What's in your bag?

6th December 2013 at 00:00
Puppets, snail shells, books about farts: school life requires some unusual possessions. Helen Ward persuaded teachers around the world to reveal the contents of their carriers

Jeremy Dean: teaches English to six- and seven-year-olds in Spain

My mobile phone has a superb built-in English-Spanish dictionary, so when Pedro pelts across the playground screaming "Cabrn!" (bastard) at Miguel, I can haul him in. This is one of the milder swear words that my dictionary can cope with. El Pas, the newspaper, is my homework - the Sunday edition lasts me all week. "Dave" the puppet always gets children talking. Even the shyest student can't resist telling him off when he picks his nose. The hat and sunglasses are for playground duty. Delightfully, Spaniards call highlighter pens fosfis (foss-fees). Now, so do I.

Maja Lebar Bajec: teaches English to 14- to 18-year-olds in Ljubljana, Slovenia

I have the best backpack on Earth: I use it for hiking, snowboarding, shopping and school. In the main compartment I keep a notebook for lesson plans, textbooks, exercise books, three packs of tests, a pocket grade book, sunglasses, two wallets (I have no idea why), my smartphone and a pencil case. The case contains about 15 pencils and pens, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, two USB sticks, some paperclips and a random key. In the back, it appears that I carry with me at all times a tool for adjusting the bindings on my snowboard.

Jinky Dabon: teaches maths to eight- to 11-year-olds in Thailand

This is my working bag. I use it all the time, come rain or shine. I love its colour and style, plus it is great for the weather we have over here and it is easy to clean. Pouches help me to organise the rubbish I carry every day. They are easy to grab in case I have to change my bag to go with what I am wearing. From left to right are my Chinese fan (it's hot and humid here, so the fan comes in handy all the time), first aid pouch, spoon and fork, purse, glasses, mobile phone, digital camera, all my ID cards and my coin purse.

Rachael Harris: teaches English to nine- to 15-year-olds at a French- speaking school in Geneva, Switzerland

Teaching a foreign language means that anything and everything is an opportunity to learn. That's why my bag is a pretty strange mix of objects: blue and green magnets to put up flash cards, dice for revision games, vocabulary cards and a pink speaker to use with my iPad. The green box contains "fast finisher" extension work, and the fantastic book Why Do Farts Smell Like Rotten Eggs? grabs more advanced students' attention. The star hole punch is for marking, and under the duck finger puppet, which livens up dialogues a treat, is my little "bible" of five-minute fillers.

Jim Noble: curriculum leader for secondary maths at the International School of Toulouse, France

If I had to guess what was different about the things in my bag, it might be my scrapbook and ideas books. I keep hundreds of digital photos and screenshots of classes, projects, work and so on. My students use them to make scrapbooks as reminders of what we do and why. I keep one, too, and love it. There are many ways to do this electronically, but the art of scrapbooking is still best as a physical experience. Having something that can be picked up is more powerful, in my view. I also find that students take more pride in tangible things than online things.

Alexis Perkins: teaches 10- and 11-year-olds in Scotland

I was quite surprised at the variety of items in my bag as I hadn't been to the bottom of it in quite a while, hence the out-of-date Wagon Wheel - I always have an emergency sugary item on me. I would like to say that the sunglasses and headache tablets are because of my rock star lifestyle, but I can't fit that around marking, planning and collecting "just in case" items for teaching. Lots of mood symbols are attached to my ID lanyard. There are so many that by the time you find the appropriate one your mood has usually changed, and it's easier just to say how you're feeling.

Jenni Dixon: teaches design and technology in West Sussex, England

My bag contains a purse (I might need to grab a cookie from the canteen at any moment); hair clips, because I teach design and food technology, so I often need to tie my long hair back; paracetamol for "those days"; car keys and school keys; a multitude of coloured pens (we all need colour in our lives); a lollipop for sweet-tooth emergencies; and my USB stick - I don't go anywhere without it. I always hold my teacher planner because it's too big to go in this little red bag. Other than that I travel pretty light.

Gail Sharratt: teaches business studies, economics, accounting and critical thinking to 14- to 18-year-olds in Kuwait

This is what was in my school bag at the end of the day on a Thursday. As our weekend in Kuwait is Friday and Saturday, I was taking work home. There is marking from four classes, a folder containing continuing professional development articles to read, a list of words to make into display material for one of my accounting classes and the remainder of my half-eaten lunch. My usual lunch is dates and nuts, so it was probably the remnants of those.

Louise Lakey: teaching assistant specialising in creative writing for primary children, London

This is what I carry on a typical day. I like to have puppets of characters from books with me - they help children to learn about storytelling as they can play the parts of the characters. These ones are from The Gruffalo; I was using them with four- and five-year-olds. I also have a pack of gold stars to reward good behaviour. And I always have a snack in my bag.

Nick Souroup: teaches science at a London secondary school

This is my really heavy teacher bag. It contains a packet of sparklers, which I use to demonstrate chemical reactions. The Doctor Who badges are prizes for quizzes and competitions - even the older students love them. I use the snail shells to demonstrate the effects of acid rain - I dip them in acid so that the students can see them corrode. There are also a great many pens. Since I've become a teacher, I've found myself browsing the stationery aisles with far greater interest than before. I now own two pencil cases.

Joanne Lewis: teaches nine- and 10-year-olds in London

I always carry a teddy bear with me for those moments when a student might feel anxious or want to get something off their chest. It is a lot easier to speak to a bear than a teacher, after all. The teddy bear sits on my desk and the idea is that there is no judgement. Students may be able to tell the bear things they feel they can't raise with me - for example, that they are unhappy with my seating plan. The bottle contains hand cream and the biscuits are in case I get hungry. There are no books in my bag because I do all my marking in school; I don't take it home with me.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today