Advice for New Teachers From a Veteran Teacher

I just finished my 18th year of teaching. For me the summer is time for reflection and rejuvenation. I'm in several social media groups where new teachers are often asking for advice from experienced teachers. When I started teaching social media didn't exist yet, but luckily I was given a mentor my first year of teaching. I'm grateful that my school did this because there are many things that college never prepared me for. In this post I'm going to list things that I've learned over the years. I'm not going to talk about subject specific things in this post. This post is for any new teacher. I hope that this post is beneficial.

Items That Every Teacher Needs:

1) Hand Sanitizer: I've always been a fan of hand sanitizer but I used to just keep a small little bottle in my bag for myself. When I started teaching I was using chalk which was messy. Even after I switched to dry erase markers I still needed to clean my hands constantly. As a high school teacher I have kids in and out of my room all day long. There are germs everywhere and in the beginning of my career I got sick quite frequently even though I never used to get sick. I started buying a large pump hand sanitzer (BJ's and Costco sell them) and I left it on my desk. All day long I have kids come up to my desk and use it. With 100+ students (sometimes as many as 150 students) I buy one of those big bottles about once a month. My kids always tell me that other teachers don't have one. I want my students to have clean hands because the more clean hands in my room, the less likely I am getting sick. Not every child is going to wash their hands in the bathroom and then they touch your doorknob, touch their desk and touch the work that they hand to you. If you think about it, it's gross. I think it's a small investment that benefits every person that walks into your room. If you want the bottle to last longer you can put a rubber band on it and less sanitzer comes out.

2) Comfortable Shoes: I like to wear cute shoes but when I'm standing most of the day I need something comfortable. I know there are some teachers that wear heels every day but I am not one of those teachers. I'm trying to save my legs and back from hurting. Here are a few brands that I find very comfortable: Easy Spirit, Nautralizers, Aerosoles, and Sketchers. I'm sure there are many other comfortable brands but those are my go to. A good, comfortable pair of shoes can make a huge difference in your day.

3) Advil: This is for you because you're going to get headaches. I'm sorry but it's inevitable. Keeping a small bottle in your bag, a desk that locks or a locker is important.

4) Vitamins: You get up early, you're on your feet all day and you're dealing with a lot of different people. You're going to need vitamins for energy.

5) An Insulated Lunch Bag: Every school is different but you might not have access to a fridge or the fridge might be tiny. I'd get a good bag to put your lunch in. I also meal prep on Sundays and make my lunch for the week. This way if I'm too tired after work or I have an after school commitment (running an after school club, grad school, an appointment, etc.) I don't need to worry about making a healthy lunch for the next day. With all the stress and work that comes with teaching it's easy to gain weight.

6) Bandaids: When you're in a classroom kids need bandaids quite frequently. I remember early in my career I was teaching on the 3rd floor and the nurse was in the basement. I sent a kid to get a bandaid and he didn't come back for the rest of the period. It's a far walk and her office was busy. The kids have to sign in and talk to her about what happened. It's a big ordeal. I'd rather just buy a box of store brand bandaids a couple of times a year so that time doesn't get wasted.

7) Water Bottle: Teachers talk a lot and many schools have no air conditioning. Both schools I've worked in have no air conditioning and in the warmer months the vending machines sell out of water. It is very important to have a good water bottle to stay hydrated. Of course there are water fountains but all you have to do is walk down the hallway and you're bound to see some kid spit in the fountain. That's enough to deter me from using them.

8) Healthy Snacks: You might stay late at work to get copies done, work on some grading, finish a bulletin board, etc. Keep some healthy snacks in your room or in your bag. You'll be much happier that you packed the fruit, the carrots, the yogurt, the granola bar, etc. than hitting the vending machine for a candy bar. Trust me it's very easy to eat junk food when you're busy and many teachers gain weight.

9) Febreeze: If you have kids in your room all day things will get smelly. I once had a class of 28 boys and 3 girls. That was the smelliest class I've ever encountered. They had my class right after lunch. I don't need to get specific about why that class smelled but let's just say I always had the bottle of Febreeze handy that period. I have bad allergies. I can't deal with most spray cleaners and I'm highly allergic to plug ins. Febreeze is hypoallergenic and you can spray the room and not worry about kids having issues. Spend one period in a room with teenagers that just came back from gym class or just ate school food and you'll understand why this is a necessity.

10) Paper Towels: Whether it's to clean a spill or to clean desks with spray cleaner I find it important to have some paper towels in the room. You can get the cheap kind in the dollar store. I find them handy to have. Also they can be used if you need a tissue. I used to buy tissues but I found that the kids wasted them so I stopped buying them.


Every school should give teachers school supplies but let's face it many schools keep them locked up and teachers have to fill out request forms to get things. More often than not teachers bring their own supplies. Here's a list of things that I think are essential in the classroom.

1) A Good Stapler and a Box of Staples: Many kids are going to need to use your stapler because their work that they're turning in is more than one page and they don't have a stapler at home. You'll also need your stapler if you hand out packets (some copy machines staple but not all of them) and when you're doing a bulletin board.

2) Good Grading Pens: You're going to need colorful pens to grade. In the beginning of my career I always used green pens. I was told in college that I shouldn't use red pens because there was a negative affect with the color red. Later in my career I switched to purple pens. What brand you use is a personal preference but make sure you have a few pens for grading because you'll be grading a lot and if you leave them on your desk they could disappear.

3) Tons of Pens and Pencils: Kids forget to bring pens and pencils. It happens all the time. Some teacher will give a kid a pen if the kid gives them collateral. All of a sudden you have student id cards, hats, a sneaker and who knows what else. It wastes time. You can either resign yourself to buying cheap pens and pencils and going through hundreds of them every school year or you can buy a box of golf pencils. I stumbled upon this piece of advice accidentally. One year I was filling out a request form for supplies and I asked for pencils. I was given a box of golf pencils. When a student asked for something to write with I gave them a golf pencil. Most of the kids did not want to keep the golf pencils and I ended up getting most of them back. That one box lasted a very long time.

4) A Calendar: Whether it's a physical calendar or an electronic one you will need one. There will be meetings, events, and deadlines (report cards, progress reports, etc) and you need to keep track of them all. I prefer a physical one. I like having a planner and a wall calendar. If your school uses gmail there's a calendar there as well.

5) A Big Binder: As a secondary teacher you will teach more than one class. I have always had to write 3 or 4 lesson plans a day. I find it easy to keep my lesson plans in a binder with dividers (a section for 11th grade ELA, a section for 12th grade ELA, etc.) Some teachers use planbooks but I type up all of my lesson plans so I don't see a point in using a planbook.

6) Digital Storage: I used to keep a binder for each unit I taught but I'm more of a digital person now. I back up all of my files on Google Drive and Dropbox in case something happens to my computer. There are other options and you should pick the best one for you. External hard drives and and computers can have issues so cloud storage is the way to go.

7) A Hole Puncher: If you require students to use a binder (I always do) you'll want a good hole puncher in your room.

8) Dry Erase Markers: I like to have different colors so that I can underline or circle things in another color. I mostly use a smartboard but I write important things on the dry erase board.

9) Markers, Colored Pencils and/or Crayons: I like to do creative assignments and they always come in handy. I like to give each group chart paper and they'll need markers for that.

10) Tape: You're going to go through a lot of tape because you're going to be hanging things up in your room quite often.

Many of these items will be cheaper in the summer at Staples with their weekly back to school deals. Target also has some great back to school sales.

There are many other supplies you'll probably want in your room but many of them are a personal preference.

Here's a link to another post that I wrote about the first week of school: First Week Jitters


  1. Great list! I would only add keeping some change in your desk for a quick vending machine drink or if a student owes a quarter for a library book, etc. I always keep a few quarters in my lunch duty tote bag for just this.

  2. I try to avoid the vending machine at all costs. I will bring 4 bottles of water with me in the warmer months if I have to. Our vending machines tend to sell out because the school isn't air conditioned. If it's an emergency I'll go to the Bodega across the street from the school.



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