back to school shopping

back to school supplies

It’s not much, but it still makes me happy.

We’re less than a month away from the first day of classes at Michigan State, which means I’ve finally had to stop pretending this summer will last forever and start designing syllabi, setting schedules, and planning lessons. I actually find this work enjoyable most of the time, even if I’d rather not be thinking about it quite yet. (Seriously. Didn’t spring semester end approximately two weeks ago?) But my favorite thing about this time of year: I get to buy school supplies.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for office and desk supplies, and when I was a kid, I loved back to school shopping (but I was also one of those weird kids who got excited for the first day of school, so maybe I’m not completely normal). I loved picking out notebooks and pencils and binders and highlighters. I liked pulling the backing off a pack of pens and lying them out on the table to decide which ones would go to school with me and which would stay home on my desk. I loved color coordinating my notebooks, binders, and folders. My parents tolerated my exuberance, and maybe even encouraged it, by continuing to let me buy new things each year, even after I acquired a large supply of automatic pencil lead and notebooks with only a few used pages. (As an aside, this accumulation came in handy when I was in college.)

Back to school shopping is different for me these days, of course. Unlike K through 12 teachers, I don’t have a classroom to stock or decorate, and my students bring most of what they need. I do have my own office, which is far from common in the world of non-tenure-track faculty, but I don’t keep much stuff there. I do most of my grading at home and on the computer. Even most of my teaching uses digital tools these days. Still, I acquired a few new things.

multicolored pens
I treat myself to new pens before each new year. My freshmen will probably be getting mostly digital feedback from me this year (thank you Google Drive for adding a track-changes-type feature to the already awesome commenting system), but the students in my editing classes still get a lot of hard-copy feedback. I think robust feedback is an important part of my job as a teacher, and I figure if I’m going to do it, I might as well do it with pretty colors of ink.

correction tape
For three years, every time I’ve needed to white something out I’ve had to walk down to the main office and borrow the stuff there. Now I have my own, and as a writing and editing professor who is still human enough to make the occasional mistake, this comes in handy.

While I don’t often have a use for highlighters, when I want one, nothing else makes a good substitute. Plus, they come in pretty colors.

new binders and divider tabs
Though I keep digital copies of the handouts I make, I also like to keep print copies, and I keep a separate binder for each course I teach. This year I’m teaching a brand new course on magazine production (more on that later!), which meant getting two new binders. One will hold assignments and handouts and live in my office, but the other will come to class every day and serve as our production handbook. I’m going to have the students create style guides, process documents, and instruction manuals, among other things. There will be digital copies of all of this, too, of course, but I’ve always found it helpful to have a print resource as well. We’ll see if the students agree.

stickers (not yet acquired)
I still need to buy some stickers. It may sound odd, but two years ago I randomly put some stickers on a short homework assignment from my 300-level class, and when I didn’t do the same on the next assignment, the students complained. So now I try to always keep stickers on hand. I looked for some at Meijer the other day, but I could only find fancy scrapbooking stickers, so I’m still on the hunt for good (but cheap) packs.

Does anyone else get excited for back to school shopping? And, more importantly, does anyone else use silly things like stickers with their adult students? I’ll admit I’ve never tried anything like that with my first-year students because they seem more likely to find it lame.

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