Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Coach's School Supply Shopping Guide

It’s the end of July, and that means school supply shopping time!!  I truly get giddy at this time of year. When I see those Wal-Mart shelves stuffed with 15¢folders, it makes my heart beat a little
faster. I am a total self-confessed school supply nerd. And I’m not sorry.  The problem is that I don’t need 50 pocket folders and 20 packages of pencils like I did when I had a classroom.  Just as coaching requires a different set of skills, it also requires some different supplies. So, here are my tips for what to stock up on if you are a coach:

1. 1-inch binders-  Wal-Mart carries these for 87¢at this time of year.  Normally, they are about $2.00.  I keep a binder for every district that I work with.  I use a Sharpie to write the name of the district on the side of the binder, and I put a table of contents sheet in the front.  As I collect things, I just use numbered divider tabs and write what each tab contains in the table of contents.  I don't take the binder with me every time I go to a district, but it houses important things that are useful as I plan my work. I also use binders to keep scoring guides, reading inventories, contracts and invoices, and special projects.  They fit nicely in storage crates or bookshelves, so I get about 8-10 of them when they go on sale like this.

2. Notebooks-  I cannot scream the praises of notebooks loudly enough.  I love them- particularly the old-fashioned kind that require a real pen. I have different notebooks for different things, so I try to get as many as I can when they are on sale for 25-50¢. The kind I use the most is the composition notebook.  I typically go through 2-3 notebooks in a year.  I label one “campus visits” or “everything”, and I take it with me wherever I go.  I count out the first 5 pages for a table of contents and put a post-it tab on page 6. That tab is labeled #1. When I go to a district, campus, training, or meeting, I write the date and the event in the table of contents and assign it to the next tab number.  I staple master schedules or school maps on the pages and keep notes of observations, ideas, or questions. I can go back and look at my notes when I return to that campus next time. I have tried lots of organizational tools, and this is the simplest, most effective way I have found of keeping all of my stuff in one place.

3. Binder pouches- Years ago, Wal-Mart carried an item that was like a book cover for composition notebooks. It had a plastic slide-lock pouch where you could put sticky notes, pens, etc.  I bought about 15 of them at the time, but I have not seen them since. So, now I buy the 48¢ binder pouches and staple them onto a regular composition notebook. This does the same thing that the book covers did.  I make sure to always have post-it tabs, sticky notes, a highlighter, and a pen in the pouch.

4. Post-its and tabs- Post-it tabs help keep my notebook in order. Everything that is in the table of contents of my notebook is assigned a tab number. This is easier than numbering pages. Some visits will use 10 pages if I am doing observations for a program review, and I don’t like to flip to find my place.  When I go somewhere, I just put a tab on the next available page and label the tab whatever number is next.  I also keep regular post-its and the lined ones in the pouch on my notebook.  The inside of my notebook ends up being a compilation of notes, papers, and sticky notes….but it makes complete sense to me.

5. Highlighters and pens-This may be a no-brainer, but you can never have enough highlighters and pens.  I like the “clicky” pens, so I get a big package of them when they are on sale. Because my notebook goes with me everywhere, I usually have a highlighter and pen in the pouch, and one pen clipped on the pages of the notebook so I can easily find my place. I use the highlighters when I go back to my notes. Sometimes I highlight patterns that I notice, or I might highlight questions that the teachers asked during a lesson. Often as I am in a classroom, I make myself notes about resources to bring next time or ideas to share. I may go back and highlight these so that they stand out in my notes as I prepare for my next visit.

I hope these tips help as you venture into the school supply aisles over the next few weeks, and I would love to hear any organizational tips or supplies that other coaches use!