When I talk about my years in the classroom, people are always surprised about the amount of money I tell them that teachers spend on their students. Mostly, I think this is because it is so unheard of in the business world. Some items are well known like classroom decorations, tissues, disinfecting wipes, pens and pencils, and even curriculum at times, but other items often leave people shocked.
At Status Solutions, we believe in a holistic approach to school safety. That means safety goes beyond situational awareness technologies to include student and teacher well-being. We believe that taking care of the individual’s needs helps prevent bad moods from becoming bad acts. So here are 20 things for under about $20 that can be gifted to a classroom for a holistic approach to safety and well-being.
Personal Hygiene – These items might seem like a strange gift for a classroom, but any middle school or high school teacher will disagree. It is a real barrier for some students. No matter the cause, lack of funds, lack of knowledge, or lack of ability, being less than fresh creates social and emotional barriers for students. Deodorant, feminine hygiene products, and even dental floss are just a few of the examples of things that teachers all across the United States purchase with their own money and keep in their desks for kids who need them. Being a teenager is hard enough without this added discomfort. I made my students aware at the beginning of the year of what I had available and they knew they could always come to me quietly and I would help them out. Here are a few items that can be purchased for the classroom to help make both the students’ and teachers’ lives easier.
- Deodorant – I recommend the travel sizes so students can just slip them in their pockets.
- Personal Wipes – I always had a pack of these in my desk drawer. Students were aware of this and could ask for some if they were needed for freshening up.
- Fabric Spray – Odors don’t necessarily come from bad hygiene, sometimes they come from a lack of accessibility to a washer and dryer. On more than one occasion, I’ve taken belongings home for a student to wash them. Being able to discreetly offer students a way to freshen up a coat, bookbag, or even a shirt is a blessing.
- Eyeglass Repair Kit – I doubt many people would believe me if I told them the amount of time I’ve spent teaching a class of 30 students while simultaneously trying to repair someone’s glasses or work magic with masking tape until they can get home to their caregiver. A kit like this would be a lifesaver in those situations.
- Mint or Wintergreen Candies – This purchase has multiple purposes. Anyone who has ever taught in a school is keenly aware of Doritos breath, Cheetos breath, or really any other snack-coated-in-a-dusty-cheese breath. Having mints on hand is a good option for everyone. Additionally, having gum or a mint to chew on during testing has shown improvements in alertness in some studies.
Food & Drink – Kids come to school hungry and the reality is, they can’t learn or focus when they’re hungry. In addition to all those personal hygiene items teachers load their desks down with, they also have plenty of snacks that they pay for out of their own pockets. If you do decide to give snacks to your child’s classroom, please keep allergies in mind and do not include anything with nuts. Additionally, keep cleanliness in mind. Snacks that leave powdery substances on fingers are not a good option.
- Snacks – So many snacks. There’s just never enough.
- Refillable Water Bottles – Since Covid many schools have kept their drinking fountains closed. Teachers often buy cases of water to have on hand for their students, but it’s not very environmentally friendly and the cost adds up quickly. A couple of these refillable water bottles could make a great classroom gift. Teachers can hand them out to those kids whose parents may not supply a refillable water bottle.
Classroom Supplies and Ambiance – Not all classrooms have that bright and cheery appearance that is seen on TV and in movies with spotless surfaces and endless amounts of supplies, but the ambiance is an important part of the classroom environment. The more comfortable a room is, the more willing the students are to be present and engaged.
- Pencils – There’s no such thing as too many pencils, because the reality is no matter how many a teacher buys, they will all get used. This famous poem by Joshua T. Dickerson highlights why teachers don’t want to nag their students about pencils and why sometimes it can’t be at the forefront of a student’s mind.
- Bouncy Bands – Kids fidget. Some kids do it when they’re bored, some kids do it simply because it’s a part of who they are, but regardless of the reason, the reality is that asking a student to stop fidgeting rarely works. They need somewhere for all that energy to go. These bands attach to desks and give students a quiet way to expel that energy.
- Cleaning clothes – Classrooms are messy. Washable cleaning clothes make great erasers for dry-erase boards and chalkboards. They’re also wonderful for dusting and cleaning Chromebooks.
- Small Vacuum – It doesn’t matter if it’s kindergarten or seniors in high school, messes happen in a classroom. Having a small accessible vacuum can make a huge difference throughout the day and prevent those messes from spreading.
- Diffuser and Humidifier – Having a pleasant-smelling environment always perks the students up. Once again though, be aware of allergies. Avoid essential oils that come from trees or grasses. Peppermint is always a refreshing and welcoming scent in the classroom. Another bonus is that humidifiers are known to help prevent the common cold and the flu.
- Plants – Plants make a great way to bring some life into dark or dreary classrooms. They can also provide wonderful opportunities to learn.
- Flameless Candles – Not surprisingly an open flame is not allowed in a classroom, however, these battery-operated candles are wonderful to help set a peaceful calming environment. I had them all around my classroom and my students would often request that I turn them on, especially during tests or quiet study times.
For the Teacher – While most of these products are for the students, keeping teachers from burning out needs to be a priority as well. One of the hardest parts about being a teacher is that you can’t run to Starbucks or even the vending machine when you’re craving a pick-me-up.
- Coffee – At two of the schools I taught at we had to bring our own K Cups if we wanted coffee. It may seem like a little thing, but not having coffee on hand because you have to bring your own from home and forget to, can be very frustrating.
- Mini Fridge – I’ll admit, this is a couple of dollars over the budget, but I think it’s worth it! Having your favorite pop (or soda depending on what part of the country you call home) cold and accessible when you’re having an afternoon slump can make all the difference!
Safety & Security – It doesn’t matter how emotionally and physically healthy the students and teachers are if they’re not safe inside their school. These safety and security items are easy and inexpensive fixes that are often overlooked.
- Carbon Monoxide Detector – Chances are you’re surprised to see this on the list. The truth is depending on building codes and the type of heat a school might have, carbon monoxide detectors are not always required. I learned this the hard way when a dorm at my son’s college had a CO leak discovered by a portable carbon monoxide detector that a student happened to have from his mom. Had that mom not left that detector behind in her son’s dorm, hundreds of students could have lost their lives. At Status Solutions, our integrated alerting systems can monitor carbon monoxide levels and alert the authorities the second it is triggered so that these portable detectors are not needed.
- Window Cover – One of the requirements, when a classroom goes into lockdown, is that the windows on doors be covered. I became pretty crafty over the years creating emergency window coverings out of construction paper, masking tape, and a paperclip, but one of these window coverings would’ve been a lot easier to use.
- Door Locks – One of the most important parts of a lockdown is for a teacher to quickly be able to lock the classroom door. In every school I have ever taught in, the classrooms did not have push-button locks. This meant that in order to lock the door I had to step out into the hall, with my classroom key in hand, to lock the door from the outside. It’s not safe or efficient when seconds could save lives. Every classroom should have push-button locks!
- Vulnerability Assessment – This one can cost literally nothing. Are you a police officer or military person, or do you know a police officer or military person? Putting your child’s school in touch with an expert who can provide a vulnerability assessment is truly the first step in keeping a school safe. These are usually done free of charge by people who specialize in situational awareness and can professionally review weaknesses in a school’s security protocols. If you would like help arranging this for your school, reach out to Status Solutions. We can help you keep schools safe.
The reality is teachers spend large amounts of their own income trying to create safe and peaceful environments for their students, but shouldn’t we all be chipping in to make that happen? At Status Solutions, we are proud of our alerting technologies, but we believe that the real power is in prevention. Preventing bad moods from becoming bad acts is why our groundbreaking, research-based MIMI technology was invented, but we also know that technology alone is not the answer. Little acts of kindness can add up to make a big difference. Teachers strive to make this happen every day and we celebrate that. We hope you’ll consider gifting a school that is special to you with some of these items
About the Author
Laura Hartman is a former English teacher. Currently she is a Marketing Specialist for Status Solutions in Westerville, Ohio, where she calls upon her years of experience in the classroom to aid the company’s mission of protecting the vulnerable and preventing violence in schools.