It’s almost that time again. Time for all of us school librarians and teachers to pack away the short-shorts, scrape off the beach sand, and start going to bed at a reasonable hour once more. Time for lesson plans, and inventory orders, and new September signage. It’s time for school, ladies and gentlemen, and the start of the next year of academic awesomeness.

Are you ready? Is your bag packed and stocked with notebooks, clean writing pens, and fresh, sharp crayons wrapped in perfect paper? New cardigans folded and washed? Back to school as a grown up can be a huge undertaking; supplies can get expensive, and the gear shift from summer to school can leave you feeling dizzy and suddenly stressed out.

If I had but two mottos in life to cling to, they would be:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  2. Paying retail is for suckers.

So here are a few back to school necessities that won’t break your budget (or your brain), while still being fabulous.


Discounts Are Your Friend

They really, really are. And many stores offer teacher discounts to educators all year long (click for a handy dandy list.) Your ID can earn you a discount on everything from clothing to supplies to technology to magazines. My favorites include the Container Store (they also give a mean birthday discount) and Aerosoles. Awesome supplies AND comfortable shoes! What’s better than that?

Think Outside Your Box Store

Some of the best bulletin board and art supplies I’ve gotten have been snagged at the dollar store, and most of them aren’t paper. Anything from a shower curtain to a shoe tree can be made useful and awesome with a little imagination and some time.

No dollar stores near you? Try a closeout store like Lot Less or Big Lots for everything from a new backpack to cheap iPad/micro-USB chargers to folders. Even the clearance section of a TJ Maxx has some cool stuff to use/repurpose, if you don’t mind poking through.

Refresh Your Curriculum

Maybe you’re looking for a new way to teach a lesson, or use your iPad, or work with a smartboard. There are hundreds of online resources for educators seeking new ideas. Looking for an app to shine with? YALSA blog has you covered. Need a bit of inspiration for your bulletin board space? Pinterest makes it possible. Walk to talk to other educators from other schools to hear about best practices, classroom methods, research needs, or the best brand of binders to use? Reddit to the rescue.

Do Your Homework

Remember that anime series your kids were raving about all of last year? Or that game they couldn’t stop playing? Or that tv show they all watched? Yeah. Give it a try. Sit down and watch a few episodes of Attack on Titan, or play Minecraft for an afternoon. Your advisory or reading group will love that you gave it a shot, and even if you have no interest in continuing, just trying will count for a lot.

Establish a Goal

Your students and their parents are coming in this year with goals and hopes of their own, whether it’s to do better in math or to find someone to sit with at lunch. Make a goal of your own. Maybe it’s professional (“I want to improve my understanding of ___ in order to_____ so that I can _____ my library/teaching.”) Maybe it’s social (“I’m going to go out with people after work, and talk to that teacher in the foreign language department.”) Maybe it’s personal (“I’m not going to get crazy over _____.”) Pick something that you want out of this year, and try and remind yourself of it as you go.
“Idina” That Noise: Let It Go

Last year is last year. Whatever drama, angst, worries, nerves, tension, anger, frustration, or ennui that you felt as last year wound down, leave them there. This is a new year and a new day, and you can start as fresh as you want to. And just like fresh, clean sheets are always the best, be it bedding or loose-leaf, so is a new school year. Like my students tell me: “Just Idina that stuff. Let It Gooooooooooo!”

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Adulthood is childhood with no curfew. Until the school year starts up, and then you absolutely have a curfew if you don’t want to fall asleep at your desk. The summer exists for you to refresh yourself, rejuvenate your mind and body, and go back with a positive attitude and satisfyingly sunkissed. Plan something over your last few days of freedom and enjoy yourself while doing it. This is your summer, too, and you’ll be much happier come the slush and cold of February if you squeeze the last bit of August out of the tube now.

Veteran school librarians and newbies, alike: what are some of your favorite/absolute-musts for starting back with your right foot forward after a summer break?


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