Elementary Teachers: 10 Essentials You Can and Can't Buy
Even if you aren’t a teacher, everyone knows a teacher or has had a teacher that they love. Here’s to hoping this gives you some ideas if you are a teacher or some thoughts you can pass on to your favorite teacher. ❤️
I'm currently in my eighth year of teaching. I have been a 3rd grade teacher all 8 years. I've said it before and I will say it again, it is hard work but it is hard because it matters. Every single day matters, but every single day also brings immeasurable joy, hilarious moments, priceless relationships with students/coworkers/parents, and at the end of each school year, wonderful memories with each group of students. COVID has certainly brought on some interesting challenges over the past couple of years, but every day I have learned lessons along the way. My days in the classroom are not always going to be perfect (or ever perfect), but I definitely have learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I think are worth sharing. :)
First let's start with the 10 essentials that you can buy that I don't know what I would do without! (Seriously, I would really struggle without these.)
10 Essentials You Can Buy
1. Teacher Bag
If you know, you know. Work doesn't end when the bell rings, it will usually end up coming home with you too. Unless you have super powers and know how to get it all done at school, if you do...teach me your ways please! This bag is the best one I've every used! It's comfy, big enough for big binders, it's water resistant, has a laptop holder, and all kinds of compartments for necessary items. Plus, it's cute and who doesn't love that?!
Teacher Bag...click HERE
2. Motivation Cards
These cards can turn a kid's day around! I'm telling ya right now...invest in some. 😁I like to pass these out to kids if they are having a tough day, a motivated day, a blah day, a wonderful day, or just any kind of day that goes along with a quote that's fitting for them! I will write "love Miss King" on the back with or without a message depending on the situation. GAME. CHANGER. Kids' faces just light up when they get one of these. Words of affirmation. 💛Kids will use them as book marks, folder decorations, or they will leave them on their desk or in their locker. They LOVE them!
Motivation Cards...Click HERE
3. Account on Planboard.Chalk.com
This is how I plan every hour, day, week, month...you get the point! This thing is my life line!! You can make a template of your weekly schedule, so when you go to plan you can just type in what your lessons are. You can also attach videos, google drive links, and share your plans with anyone easily. Planning this way helps me be more efficient in getting lessons planned out. This honestly was an area I used to procrastinate in. Now with the help of Planboard, I have a template ready to go and my Google Drive attached, so it's not as intimidating to get several days or a full week planned at a time.
4. E-Z Grader
This makes grading papers much easier. I cannot tell you how many times I have left mine at school and MAJORLY regretted it. Using a calculator takes much longer than the E-Z Grader. It truly does make grading papers easier. I love this tool!
E-Z Grader...click HERE
5. Flair Pens
It is a well known fact that teachers love their flair pens. I happen to be one of those teachers. They are wonderful for grading, taking notes, and using for daily tasks. They don't bleed through and they come in all kinds of fun colors. I don't know what I would do without these. Truly. All praise flair pens. 🙌
Flair Pens...Click HERE
6. Planner and Planner Stickers
I have learned it's best to buy a planner over the summer and start adding to it as soon as you can. I am lost without a planner. This is how I keep track of daily "to do's", meetings, spirit days, assemblies, study trips, due dates, and so much more! Because I am who I am, I love decorating my planners with stickers. It just makes me happy and adds some color to the planner. I strongly encourage you to do it if you want a fun surprise each week. I forget what stickers I added over the summer, so it just adds a little element of surprise to brighten your days. :)
Planner Stickers...Click HERE
7. Comfortable Shoes
One of my professors said it best, "You know it's been a good teaching day when your feet are sore and not your throat." Meaning, you've done more walking/interacting with students than talking at them. However, you know its been a fabulous day if you've done more walking than talking, and your feet still don't hurt. One of the best shoes for this are the casual slide on sneaker type. If you know of some that are even better, PLEASE tell me. I'm always looking for comfy shoes to teach in.
Dr. Scholls Madison Sneaker...Click HERE
8. Organizer Drawer
I'll keep this one simple. I would be lost without this. The left side of mine is organized by subject items and the right is by day of the week and a few other topics. This keeps me organized and sane. It's also sturdy, which is another bonus! :) I forgot to take a picture of it before winter break, so I took a screen shot from a video from setting up my room over the summer. I had the best helper! ❤️
Organizer Drawer...click HERE
9. Break away lanyard
This lanyard is super comfortable and cute at the same time. I like that it is breakaway too. It just adds a level of safety to it that I appreciate. The string is also really thin, so it doesn't make your neck hot. Yes please! That's the last thing we need. 🥵The badge holder I got is so fun too. The kids love the little bike on the back, and I love that the badge part doesn't constantly fall off!
Lanyard...Etsy lanyards (they have TONS of options!)
Badge Holder...click HERE
10. Electronic Whistle
I discovered this incredible product when teacher after teacher at my previous school started using them at recess. After my little, metal whistle finally gave out, I invested in one of these and have never looked back. Simply push the button and the loud whistle sound goes off. LOVE IT.
10 Essentials You Can't Buy
1. Knowing Your Why
My Why: When I get to the end of my days, I want to look back on my life and be able to tell God, I used everything you gave me. I want to look back on my days knowing I served well. I love working with kids and having a direct positive impact on their daily lives.
Your "why" is the reason you got into teaching. What's at the heart of WHY you got into teaching?Maybe it's that teacher that has changed your life and you want to do that for your students. Maybe it's having the ability to be a part of positively impacting future generations. My why is what keeps me coming back after a tough day. My why is what helps me plan lessons that matter. My WHY is the driving force behind what I do every single day. What is your why?
2. Have a heart for kids and build relationships
This may be a no-brainer, but you have to love working with kids. Caring about their social, emotional, physical, and academic well-being...it all matters. Get to know your students and their families. BUILD THOSE RELATIONSHIPS!
3. A good sense of humor
As a teacher, I have witnessed and experienced some pretty crazy things! You have to have the ability to laugh at yourself when you goof and laugh as a class if the situation calls for it. For example, last year I went to sit on a chair that had wheels. I thought the chair was closer than it was, missed the chair, and instead briefly flopped on the edge of the chair and fell FLAT onto the floor. We all laughed for a solid 5 minutes straight. I couldn't get it together. I thought, "What is life right now? Did my whole class just see me do that!?!?" Laughter makes a world of a difference in a classroom.
4. Ability to view a problem from multiple perspectives
Bottom line is, teaching is tough, but one thing I've learned is if I can view a problem from several different perspectives and not get locked in on just my view, I can be more helpful in different situations. Sometimes what we think is a small deal is a big deal to others and vice versa. Perspective makes a huge difference.
5. Be Flexible
Things can change in a matter of seconds in teaching. Your lesson can be going great and then a kid can get sick right in the middle of it, what do you do? Or how about the whole remote teaching thing during Covid!?! HELLO FLEXIBILITY! I still teach kids through Google Meet to this day. It's just all about staying flexible to try to meet the needs of the students in your room. Do I make it work perfectly every time? That's a big nope, but I definitely do my best with what I have.
6. Grit & Grace
This one I learned from my boss. She has used this phrase since I was a first year teacher and it has stuck with me ever since. You have got to have some grit to bounce back from difficulties (fail forward), but you also have to have the ability to give yourself (and others) grace and understand that perfection is not going to happen at all times.
Kids thrive with consistency and boundaries. Being consistent with the daily schedule, daily routines, expectations, my tone/approach each day, and just making sure I'm a consistent adult they can count on. Consistency at school matters especially if kids are dealing with inconsistency in their lives.
8. Be Trauma Informed
This is incredibly important. Being trauma informed will help you understand the 'why' behind student actions, behaviors, and reactions. It's essential to know more about the effect of trauma and how it impacts students. Trauma can present itself in several ways, so it's been very helpful to be aware of this. Helping students become regulated is so important to helping them access their eduction. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm so thankful for the training I've had in this area so far!
Being able to communicate effectively with your students, coworkers, and families makes a world of a difference for them and you. I just go by the rule, make sure nothing is a surprise. You don't want to catch anyone off guard. Keeping everyone in the loop and informed along the way is so helpful. I learned this through experience, but wow, it makes such a difference. Also, feedback matters. Positive feedback and constructive feedback.
Oooooh this is a good one and oh so tough some days! Be patient with the kids as they learn the content. Be patient with yourself as you teach it. Be patient with coworkers as they are multitasking trying to get their to-do list done. Be patient with parents while they are trying to balance several plates. When I am struggling with patience, I have to take a step back and remember, I need others to be patient with me just as much as I need to be patient with them. Show some grace, it goes a long way.
So there it is! Teaching in a nutshell.
Ha! Not really. This didn't even scratch the surface, but hopefully it did provide you with some encouragement and ideas.
Thanks for reading!