What’s in Your Classroom Survival Kit?

I have finally begun to unpack my “life” as a teacher. When I retired in June 2014, I brought home 12 boxes filled with books, textbooks, teacher guides and resources, inservice curricula, and more. They have been sitting in my laundry room waiting for my attention.

Honestly, I have been dreading unpacking and dealing with all that stuff for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons, I think, is that being a teacher was such a huge part of my life and my identity that I think it might be very emotionally difficult for me to tackle this task. But just the other day, I noticed a small box and opened it. Inside were some everyday items that I had packed from my desk and my worktable; items that I either used every day or kept aside just in case I needed them. I found myself laughing as I unpacked them and realized that they represent an aspect of being a teacher, that only other teachers can appreciate. So here goes…
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Classroom Hygiene: disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, paper towels, tissues, a small broom and pan, window cleaner…

Personal Hygiene: toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, nail-polish remover, nail file, small scissors, bandaids, a package of nylon stockings, safety pins, deodorant, an extra pair of eyeglasses, eyeglass cleaner, stain remover, Pepto Bismol, throat lozenges, antibacterial hand gel…

General Items: plastic cutlery, napkins, salt and pepper packets, diet sugar packets, tea bags, coffee mugs, catsup and mustard packets, salad dressing packets, snacks for kids, snacks for myself, plastic ziplock bags, matches, ball of string, candles, bottled water…

Stationery items: envelopes, thank-you cards, birthday cards, stamps, birthday candles, address book, dictionary, calculator, extra Zip drives, class photos from many years…

Non-teachers don’t realize how well stocked a teacher’s desk must be. If our classroom is not centrally located we can be quite a distance from the nurse or the main office if an accident occurs. The intercom is not always reliable. My classroom was three hallways length from the nearest bathroom and any source of water. Then there’s the problem of not being allowed access to the Internet for personal use and limited time during the day to use the bathroom. It’s kinda’ like being on your own island all day hoping a ship will soon pass by to offer help and/or companionship.

What’s in your classroom survival kit for the coming school year?

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23 thoughts on “What’s in Your Classroom Survival Kit?”

  1. My favorite line – like being on your own island all day hoping a ship will soon pass by. So true!! As I read your list, I kept hearing “check” in my head because I too have that item in my desk box!! Now you have left the island to sail into a new retired world. Bon Voyage!! If you get bored, know there are many islands you can visit but be sure to bring along some of your supplies!!

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    1. What a wonderful metaphor…sailing on to different islands. I did already use some of the provisions stored in those boxes for a workshop I did this summer on writing for English Language Learners. I hope to visit many new islands with my ample provisions! Stay tuned…

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  2. Great reminder of all the supplies we need to have on hand! I love that line, too, that Sally mentioned. I’ll need to carve out space for those things- perhaps in my closet this year. I am trying something new and transforming the teacher desk into a student work station. My desk usually becomes a place where papers pile high and I never really constructively use the space. I’m not sure how it will go, but I’m going to try it out!

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    1. You are brave to try out the converted desk idea. Classroom teachers always need more room for activities. As a pull-out teacher, I had the luxury of keeping my desk as a desk–an old-fashioned habit I guess–but as you can see, it also became my go-to treasure box! Good luck with the new work station. Let us know how it works out!

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  3. Those boxes represent a huge part of who you are. I like the way your said that your boxes have been sitting in your laundry room waiting for you. It’s as though your boxes of teacher stuff, your teacherly life, are ready to move on but you are not – yet. I like the way you are sharing your teaching wisdom through blogging. Perhaps that will help you decide what to do with those boxes finally. Good luck!

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  4. Each year I realize I need more visual scaffolds on the wall to reinforce or support what we’ve learned (commonly-confused words, frequently-used academic terms, etc.). I think these aids are a kind of survival kit!

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    1. Of course they can be. I had in mind more personal “stuff” when I wrote the post. Kinda’ the hidden part of the iceberg of the teaching life. You are, I think, talking about the part that everyone sees, which is also part of your students’ survival as well as your own.

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  5. You were prepared for any situation that might arise. I had to laugh at the package of nylon stockings. Slowly you will delve into those boxes and hopefully great memories will surface.

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    1. I chuckled to myself as I included the nylon stockings in my post, wondering who would pick up on that dated item. I think I may have worn nylons a total of a half dozen times in my 20+ years on the job. But if you got a “run” they came in very handy. There were a couple of other things I didn’t mention for the sake of propriety. I’ll let you use your imagination!
      I like your idea of delving into the boxes slowly. How else could I? There’s so much in there to rediscover. The question is, what to do with it all?

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  6. I am so pleased that you realize that the boxes do indeed represent me. A lot of thought and effort went into the writings and book selections and lessons contained in those boxes. I did use some material this summer when I presented a demo lesson on teaching nonfiction writing to English Language Learners to a group of teachers. I was delighted that I had most of what I needed to do the lesson, including a paper construction of a horseshoe crab I had designed for the kids. The teachers loved it, too!

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  7. Congratulations on your retirement! As I read the items on the list, I found myself nodding at each one – I have all those in my desk, too. đŸ™‚ As far as my classroom survival kit, I must admit that my snacks for myself include some chocolate for that moment in the afternoon when my coffee has worn off. đŸ™‚

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  8. Sounds like “Mrs. McBloom Clean Up Your Room!” Have your read that book? I think of it every time I have tempted to “hoard” supplies. My mother-in-law got rid of her teaching things slowly over 10 years. She’d give away everything but the essentials, and then a few years would go by and other things became non-essential, until finally there was nothing left and she had to go buy some books for the grandkids to read! I have a few of her things and it took me a while to toss them out because I was afraid she’d ask to see them again! But the last of them went in the bin this summer (she retired in 1998!)

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    1. Thanks for the gentle kick in the butt! I suppose much the same will happen to me, too. We all think we’ll be different when our time comes, and some of us succeed. The rest of us just carry out our predictable life arc as best we can. I’ll look for the book, though!

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    2. How could I have overlooked chocolate? Fortunately I didn’t develop that habit until retirement. But I do remember certain days when I really need a boost and would roam the halls looking for a teacher who might be willing to share some of her hoard! You’d probably have thrown out all my stuff by now, based on your reply.
      But I’ll probably slowly let go…like your mother-in-law. Character is hard to change!

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  9. Oh, I can identify with this post. Only I brought home 30+ boxes in June 2014. I’ve been slowly hacking away, but still have about 10 boxes in my son’s old bedroom. My post today was about getting rid of Book Links magazines. They didn’t come from school. I had them squirreled away at home.

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      1. I was so pleased to read your post…it made me feel a lot better! My husband had just asked me what I was going to do about the boxes in the laundry room. I honestly didn’t know and was annoyed at him for asking. Now I know I am in good company and there’s a reason it’s taking me so long to get around to it. Thanks for your support. Love the info about the chocolate stash and even more so how “pride” kept you from visiting too often. What vulnerable creatures we all are.

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  10. Your introduction grabbed at my heart, and now I am pondering all the transitions we go through in a lifetime. I hope I can find ways to communicate my feelings like you have. I like the inventory items too. It reminded me of some things I still need to purchase!

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    1. So many transitions…so little time. You are right. It’s amazing how many transitions we do experience in a lifetime and I am sure you will find a way to communicate your own feelings when the time comes. I just recently “transitioned” out of cancer which followed right on the heels of my retirement. It’s important to see the big picture as you do.

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