’t have to carry nearly as much (thank goodness!), but there are other options on android devices, and PCs.
- iDoceo – an iPad only app that lets you make seating charts (with pictures so you can learn their names), keep grades, randomly choose students (Now also available on desktop!). Students can submit files, you can can weight grades or keep them all basic, and you can also write all your lesson plans.
- GoodNotes: an app (also available on desktop) that you can write in, create digital planners, use staff paper, and more. I love this for keeping notes on all the different things I do and I can create a notebook I use for each. Also, they are always with me so I don’t have to remember ANOTHER notebook for every thing I do. I take pictures of hand outs and add them to the notebook so I don’t even need to carry those.
- ToDoIst – this is a task planning app that is also available on desktop so I can take it with me everywhere I go. Full disclosure, I pay to upgrade (yearly fee) so I can set alarms but it allows me to create different projects and then tasks within those projects. I love this for school and non-school things alike because it’s easy to use, and I can collaborate with people as well. I actually use this app for brain dumps. Create a new project and type all my ideas into one place to come back to later.
4. The Non-Physical Things
- A classroom management plan. I really urge you to not use something like a clip chart. They often shame kids who begin to internalize that shame and then label themselves as ‘bad kids’. Which they are not. This book has a lot of great ideas as well.
- Something else to consider about classroom management is that it should be simple enough for even your youngest students to understand. I always liked lumping rules into big ones that the students can discuss what it means to them. Read more about non-negotiable rules here.
- Consider offering a Peace Table in your room. It is a great way for students to learn to regulate, solve problems amongst themselves, and even work as a ‘rest’ area for students that might need a minute.
- A grading plan – How are you going to calculate grades. What categories are part of a grade. How much is based on assessments vs. class participation? Does your district have standards based grading or uniform assessments across the district that you need to incorporate?
- As part of your grading plan, assessments. What concepts do you plan to assess for each grade level, unit, concept, etc. How many formative vs. summative? How will you assess?
- A curriculum. Seriously, your district should provide you some info, but if you are in a position where you have a lot of say, then you get to chose. I love the Kodaly sequence because rhythm and melody are laid out in a sequence that makes sense, you can easily add in slots for the other concepts that are’t melodic or rhythmic, and it follows student readiness. Check out more about the Kodaly “method” here.
- Procedures. This sounds so basic, but if you teach them right away, then you save lots of time throughout the year and even more time as students go through your program. Procedures you might want to include can be found here.
5. But also…
- Set some boundaries. Seriously. Learn from my mistakes.
- Get parent volunteers for your room. Let them deal with fundraisers, T-shirt orders, and set building. Or have them make copies, organize or more. Check the list in the Boundaries link in the previous bullet to see a huge list of what parent volunteers can do for you.
- Make sure your calendar has your priorities first. Birthdays, anniversaries, family functions, or that night you PROMISED your BFF you would do with them one time a month.
And above all, trust yourself. You are totally capable. You made it through auditions, juries, and student teaching. This is something you have been preparing for. You got the job. Now go rock.