13 Things I Can’t Live Without (Classroom Version) #sol22 4/31

Polka dots. Before school started, I bought a few packs of colorful polka dot stickers to decorate the institutional walls of my classroom. Polka dots bubble up the wall over my desk, rainbow arc across a corner, and spiral like garland around a large column. The color burst is essential to my happiness in my classroom.

Cat quote tin posters. One of these days I’m going to make a poster of my favorite cat to hang over my desk, but until then I make do with a tin poster that brings me joy.

64 oz water bottle. The straw keeps me from spilling water all over myself (sometimes it’s tricky to drink from a water bottle! Or is that just me?). And the 64 ounces guarantees that I won’t run out of water before my prep time trip to the water fountain for a refill.

Photocopies. Many teachers have stayed completely digital after spending a year teaching virtually, and everything we do in my classroom is available digitally. But I like paper–and so do most of my students. On the rare occasions I assign something that’s only available as a Google doc, it’s inevitable that 20 people ask me for a paper copy. I don’t love the stacks and stacks of copies that now clutter my desk. But I do love having something immediately to hand if a lesson runs short.

Masks. I’ve traded in my beloved Vogmasks for KN95s since Omicron. I’ll never be able to understand the fuss about masks. I haven’t caught so much as a cold since March 2020!

Music. When we were virtual, I played songs at the beginning of class to try to bring the energy up (two favorites for you to listen to: DeJ Loaf and Leon Bridge’s Liberated and Blackalicious’s Chemical Calisthenics). In person, I play mellow hip-hop and lo-fi beats during work time to bring the energy (and noise!) down and help us focus and concentrate.

Art supplies. I’m amazed at how often I find a reason to bring out the colored pencils, crayons, and markers.

Timers. I teach in a two-hour block (which felt short when I taught college but sometimes feels endless teaching high school). I’ve found that short sprints of work followed by brain breaks keep us going.

Texts. I couldn’t get through a single day without my very active texting life. My mom and I text all day long, and I am grateful to her for tolerating the minute-by-minute countdown that comes her way every day during advisory. “17 minutes left…. Only 12 minutes left…8 minutes!! I can do it!” I have several teacher group chats going as well. Having colleagues to rely on for answers, support, encouragement, and humor has made all the difference this year.

To-do lists. I’ve learned that I can actually be very productive at work as long as I have a to-do list to check off tasks. There is SO MUCH paperwork in K-12, y’all. SO MUCH.

Rolling chair. I am so grateful for my comfy rolling chair. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s as comfortable as my much more expensive ergonomic office chair at home. Now if I could just remember to sit down more during the day!

Lanyard. I never thought I’d be a person who wore an ID badge with a key attached to it all day. But I cannot express how nice it is to never EVER have to wonder where in the world I left my keys.

Snack cupboard. Officially, we are not supposed to have food in the classroom. (Apparently the building has a mice problem–which would be solved if my great idea of emotional support cats in each classroom would be adopted). But I can’t teach effectively without ample provision of snacks and treats. Sometimes we just need a granola bar or a piece of candy to make it through the day.

What are your classroom must haves? I’d love to know what I’m missing

My theme for Slice of Life 2022 is finding inspiration in the writing of others. Each day I plan to find my slice in someone else’s words or forms. Today’s inspiration came from 13 Things I Can’t Live Without at Box of Chocolates.






27 responses to “13 Things I Can’t Live Without (Classroom Version) #sol22 4/31”

  1. onathought Avatar

    It’s so neat how you can get a feel for you and your classroom by reading this list. It’s a great format, and I love your idea of getting inspiration from others each day. It’s one of the best parts of the March challenge, I think- getting inspired by this amazing community.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s always been my favorite thing about the challenge, so I decided this year to fully commit!

  2. mschiubookawrites Avatar

    Polka dot rainbows, emotional support cats on tin posters, snacks, to-do lists, music to add to my playlist- this list is GOLD! I so agree with “ short sprints of work followed by brain beaks keep us going.” My class is finally running smoothly and steeped in routines. Independent reading at the beginning of class has been my game changer. It gives me a chance to conference with the wiggly 8th graders who are still building stamina. Since I travel from class to class, I carry my crate full of new, juicy reads… lots of graphic novels and novels in verse to hand out like brain candy if someone does not have a book.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Loved to hear about your crate of the latest juicy reads! Independent reading has been such a fail in my classroom this year. It’s back to the drawing board for next year to try again! So glad it’s settling your students to start their day with those 10 minutes!

  3. Erika Avatar

    I love this list and the slice idea! Polka dots always make me happy!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Polka dots are so cheerful! I bought a tree sticker as well but the dots have turned out to be all we need!

  4. arjeha Avatar

    What a great list of essentials. One essential for me was a day-by-day desk calendar where I could jot things down. I didn’t need to worry about lost scraps of paper or post-it notes that way.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I should really get a calendar. I’ve never been good about using one. Thank goodness people just stick things on my digital calendar now and I get a notice about where I’m supposed to be!

  5. Trina Avatar

    I love seeing a speak peek inside your classroom. The polka dots and tin cat sign make me envious!

    I also cannot live without my water bottle. I would also be lost without the ViewSonic board in my classroom and my Chromebook. We are required to post most assignments on Canvas, including our weekly plan.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes, I have TWO laptops with me at all times LOL. I’m grateful to have my own Macbook that I can bring to work and use as well as the school-issued laptop.

  6. Shari Daniels Avatar

    Such a wonderful “inventory” of your non-negotiables have to haves in the classroom, Elisabeth! I’m thinking about how lucky you are to have the ongoingness of incoming texts from others that keep you afloat! Now. . . where is your notebook? 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Keeping me afloat is just what that endless text stream does. And yes, you noticed there are no books or notebooks mentioned in this post. Workshop has been such a fail this year!

  7. TammyB Avatar

    What a format for a slice! I love it! SO FUN!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a great format! Later in the month I might try a non-classroom version!

  8. Amanda Potts Avatar

    Emotional support cats! We really need these. I mean, I know some people have allergies, but surely we can deal with these, right? Thanks for this peek into your classroom – my students prefer paper, too; and now I’m longing for polka dots.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Hypoallergenic emotional support cats! Universal allergy meds? Surely there’s a way that we can do it.

  9. Susan Kennedy Avatar

    What a homey place. So great that you have snacks. I want those dots! The high school life is the only teaching life completely foreign to me, so thanks for the glimpse.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      High school is amazing. The conversations I overhear when my students think I’m not listening would set your hair on fire. (Is that the expression?) Most definitely NSFW! On three different occasions this year, staff members who don’t know what I teach have come in my room and asked me if it’s the resource room. Which is the best compliment and also infuriating because why should the resource room be the only homey space in the school??

  10. natashadomina Avatar

    This is such a fun idea for a slice. Now you’ve got me thinking about what I can’t live without in my classroom. (Books. I think that’s the number one thing!) I love the idea of colorful polka dot stickers on the walls….now I want some!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Books should have been my number one, but independent reading has been a struggle this year. Hopefully next year! But I’m grateful to have amazing books even if no one is reading them much this year.

  11. margaretsmn Avatar

    I love how the polka dots brighten up your room. A clever idea for a post.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So bright and cheerful! Because of the glare I keep my blinds pulled most of the time, but we have plenty of color thanks to the dots.

  12. carwilc Avatar

    I love, love, love those polka dots!! I want some!!! I don’t think I could do it without my favorite emotional support dog. Or Flair pens!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Aren’t the polka dots fun? I didn’t have photos of the rest of the room but there are splashes of dots all over. YES to an emotional support dog!! And Flair pens!

  13. livinglife816287820 Avatar

    Yes to emotional support cats, I was calling mine a therapy cat, which I guess is the same thing. She has taken over by the Class 1 teacher and reigns supreme in her classroom, since we had to leave India. I plan to post about her shortly!! She brings evidence of her usefulness into the classroom and I get sent photos of rats and mice from time to time!!

  14. karpenglish Avatar

    I’ve got to get some dots! Having inherited the 4th last minute classroom in 4 years, I did not decorate too much this time, though it did give me lots of room for student work, which gives a good amount of color. Two walls are long stretches of bulletin boards, which are mysteriously painted neon green. Dots in other colors would brighten things up!

  15. Things I Can’t Live without (School Edition) | Reflections from a Coach Avatar

    […] a mentor, Elisabeth Ellington’s 13 Things I Can’t Live without, I contemplate what tops my […]

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