A Teacher’s Backpack – The Essentials

The sight of a teacher wearing their backpack was one of the jarring moments as a student when I realised that they were actually a person. Not just an authority figure, not just a fount of wisdom and knowledge (some), but just like any of those other adults who we would see on public transport and in the streets.

And what did their backpack (or sportsbag, handbag, briefcase) say about them? Did they live in a squalid shack, as their faded and slightly tattered sportsbag clearly indicated? Did they go home to a mansion, as the new handbag obviously implied?

Even more importantly and mysteriously: what was INSIDE that bag?

Well, the curtains are being pulled back and I am going to take you, dear curious student, inside at least one teacher’s bag: mine.

The Bag

So: backpack, sportsbag, briefcase or handbag? Backpack. Specifically, a Quiksilver-branded, 10 years old, faded black backpack. Still going strong. And yes, you’re quite right, it does mean that I am a sponsored surfer who can do all the things that you’ve seen on the Instagram and in the movies and magazines.

The Essentials

MacBook Pro

7 years old and still running like, well, a pro. Yes, it adds some pounds but when it’s 7:30 am on Monday morning and you haven’t looked at Year 8’s Powerpoint on Volcanoes all weekend because you had more important things to do and they’re your first class and you’re sweating it as you head to the Station, you still have that Ace up your sleeve…you’ve got that blessed Tube ride to work on it on your laptop. Irreplaceable. (I’m afraid that you’ll have to wait until you leave school to learn what Most Important Things we get up to on the weekend that aren’t Volcano presentations).


Honestly, even though I just said “irreplaceable” a few lines ago about my MacBook, I get more upset if I forget the type of book with ink and paper. It may not even leave the backpack at all on some days, but it’s like they say: better to have it and not need it, than to leave it and want it. This is simply to fill those downtimes in the day, typically the commute.

I tend to flick between fiction and non-fiction. With fiction, I am fairly unimaginative. I simply head for the Penguin Classics. With non-fiction, I love popular science. An incidental benefit of reading consistently, I have found, is that it provides an excellent way to develop a rapport with students. You can inquire about their current book and the interested students will ask about what you’re reading. Obviously, you may want to err on the side of caution in these discussions if your interests lie with the occult or Bret Easton Ellis.


To stay on top of the content and not because I am staying one lesson in front of the students, how dare you think such a thing.


Music, podcasts, plus they act as a force field to keep others from engaging with you in public. Essential.

Deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush 

It’s a social profession. You’re engaging consistently with people throughout the day and often in close proximity. Don’t become known as the Smelly Teacher.

Water bottle

Invest in a good one of these and you’ll never look back. Think metal, handle, at least a litre.


Surprise, surprise, we teachers eat too. Observing a teacher’s food choice was another shocking moment when you had an insight into them as another member of society. I am a sandwich-er and will make it in the staff room or kitchen. Occasionally there will be leftovers for reheating. Social suicide if you spill any of it on yourself. There’s just no coming back from wearing last night’s Bolognese in the last couple of classes of the day.

So there you have it. The enigmatic innards of a teacher’s backpack laid out for the world to see. We’re not so alien after all.

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