In preparation for your first day of teaching, it would be easy to go out and buy everything you think might aid you in being as well-equipped as you possibly can be. To help beginning teachers make smart decisions about their "first-day shopping spree," asked our National Teacher Advisory Board — 40 top educators from around the country — for their ideas about what they'd put on a list of things to buy and to avoid. Heed their advice, and you can save valuable time and money!

Wait and See — and Then Buy!

  • Don't buy anything until you have seen your classroom, sat in it for awhile, and envision the learning environment you want to create for students. Then find out what your school provides, and if you have a budget for supplies and materials, before you purchase anything. Are bulletin board borders provided? Grade books, lesson plan books? Incentives for students? For yourself, have several pairs of comfortable shoes; find out if the building is air-conditioned to help you determine the type of clothes you'll need; and be sure to sign up for an exercise class — or something totally different than teaching — to give your mind and body a lift!
  • I made the mistake of buying everything possible when I began teaching. My suggestion to a beginning teacher is to wait until there is a specific need, and then to try to be discriminating. There is no perfect book, no perfect computer program. You need to look at a variety of materials before you can make any decisions about purchases. And even when you find what you consider to be ideal, my suggestion would be to make it your own. By letting your own passions and strengths into your teaching, you make it the wonderful experience it can really be.
  • I would invest in a very good computer system that would make record-keeping and preparation of all materials much easier. Other materials I would wait to purchase until I see what my new classroom looks like.
  • Harry Wong's books, one of which is entitled The First Days of School, are a great resource. This book gives excellent advice for beginning (as well as experienced) teachers on how to get organized and set up a classroom. Another good buy would be some general bulletin board materials for beginning the school year, and posting class and building rules. Don't buy too much more than that, though, until you know exactly what grade level and curriculum you will be teaching.
  • I would recommend subscribing to Mailbox Magazine and Teacher's Helper magazine. I found these two publications very helpful during my first few years of teaching. As far as other things to buy, it really depends on your grade level. However, whatever you do choose to buy, make sure you laminate anything and everything that can be used again and hung on the wall. This will save you time and money later! As a second grade teacher, I bought a wall calendar and have been using it for seven years, along with the calendar toppers. Don't go overboard on buying wall decorations — this is a waste of money. You won't need all of them. Also, you will find that each year your school system has a new trend or something that you need to focus on. You might want to hang things in your room to reflect that area of the curriculum, and usually it will be with student work as well.
  • Begin looking through resource magazines according to your grade level/subject area. For example: Oasis (Gifted/Talented), International Reading Association publications, etc. Also, any teacher resource materials and support materials from Scholastic Professional Books are excellent sources of ideas.
  • What you'll want to buy depends on your teaching style. I needed lots of trade books for my classroom library (check garage sales and library book sales; try not to buy them new). Invest in learning games; they're great for time-fillers. Don't buy pre-made bulletin board sets. They might look nice, but the actual student work looks nicer and is more meaningful. Do buy teacher units (books) — anything to enhance your curriculum is always helpful and time-saving. I always use lots of basic supplies, such as tape, stickers, index cards, lined paper, and tacks. But check to see what your school gives you first.
  • Don't spend a great deal of your own money on items for your future classroom until you have actually started the school year. Find out what your school's budget allows before making the purchases.
  • Don't spend too much too quickly. Over time you learn to differentiate between what you absolutely need, and what you can do without. I tend to be messy so I invested in many office supplies. For me, that was money well-spent. I also wanted a really great reading corner in my classroom when I started teaching, so I spent a lot of money on books. It turned out that my students visited our very well-stocked, up-to-date school library twice a week, where they checked out books. Also, our school hosted a book fair twice a year, and students received plenty of books for birthdays, holidays, and other occasions as well. So, that was money not well-spent. I found it more useful to buy activity books/workbooks that can be xeroxed and used as a center activity, homework sheet, or something else.