Over time teaching I've accumulated a lot of stuff in my desk. Most of it is papers, textbook samples, student grades, past exams, articles and publications about English, and Japanese learning resources. But there are a few odds and ends around me that I probably didn't expect I'd use with such regularity before I got into the job.

Here are a few of the things that maybe not everyone associates with teaching or lesson planning, but which I now find essential or which have helped me out in tight situations:



Sweat Rags -- Kind of gross, but you'll soon realise why most Japanese people carry litle flannels in their pockets. The combat the summer humidity and inevitable flood of sweat, purpose-made mini-towels with cute characters on will be very handy.

Hand Lotion -- In a normal week, I go through six or seven sticks of chalk. I try to stick to coated chalk to keep as much off my fingers as I can, but if you've done much blackboard writing you know that little smudges of it always somehow end up all over your hands anyway (and on your papers, your books, and your clothes). I keep a tube of hand lotion around to ward off that obnoxious dry finger feeling that accompanies continued chalk usage. This also combats the cracked skin of cold, dry winters.

Snacks -- An old coworker of mine used to use an entire drawer of her 3-drawer desk for the purpose of storing snacks, from cookies to potato chips. That's a bit extreme, if you ask me, but there's definite merit in having a pick-me-up ready after a hard class. When you're staying after to do lesson prep, a great choice to hold yourself over is a packet of powdered soup.

Uchiwa -- These, along with folding fans, are the traditional Japanese answer to summer's ovenlike classrooms, usually without air conditioning and occasionally without even electric fans. Along with cooling you down, they're useful for bopping (with utmost aggression and spite) your more rambunctious students over the head.

Wet Tissues -- This is another important summer item for me. The "facial paper" or "body paper" put out by brands like Gatsby and Adidas is really useful on summer mornings and after club or sports events. I actually keep these in my bag as well as my desk: They double as an antibacterial oshibori when you can't find a sink to wash your hands.

Headphones -- These depend on your workplace. In some schools, it's not a big deal for a teacher to listen to music while correcting quizzes or drudging through the monotony that is final exam multiple-choice-section corrections, as long as they don't do it overtly in front of students. These also come in handy when you're checking the content of bundled CDs or anything with audio output on your otherwise probably-always-muted PC.

Painkillers -- Not an everyday item for anyone's teaching, I hope, I keep these around for days on which classes or club are particularly brutal, or for when I start coming down with a cold, etc., during working hours.

Big Pile of Red Pens -- You'll end up taking your pen home in your pocket, removing it there, and forgetting it next day. You have been warned.


Mug -- Goes without saying, but if you're a coffee or tea drinker it probably seems natural to have a mug handy. Even though I still prefer water over coffee or tea, I can agree it's nice to have a cup of something at your desk after a day's worth of lectures and speaking activities. A nice hot cup soup in winter is a real brightener.



And of course various things to improvise games with - dice, chopsticks, stones, cards etc. We'll look at emergency resources some other time.

Have anything special you keep in your desk? Let us know in the comments below!



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