By Teachers, For Teachers
These are the items we use to make sure our classes get started on time, keep going without unnecessary distractions, and ensure that our students remain on-task and engaged during our lessons. Here are my necessary teaching supplies:
I know, I know … they’re to bring their own. But if the choice is watching my disorganized student rummage through his backpack searching for a nub of broken pencil (or a mechanical one without lead) for the first 10 minutes of my class or simply tossing him one of mine and getting to work – I’m going to choose getting to work every time. If it becomes a chronic problem, I’ll address it with the student on their time, not mine.
One student sneezes into their hands just after they volunteered to circle the answer on the board. Another returns from the restroom suspiciously quickly. A third is far more interested in the contents of their nose than the contents of our book. IT’S DAY OF THE LIVING COLD AND FLU VIRUSES!!!! Hand-sanitizer flows freely in my classroom as we try to stay as healthy as possible.
This is one that might not be on every teacher’s list, but strangely it often falls into the “keeping students on-task” category in my classroom. Especially during the winter months, many of my students complain of dry skin, flaky skin, cracked skin, you name it. It saves me time, energy, and writing passes to the nurse’s office by simply handing a student a bottle of lotion and getting back to the lesson.
With new health initiatives in our schools, we teachers have to be careful with anything that could be considered a “food incentive/reward,” but mints usually pass even the most hard-core health advocate’s test. I use them not as a reward, but as a way to re-engage off-task students in a quiet, non-distracting way. When I see a student who is getting sleepy, seems to be getting distracted, etc. I’ll slip them a mint and quietly say something encouraging like, “Hey, I appreciate how you’re trying to stay focused … have a mint, it’ll help.” It gives sleepy students a bit of a wake-up and lets them know that I’m not going to let them get away with dozing in my class, but it’s all done in a quiet, positive way that doesn’t leave any student feeling embarrassed or “called out” in front of their classmates.
As an important side-note, I always include a brief conversation about my “mint policy” when I’m going over my procedures and expectations at the start of the school year. My students understand that they are not “candy,” and that I do not give them to students who ask for them. By making it clear that I’ll pass out a mint once in a while on an “as-needed” basis it stops all the “Me! Me! I want a mint!” that I might get if I didn’t cover it early on in the year
There was a scientific study done that proved conclusively that every 10 seconds 10,000 students in this country lose the eraser on their pencils. It’s true! I think that most of them must be in my class because I’m constantly being asked for erasers. Having them on-hand is a time-saver during class and afterward when I have to grade papers that would otherwise be covered in scribbles and crossed-out answers
Extra copies of whatever we’re working on
The reasoning behind this one goes along with my reason for always having some extra pencils. If I have a disorganized student, I don’t want to spend the first 10 minutes of class helping them get organized so that they can find the paper I handed out yesterday. I’d rather just give them an extra copy now and help them organize their folders during study hall or recess.
The love young people have for band-aids never seems to go away. In elementary school, your time can quickly be taken up listening to endless sagas of invisible scrapes and bumps. At the high school level, hangnails, paper cuts, and other ailments threaten to derail your class’ attention at any moment. The ability to slap a band-aid on a real (or imagined) boo-boo and get back to the lesson is invaluable.
Let’s face it, kids can be a little gross. During those winter months when it seems like every student you work with has a stuffy nose, watery eyes, and a hacking cough, having enough tissues on hand for the job makes a world of difference
A Water Bottle
This is pure self-preservation. The ability to clear your throat after talking for a bit, have a drink to quell a coughing spell, or just take a sip of water before calling on a student to ensure they get proper “wait time,” is much easier when you have something with you to drink. When you add in the health benefits, keeping water with you just makes sense
An extra lesson, game, writing assignment
I’m usually pretty spot on with how long my lessons are going to take and if I am wrong, I usually think things will take less time than my students take instead of more. I’m usually pushing back my lessons a day or so to give everyone time to finish up. That being said, it can be a nerve-wracking feeling when you realize that you’re finishing up your lesson and there’s still 10 minutes or more before your class period is over. With that in mind, I always keep a few simple ideas with me when I end up with a little time to fill. Sometimes it’s a game, other times it might be a TeachHUB video journal prompt. An easy idea that can be kind of fun is to write a bunch of the terms/vocabulary words you are currently using in class plus a few silly ones just for fun on the board (or have it prepared on a worksheet). Ask your class to use all or some of the words correctly in a story and then sit back to see what you get!
So those are some of the items in my “teacher utility-belt.” What do you keep in yours?