Teaching Profession

What Are Your Teaching Essentials? Teachers Share What They Can’t Teach Without

By Kristine Kim — April 18, 2017 4 min read
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It takes coffee—and some other essentials—to run a classroom. On social media and through email, teachers told Education Week Teacher their five must-haves when it comes to classroom organization and enhancing their instruction.

Tell us your teaching essentials with #ICantTeachWithout pic.twitter.com/yyLxabDC7J — EdWeek Teacher (@EdWeekTeacher) April 15, 2017

New York City journalism teacher Starr Sackstein, who blogs for Education Week Teacher, says her tech tools are a part of her regular instruction—they help capture moments of amazing learning. Some of her essentials:

Coffee. “I start every day with the perfect cup of coffee. It fuels my focus and warmth in the early morning hours.”

Twitter. “It’s a tool that I use for my own professional learning, for student discussion, teaching of digital citizenship, and sharing student learning. It’s the perfect social media tool to teach students about academic sharing and branding. I regularly use Twitter in the classroom to help my students talk to about their learning.”

Laptop. “Where the magic happens. Having access to my lessons and resources as well as communication.”

Phone camera. “I love to record the amazing learning happening in my classroom and the camera makes that possible—whether [through] still moments or video or livestreaming through apps like Periscope, it allows the world to get a glimpse of what goes on.”

A custom-made clipboard is Reddit user Njdevills11‘s all-in-one resource. “I’m a reading teacher, on that clipboard I track where all my groups are, anecdotal notes for every student, my to-do list, my schedule, my library book checkout pages, reading level reference charts, and my “ideas for next year” list—that clipboard is all I need,” the teacher wrote on Reddit’s forum for teachers, “Teacher Tales.”

Besides a “bullet journal, hair ties, sticky notes, and an iPad,” Reddit user resmirandalee also listed “a plush toy” that’s "[thrown] around to have students answer questions” as an essential.

Redditor PhilemonV mentioned a useful classroom incentive. "[I have] a jar full of plastic ‘gold’ coins that I give out to students who participate actively (e.g., demonstrate how to solve a math problem) in class which they can trade in for either make-up points or for chocolate.”

Alexandra Bolden, who teaches in Alexandria, Va., told Education Week Teacher that she prepares plenty of hands-on-material for her students. “Children learn best through play. Materials should be placed for intentional use.”

On Twitter, Aileen Dooley, a special education teacher in Virginia, highlighted coffee as her much-needed morning boost: “Coffee starts my day and usually ends my teaching day so I have energy to enjoy the remainder of my day with my family.”

A rainbow of sticky notes was mentioned by many teachers—"all sizes and colors,” according to Melissa Eckler, a teacher in Kansas City, Mo.

Former Los Angeles teacher Eva Garcia shared a snapshot of her tools: An assortment of colored markers, sticky notes in different sizes, correction tape, vinyl covers, and a cup of java.

Liz Banks, a 7th grade literature and English/language arts teacher tweeted, “I am the Post-It queen! Also I like bright, fun colored pens for grading, not red!”

Kelly Kim, a PreK3-K teacher at a Montessori public charter school in Baltimore keeps a first-aid kit handy and in a place easily located by her students: “Band-Aids are a miracle cure for the occasional paper cut. It’s a quick and easy fix instead of a trip to the nurse’s office,” Kim told Education Week Teacher. She shared a couple of other go-to items for smooth sailing every day:

“It fixes everything from ripped art work to a torn worksheet. If their worksheet gets torn, it stops everything in their universe—tape works better than glue sticks because they can write over it.”

Colored markers. “My kids love markers but they always forget to put the caps on or press too hard, extra ones on my desk always come in handy when their favorite color is dried out.”

Christina Torres, a middle and high school English and drama teacher in Honolulu and an Education Week Teacher blogger, runs a paperless classroom. “My school is a Google Education school, so everything is done online or on my phone.” Her go-tos include:

Backpack. “I travel from classroom to classroom, so portability is huge for me. This fits everything I need. ... I look like a big kid with it sometimes, which I sort of love (and I hope the kids do too).”

Personal oil diffuser. “I struggle, like lots of teachers, with stress and anxiety. It helps re-center me, make me mindful, and helps clear my mind once my students have settled in—it helps me practice self-care.”

Cold-Eeze. “I love kids, but they bring about sickness sometimes and protecting myself is nice. I keep these on me the minute I start feeling weird.”

Other educators used the hashtag #ICantTeachWithout to list their must-haves and what they reach for on a daily basis in their classrooms.

Manipulatives, my SmartBoard, pencils, iced tea, and FUN! #ICantTeachWithout pic.twitter.com/adgHA20q27 -- Cochran's Kinders (@cochranskinders) April 13, 2017
#ICantTeachWithout coffee, whiteboard, books, art, and laughter. What about you #AltRtEd teachers? //t.co/Gj9E6jUlB5 -- Stacy Young (@AskStacyYoung) April 13, 2017
@EdWeekTeacher #ICantTeachWithout a good night's sleep, lots of patience, a sense of humour, a nice bright space, and students. 😊 -- Maura O'Reilly (@O_ReillyM) April 16, 2017
Can't teach without the laughs- from kids and colleagues." #ICantTeachWithout //t.co/m3STIeYqqO -- Kristen Dewitt (@kld12) April 13, 2017
#ICantTeachWithout collaboration, questioning, care, coffee, and a can-do attitude! //t.co/MN7RtjPakq -- Lindsay Salomons (@Ms_Salomons) April 14, 2017

Teachers, what can’t you teach without? Share your go-tos in the comments.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.