An ALT's Teacher Survival Kit
Every teacher has a bag of things they can’t do without. Emergency lesson materials for that moment when you're approached out of nowhere to lead a lesson for a coworker and “it started 5 minutes ago. Please hurry.” School supplies, because, well, what teacher isn’t addicted to school supplies? And everything else needed to make your day run smoother--especially if you teach English in a foreign country and switch between schools throughout the week.
This is a list of what’s in my survival kit. Results may vary and I guarantee everyone’s will customized for their own situation. Positions are like rainbows, each one is beautiful in its own way and just a little bit different.
So without further ado, my teacher survival kit!
A Pack Of Playing Cards– I got mine at Daiso with Disney Princesses on the back! Good for if you’re bored of giving only one point per right answer during games and want to introduce a little chance into awarding those points. Also helpful for assigning teams, finding partners, etc., etc. Be creative--the uses for these are endless!
Colour Markers (at least one red)– Often instead of a prize, my students want me to sign their worksheet or their English file. I like to do this in colour! Also good for checking bingo sheets, drawing, making corrections, and so on. Make sure your correcting pen is solid red--not magenta, not red-orange, RED. They can be picky about this, you have been warned.
Stickers--For when they’ve got my autograph on everything already! I mentioned the value of stickers in a competition in my ‘What to Pack for Japan’ post already, but I can’t stress enough how nice it is to have something to pass to winners or hard workers or volunteers. Makes the day run smooth! Go forth and reinforce that good behavior.
Magnets- And more and more magnets! You can’t have enough of these in vocabulary lessons and sometimes the classroom itself won’t have more than 4. Not helpful for learning numbers 1-30… Also for grammar lessons when you’re putting bits of everything up there for a constant visual that students can refer to. I’ve collected so many magnets I’m afraid to put them anywhere near my phone…You know, just in case.
Eraser- I play games with these. I usually have kids snatch them up to answer a question with me (instead of hitting a buzzer or a bell and breaking them--these kids are intense), but they have other practical uses too. Students can grab them when you say a keyword if you want a listening activity, you could maybe erase things with them (boring), and they are also just a part of my school supply obsession!
Stopwatch-Because without a time limit where’s the motivation? They’ll get to it sensei, really. There’s still loads of time. Uh huh. Well, not if they only have 1 minute to set up their bingo sheet to start with! Also good for speed reading/spelling/quiz games so they can beat their (and other class’s) records, timing making groups, and playing the game ‘telephone’.
Bingo Cards- At the beginning of the year I drew out blank bingo cards and always keep enough for about two classes in with my flashcards and CD’s. If I need more throughout the day I photocopy them quickly or ask the homeroom teacher to help me out, but at the elementary level there’s some kind of half hour break every two periods to make that easy. If you’re stuck with extra time at the end of a lesson, everyone loves bingo! Make it a blackout or pattern bingo if you want to mess with their heads a little, mwahahaha!
Blank white paper- On kind of the same note, I always bring blank paper to school with me. One of my activities isn’t going to work at this school for some reason? I have a class in three minutes you say? I can quickly draw out a worksheet or game for whatever I’m teaching that day and make quick copies. Beautiful! This is exactly how my annual Jack-o-lantern design contest got started at one of my schools.
Hand sanitizer- Because the kid with a cold and the one with a constantly runny nose still want high fives and you don’t have time to pop into the bathroom to wash and then re-prep your materials for the next lesson. Basically, don’t be squeamish around small children. It won’t go well. Usually schools have this in large quantities on every flat surface but occasionally they run out. Don't let that happen to you!
Hand towel– It’s hot in the summer and everyone carries around these small towels to wipe off the sweat. Teaching kids is an active sport, keep it under control. Also a spare for taking to the bathroom; more than likely there will be no way to dry your hands after the constant washing you’ll feel you need! Be prepared!
And that’s what I have with me absolutely everywhere I go. It’s even started to extend past my work days actually, never know when you need to write something down or time a friendly runners sprint now do you? In addition I also have the flashcards for the day and all the past lessons with me as well as CD’s with fun songs to sing as warm-ups (the hokey pokey is currently going over very well).
But honestly, the best thing you can bring with you is a backup plan. Nothing goes the way you want it to, just have a mental storage of various activities and games you can fall back on and you’ll be ready for anything! These come with time and experience, but you’ll get a pretty good start at training and by talking to other teachers. Best of luck in your endeavors, you got this!
Do you have a Teacher Survival Kit? Anything on it that’s not on my list? Help people out and let us know in the comments below!