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10 Things to Buy for Back to School {That Probably Aren’t on the School Supply List}

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A former teacher’s list of 10 things to buy for back to school that your child’s teacher will probably never tell you they really need!

There is an unspoken rule among teachers: Don't tell parents what we really need.  But I'm breaking the silence and telling parents the 10 things teachers really need that aren't making their way to the school supply lists!

You wouldn’t even believe the wheeling and dealing that goes into even creating a school supply list in the first place.  Most school systems give you a monetary limit for the school supply list and whatever goes on that list has to be equal to or less than that monetary limit.  The list is then verified by admin to make sure it meets the dollar requirement before it can be approved, copied, and distributed to those little cardboard carousels at your local store.

That means that only the MOST needed {and most quickly used} items make it onto that list which is why you always see boxes of pencils, packages of glue sticks, crayons, and index cards on the list.  “Why do I have to send 2 24 count packages of pencils to school when I just have one kid?” I’ve heard parents complain while staring at their list in the school supply aisle of Target.  You wouldn’t even believe how many times a day I heard “I don’t have a pencil” from my 2nd graders.  And 9 times out of 10 I had just given them a fresh pencil that morning.  Probably by Christmas or even Thanksgiving I’m replacing those pencils out of my own pocket.

I could go on about this for pages and pages but I’ll get right down to it.  Here are some things teachers really need but can’t add to their lists.  I understand that budgets are tight and $30 can be a lot.  Especially if you have multiple children to outfit for a new year.  But if you’re able or willing to donate some extra items to your child’s teacher they will be more than grateful!  Plus, public schools are non-profits and government institutions so any supplies you donate above and beyond the required list are tax deductible!  Just ask your child’s teacher or school secretary for a receipt 🙂

  1. Construction paper.  This stuff gets used.  A lot.  Booklets for interactive learning, collages, art projects, models, decorating bulletin boards, and more!  The legal size stuff is nice but the larger 12 x 18 (aff) or my personal favorite 18 x 24 (aff) sizes make it even more versatile.
  2. Scotch tape.  You wouldn’t even believe how fast this stuff goes.  I swear that some kids ripped classroom book pages on purpose just so they could have some tape to fix it.  They like to tape EVERYthing together.  Sometimes I could go through a roll a month depending on the group I had that year.  A multi-pack (aff) is a blessing.
  3. Extra Scissors.  These are almost always on a school supply list but you’d be surprised how many parents skimp on this one and they’re bent or broken by Thanksgiving.  They then have to be replaced.  A good brand like Fiskars (aff) costs a little more but they’ll last the whole year through and maybe even the next one!
  4. Staples.  You couldn’t even imagine how many boxes of staples I went through a year.  Stapling tests, paperwork, or projects together and decorating bulletin boards takes a LOT of staples.  Plus, just like tape, the little darlings also view staples (aff) as a magical cure all for fixing things.  Did your little one come home with a stapled t-shirt once after ripping it on the playground?  Then he was probably one of my 2nd graders…
  5. Stickers.  Seriously I don’t know what it is about fun stickers (aff) but kids of almost any age group go ca-razy for them.  You finally put your homework in the right bin?  Here’s a sticker!  You went the whole day without kicking the chair of the person in front of you?  Have a sticker!  Heaven only knows why these tiny things are such great motivators but they ARE and I could easily spend half my paycheck restocking these every few months.  You want to be really popular?  Character stickers really knock their socks off.
  6. Computer paper.  I used computer paper in the classroom all. the. time.  For art during lessons, inside unit booklets, and by the time my copies ran out at the end of the month I was printing stuff off my own personal printer just to keep everything running smoothly.  I hoarded paper like nobodies business whenever it went on sale and I could easily use 10 packs of paper (aff) a year.  Because once the teachers around you know you have paper you become the paper lady.
  7. Rulers.  These are especially important for older elementary school kids.  One year while learning measurement in 2nd grade we had to share a bucket of rulers between FIVE classrooms.  It’s an elaborate dance of coordinating who’s doing what measurement activity when so that each classroom has their turn.  If you’re going to be a ruler angel please, please, please get the wooden rulers (aff) and not the plastic ones.  Those plastic ones snap like nobodies business.
  8. Notebook paper.  Sometimes this makes lists and sometimes it doesn’t.  It’s not expensive generally at around a dollar a pack for 80-100 pages but it goes FAST.  Seriously, probably a pack a week in most classrooms.  That’s roughly $360 a year out of my pocket just for notebook paper (aff).  Wide ruled if you’re buying for the elementary school classroom.
  9. Post-It Notes.  I haven’t yet met a teacher who didn’t live and die by the Post-It.  Some just use it to label things or keep track of paperwork due dates but I also used to give a Post-It (aff) to my 2nd graders and ask them to write one thing they learned as they left the classroom and add it to the “what stuck with you?” board to measure learning.  They go fast so you can never have too many!
  10. Dry Erase Markers.  Sometimes these make it to the supply lists and sometimes not but just like pencils they go fast.  Caps either get lost or don’t get pushed on tight and they dry out.  Or the marker tip gets smooshed down into the marker from pushing too hard while writing.  Individual dry erase boards are much more common these days than individual chalk boards in the classroom which is great because they’re cleaner but good dry erase markers (aff) that last the whole year are pricey to replace for a classroom of 20+ kids.  And please only send the black ones.  It causes less arguments over the colored markers that way.

This post is longer than my usual posts {and also not a recipe or craft} but it begged to be written!  As you’re headed to the store later this month to pick up supplies for your kiddos and usher them back to school remember the teachers who likely have been working a second job this summer to pay down some debt before returning to a full time and a half job of nurturing and educating your kids 5 days a week.  If you can bless them with some extra supplies then from the bottom of a former teacher’s heart thank you!

Are you a teacher?  What supplies would you add to this list that I didn’t include?



Thursday 30th of July 2015

Great post! What a great idea to pick up a few extra supplies for the teachers who pour so much into their jobs and our kids.


Tuesday 4th of August 2015

Thank you! Teachers who always seem to need the most are the last one's to ask for help! Since I'm no longer teacher I donated all the stuff I'd collected over the years to a teacher friend of mine and I loved the way her eyes lit up at all the stuff! So awesome to bless the deserving :)