They’re baaaaaaack! Tips for getting the year off to a great start

Success in dealing with those first days of school depends on planning and organizing now, and a number of Teachnet readers have shared ideas for doing so. We’ll visit this topic regularly; here are some of their thoughts…

Supply Lists:
We’ll skip the usual items such as paper clips, rubber bands and pencils, and move right into emergencies. Safety pins, extra clothing and needle and thread are some of the things to have handy just for your own use, if not your students’. Do you have an apron or large “work” shirt to protect your clothes? Even an extra pair of old, cheap comfortable shoes will work if you break a strap or lose a heel. Most schools now have a plan in place for medical emergencies, supplying a bag of cleaning, disinfecting and wound-covering supplies for your use or for handing to your minor-injury-prone student (depending on the age). This kit should also include the obvious such as bandages and rubber gloves for wound-handling and the not-so-obvious such as magnifying glass, tweezers and mini flashlight. Mandatory for many classrooms now are baggies with emergency medical items to carry out to the playground or to field trips. Know your school’s protocol for dealing with medical situations and for sending students to the office or the school nurse.

Even if your school doesn’t allow you to THINK about hammering a nail in the wall, a tool kit is as indispensable as one for the home. Tools need to still be safe and usable, of course, but save money by rounding up some older, less-used items from home or from your friends and family. Hammer, pliers, phillips and slot head screwdrivers (including micro ones for eye glasses), nails, a small assortment of screws, small can of oil or WD-40, work gloves, handful of clothespins, a few rags; you get the idea. This isn’t Tool Time, just a back-up supply of essentials.

For office supplies, here’s a tip; think medical. Drug companies spend tons of money on junk to give to doctors and their staffs, so if you know someone who works for one, they probably can load you up with sticky notes of all sizes, pens, pencils, clips, note pads, thermometers, clocks and rulers. Also, round up large paper clips or (our favorite) wooden clothespins for clipping stacks of papers together. Stationery should include thank you notes and envelopes for field trip or visiting speaker follow-ups. Back up the required ball of string with fishing line for hanging objects “invisibly”.

Some other items our readers have suggested keeping around include hot glue gun for attaching objects to the wall (but talk to your maintenance dept. first), standard size flashlight (got batteries?), your own personal cup or mug, cheap camera and film, backup car keys, spare bulb for your overhead projector, length of sticky-back velcro, old towels from home, and a sheet of plastic or old shower curtain for use as a drop cloth or umbrella or, hmmm, a bulletin board covering? Which brings us to:

Bulletin Board Ideas:
We received email from several teachers who thought they’d get their room decorated, organized and ready-to-go in a couple of days, only to spend more than that just doing the bulletin boards. There may be nothing more intimidating than that blank “canvas” (how many times do we hear “I can’t draw a straight line?”). Well, here are some ideas:

Use fabric for a fairly permanent covering which won’t show thumbtack holes. One reader even saw on TV this “on-the-wall” idea: soak the fabric in liquid starch, wring it out, and smooth it out on the wall and hold it in place with thumbtacks until it dries. To remove it, just lift a corner and pull off. We haven’t tried it, but the show claimed it works on bulletin boards. Other bulletin board covers could be wrapping paper, plastic table cloths, paint, wallpaper, flat bedsheets, aluminum foil and yes, the shower curtain. Decorating ideas abound; some suggestions were creating a windowpane, or a doodle board your students can add to as they like (just white paper and a bucket of markers). Still stumped? When in DesignerLand, do as the designers…just steal your ideas. Our staff designer assures us that all those “best of” graphic design books of winning contest entries aren’t being snatched up by other designers for nothing. For a breath of fresh air, skip the bulletin board “idea books” and look to MTV or print advertising (try a Rolling Stone or Wired magazine for a real jolt). Our favorite is still the Communication Arts Advertising Annual (it should be available at least at your public library), which shows examples of the best in print, TV, radio and the best metaphor…billboards.

Finally, our decor page has tips for getting that great killer headline from your head to cut-out letters for your bulletin board.

Display Work:
Related to bulletin boards is the issue of how to display student work. You can always use work to fill up the bulletin board you don’t know what to do with, or tape it to the wall. But try going off-the-wall using fishing line to hang things “invisibly” (in some cities, fire code does not allow use of more flammable material such as yarn). Foldable clothes drying racks, skirt hangers and old umbrellas can also be used for displays. Anything that folds out which papers or 3-D art can be clipped or taped to will work. Attaching small steel cable to two well-anchored screws in adjacent walls also makes a no-sag way of hanging those items.

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