Top 7 Must Haves for First Year Teachers



It is your first year of teaching and you are beyond EXCITED.  You have multiple notebooks going with ideas, categorized Pinterest boards and you are following all the top teacher blogs.  My first year of teaching felt like a whirl wind.  We moved into our new building at Winter Break! I spent New Years Eve setting up my second classroom in 4 months. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with all of the THINGS I needed in order to teach. Since we were moving into a new building, my first room was bare. Like two bookcases and 6 rectangular tables. I didn’t know where to start on creating a room from the ground up. Here are my top 7 must haves for first year teachers (or any teacher for that matter!)



This is SO important for just starting out.  My first-year mentor teacher told me that I needed a home for every paper.  At times this seems like over kill but trust me if you start this early you will not fall behind.

I love to use paper trays to help organize student papers.  One for lined paper, one for grid paper, and one for our STAAR resource materials.  You can use them for so many other things as well. This one is sturdy.


A toolbox has SAVED my life.  I love having everything in one place and organized.  Grab the labels here and the toolbox here.


These three drawer drawers are great for everything.  I use the smaller one as a nurse station!  My larger ones hold papers to print, organize and send home.  I also keep materials for my small group instruction. You can never have too many!  Grab the small ones here and large ones here. Are you obsessed with llamas?!  Check this décor pack out here.


Shoeboxes are inexpensive, durable, stack, and have lids.  I use them for our school supplies, math manipulatives, stations, and games.


Emergency Sub Plans

You will get sick. Let me repeat, you WILL get sick. And if you don’t, you are going to be out at least once during the year.  I started creating my sub plans in Google Drive a few years ago and I LOVE it.  I have a folder that is just for sub plans and I am able to make duplicates when I need to be out.  That way my schedule is the same, the basic information is the same and I am not wasting time typing it time after time.  I also love that I can access it from home or school.  This has been a lifesaver!  It is also nice when you need a teammate to print them in the morning! Share away!

I also have a substitute folder that has my classroom routines, class rosters and other helpful notes about my class.  If you have students that require a little more love, this is where I leave special notes about their needs. My school has a binder with all of the emergency procedures, but if yours doesn’t it would be a good thing to add.


Ez Grader

My mentor for student teaching gave me one of the EZGraders when I graduated. It has saved me so much time!  No more having to look between screens when grading.


Good Pencil Sharpener

Pencils are the objects of many teachers nightmares.  If you don’t have a routine for pencils, your life is much harder than it needs to be.  I didn’t understand what it was like to have a good pencil sharpener until later in my teaching years.  HOLY COW! I have this one here and I love it!  I do not let my students use it.  I have a container of pencils sharp and ready for them to grab if theirs breaks.  I do this for two reasons.  First, kids break sharpeners quickly.  They are rough on them and don’t know when to stop.  They also try to put pencils that are too small into them. Second, they are loud and interrupt class.  It is so much better for a student to go grab a new one than interrupt the class to sharpen their pencil. This is the one I use and I am in LOVE with it!


Student Mailboxes

This can look different for your classroom and needs.  I know teachers who have the organizers where each student has their own shelf.  I have found that they take up a lot of surface area and I have never had much to spare! I use a file folder plastic container with hanging folders.  I put my student’s numbers (at the beginning of the year each student gets a number, typically in alphabetical order) on the folders to be able to use them year after year.  I have two. One for our Wednesday folders that go home with their work. The other has their folders with differentiated work for math. This goes back to giving each paper a home! This is the box that I use and two kinds of folders, cute and budget. Looking to take it home? Check this one out.



Label. Everything. I am going to say that again. Label everything! You don’t need to make it super fancy, but labels will help you and your students. Label materials, turn in baskets, your supplies, paper trays, filing cabinets. If you can think of a label, make it. Trust me, it is worth it when students as for something or need to put something away. This year I took Avery labels and create a different picture for each block I taught. This was so nice because I was able to see which class without having to get super close to the item. We put it on our math and science textbooks, their math journals and interactive science notebooks. These are the ones I used.  Go to Avery’s website to use their label creator!


Professional Books

I cannot stress how important reading professional books is at any stage of your career.  I know that there isn’t a lot of time and it seems like there are other things that are higher on your list of things to do.  Even if it takes you a while, reading new books will give you ideas on how to implement new strategies in the classroom.  The great thing is, a lot of these strategies are tried and true with the research to back it up!  Here are a few of my favorite books.

These are just a few tips for first year teachers.  Remember to leave school at a reasonable hour, ask for help, love your students, learn from mistakes, and grow from the challenges.  Teaching is tough, but so rewarding when it starts to fall into place for your students.  I am always amazed with how much my students grow!


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