Teaching Profession

From Ibuprofen to Unfinished Grading: A Look Inside Teachers’ Work Bags

‘The pressure of being responsible for solving all of society’s troubles’
By Madeline Will — December 21, 2022 3 min read
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Author Anna Quindlen once said a purse is the mirror of the soul. If that’s the case, teachers, then what does your work bag say about you?

Some teachers say they carry everything they need—from planners to ibuprofen—and cart stacks of unfinished grading home, while others say they avoid bringing work home in an effort to maintain a strong work-life balance.

After all, it’s been a busy semester for many teachers, as they work to catch students up academically after the pandemic disrupted learning. Teachers have also had to deal with an uptick in student misbehavior, as well as extra work caused by staffing vacancies and substitute shortages. All that work may translate into a particularly cluttered bag.

EdWeek asked teachers on Facebook last month what exactly was in their work bag. Here’s some of what they had to say.

Everything under the sun

I’m a sub so mine has a lot. Ibuprofen, lip balm, lotion, flair pens, sticky notes, my planner, snacks, bottled water, my id and lanyard, stickers, extra pencils, small pack of tissues, bandaids. It’s my only personal space when I visit another teacher’s room and I hate getting into their desk looking for basic supplies.

- Kate K.

Bog boots, snow pants, wool socks, safety orange hat...I work at a school that does a lot of outdoor learning in northern New England.

- Heather K.

Folders of student work, old apples, 3 books that I want to read - eventually, a bottle of Aleeve, and a 20 dollar bill.

- Liz B.

There is very little that has not been carried in my work bag. But - do you mean the one on my shoulder, wrist, or falling off of my other shoulder? Right now the most random thing in there is minions fabric.

- Kelly K.

Zojirushi thermos with steel cut oats, Packit freezer bag with cut fruit, frozen 2-cup serving of soup/chili/stew to pop into my Crock Pot Lunch Warmer, almonds, baby carrots, 32oz insulated water bottle, phone battery, glasses, etc. Come to think of it, there’s often nothing work-related in that big work tote! 🤣

- Tracy A.

Pain meds of every type, tums, pens, planner, makeup I never wear, an assortment of jewelry I do wear, food, headphones, journal, protein bars, stevia packets, water, coffee, random clothing items, other random stuff that makes me feel secure lol

- Brenda J.

My entire life and 4 different drinks

- Christina B.

Actual work—that may or may not get done

Red pens, spare set of glasses, papers to grade, answer keys, roster page for grades (I can’t just do digital I need a paper copy too), and stickers.

- Meghan R.

Planner, my cool ap Lang rubric stamp, dozens of pens that I can never find when I’m looking for one, my school computer, and sticky notes.

- Amanda M.

Pens, highlighters, pencils, and assignments to be graded (and dont get to due to exhaustion)!

- Megan C.

A stack of good intentions (my grading I won’t actually do).

- Cez Erika G.

A whole lot of stuff that just comes home for the ride just to go back to work.

- Sharon N.

A bunch of stuff that never sees the light of day at my home! Pretty great workout weight, though. The daily schlep from car to class; class to car; car to home office; home office back to car…my shoulders are super buff! 🤷‍♀️😎

- Samantha S.

‘Bagless’ teachers set strong professional boundaries

I don’t have a bag, because I don’t believe in bring work home. I’ve set that as a boundary and for the most part I usually don’t have anything that pressing that can’t wait for the next day.

- Alan P.

I do not carry one anymore. It gets done at school or waits for the next day.

- Suzanne M.

I don’t know. I stopped bringing it to work since I don’t put anything in it to take home 🤷‍♂️ want more work? Buy more time 😂

- Jessy H.

Some things in a work bag aren’t so literal

Some teachers took the question in a different direction.

The pressure of being responsible for solving all of society’s troubles.

- Beth M.

My wife carries hope! She gives it to all of her kids! 🤷‍♂️

- Brian H.

My green track suit so I am ready for Squid Games if the opportunity arises. It would be worth it.

- David B.

My will to live. 😂

- Miguel H.

Whiskey and regret. 😭😂

- Teresa G.

And, maybe, a looming to-do for winter break:

I should probably clean that out… 🙃

- Amy L.

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