What’s Going On Inside the Chaotic Abyss We Call a Teacher’s Bag

What's Going On Inside the Chaotic Abyss We Call a Teacher’s Bag cover image

Bags, purses, and totes belonging to teachers should wear some sort of sign:


Seriously, our bags inevitably become a seemingly bottomless pit of stuff. They usually weigh significantly more than bags carried by non-teachers, and the weight tends to slowly increase from September on.

The general objects found inside our little bag of tricks may seem random to most. I mean, who else is equally prepared for emergencies, lesson plan brainstorms, surprise evaluations, sprints to the deli for coffee, eating on the run, and even Trivia Night at the bar…

I was out with non-teacher friends for Trivia Night last weekend, and I must say, no other team in the joint was more organized, prepared, or engaged in the activity! Time management? Had it on lock. Beer spillage? Got you covered. Unidentified stickiness on the table? No worries. Assignments according to group strengths? Everyone pick a color! (P.S. We won. Just saying!)

So, a few days later, I thought it would be a fun experiment to have some non-teacher friends rank the contents of “teacher stuff” in my purse from least to most random. Here’s the line-up, snarky commentary and general confusion included…

1. Mints AND Gum

GIF - female blowing gum bubble

Non-Teacher Friend: Why both?

Me: I don’t allow students to chew gum, so mints set the proper example. Gum is dessert after I inhale a yogurt for lunch at the copy machine. 

2. Cough Drops

GIF - Jim Carrey in Liar Liar coughing

Non-Teacher Friend: OMG are you sick?

Me: No, not today, actually. I just project my voice with energy, enthusiasm, encouragement, and animation for six hours every single day.

3. Large Bottle of Extra Strength Hand Lotion

GIF - Shaquil O'neil shampoo advertisement smiling with shampoo bottle

Non-Teacher Friend: Why huge and why extra strength?

Me: I wash my hands and apply hand sanitizer about 30 times per day. You’d think I’m preparing for surgery.

4. DayQuil

GIF - Teachers Series Miss Watson drinking cold medicine from bottle in classroom

Non-Teacher Friend: This can stay in your medicine cabinet at home.

Me: Have you ever been worn down and had to control and manage 30 screaming kids for hours on end? I need this stuff on call at ALL times.

5. Hand Sanitizer AND Wipes

GIF - Steven Colbert squeezing hand sanitizer onto hands

Non-Teacher Friend: Why hand sanitizer AND sanitizing wipes?

Me: The gel is for me. The wipes are to shield me from the nose pickers, nail-biters, sneezers, and coughers. Covering your mouth is merely a suggestion for them. Not to mention the bathroom trips – you KNOW they’re not all washing their hands.

6. A Vast Collection of Keys, Multiple Shapes and Sizes

stock image of keys

Non-Teacher Friend: Are you kidding me? Are you a janitor?

Me: OMG, I love our janitor, I seriously could not live without him!

Non-Teacher Friend: But are you KIDDING me?!

Me: My apartment building, my apartment door, my car, my classroom, my supply closet, my large file cabinet, my small file cabinet, and the book closet in the media center.

7. Small Bills and Tons of Change

GIF - Gob Bluth from Arrested Development magic trick changing dollar into 100 pennies in business meeting

Non-Teacher Friend: What are you, a stripper? Just charge it!

Me: The corner deli has a $10 minimum. A $2 coffee is the greatest luxury we have time for.

8. A Jumbo-Sized Water Bottle

GIF - female drinking large water bottle

Non-Teacher Friend: This is sooo heavy! Just bring a smaller one and refill it at the water tank during your breaks.

Me: Breaks? Water tank? What? I make copies during lunch, meet with parents during preps, and we have a water fountain that tastes like metal…

9. A Rainbow Spectrum of Highlighters


Non-Teacher Friend: Yellow, Pink, Blue, Orange, AND Green?

Me: Bite your tongue. Highlighters are one of the most powerful organizational inventions on the planet. They give me life.

10. Plastic Utensils & Napkins

plastic utensils

Non-Teacher Friend: *Simply Looks At Me*

Me: Sometimes I do get to eat a utensil-worthy meal. But it’s usually on the run.

11. EZ-Grader

ez grader

Non-Teacher Friend: I used to be so amazed by these in school.

Me: Really? Here, take this pile of papers and go nuts…

12. Old School Silver Teacher Pen (Red End/Blue End)

silver teacher pen

Non-Teacher Friend: OMG I was even more obsessed with these!!!

Me: OMG, here, try it out on those papers…

13. Old Notes from Parents

GIF - steven colbert looking through papers

Non-Teacher Friend: Just why?

Me: Just some classics I keep on hand. Livens up any Saturday night…

Maybe they don’t get it. Maybe they never will, but the moral of the story here is:

Just like the cool, classic, quirky, ever-prepared Mary Poppins, teachers are the best kinds of friends to have around in literally any situation!


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author_image_Christine_Florio_smallThis article was written by Christine Fiorentino — a middle school ELA teacher for almost 10 years now. In her classroom, there’s never, EVER a dull moment, and she wouldn’t want it any other way! She strives to make learning fun, inspiring, and memorable. She is also the owner of Nosh – a vegan pudding company.

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