My Office in a Backpack

Type: Article
Topics: District & School Operations, Leadership Development, School Administrator Magazine

October 01, 2019

My View

Administrators are usually quick to admit they prefer to spend little time in their office. Most of us would rather be visible in the hallways, classrooms and cafeterias of our schools, interacting with students and staff.

Whenever I manage to get out of the office, I often find myself returning for any number of materials I need. It could be my cellphone so I can share on social media a photo of something awesome happening in a classroom. It might be Post-it notes to leave a message for a teacher on her door. Or I may need to retrieve my laptop for a classroom observation. The list of items to be retrieved is endless.

As the principal, I wanted to be more mobile and less tethered to a single space. I’ve learned you absolutely cannot be the lead learner of a school from behind a desk.

Being Prepared

I joked with another principal that I would be better off with a utility belt of items instead of running back and forth to the office for things. Obviously, a utility belt is a bit impractical, but I figured a backpack could be the solution to my problem. So before the school year started last fall, I put my experiment into motion.

I bought a simple travel backpack that was durable and had a protective pocket for my laptop and several different-sized pockets for other items. I committed to wearing the backpack whenever I wandered out of my office.

I started with a small list of items:  my laptop, a note pad, cellphone, school walkie talkie, pens and Post-its. Over the course of the school year, the number of items I put in the backpack multiplied.

My Inventory

Ultimately, my backpack carried everything of practical use from my office. Here’s the full list of contents:

 SMALL PACKAGE OF TISSUES: Sneezing doesn’t happen on a schedule.

 CLASS AND STAFF ROSTERS: Great for emergency drills or in the event of an actual emergency to account for all the people in your building.

 HAND SANITIZER: A must for flu season and any other time you meet unsanitary conditions.

 SCHOOL WALKIE TALKIE: Clipping this necessity to the outside of the backpack brought greater comfort than appending it to pants or pocket.

 LAPTOP: Much easier to make your office mobile when you can carry your laptop computer to complete teacher observations, access student records, file discipline reports and print wirelessly from anywhere in the building.

 MULTI-TOOL DEVICE: Pliers, screwdriver and a small knife to cut open those pesky yogurt tubes at lunch.

 SANITIZING WIPES: Handy when you come across spills on a lunch table or classroom desk.

 BABY WIPES: For runny noses, dirty hands and faces.

 PENS, POST-ITS AND NOTEBOOK: Useful for quick notes to teachers and for recording thoughts of things to be handled at another time.

 SCHOOL FORMS: Trip requests, absence forms, timesheets and any other paperwork a teacher might ask for during a classroom visit.

 SUNGLASSES: Car rider line duty, recess duty, and those times you’ll be outside for an extended period.

 SUNSCREEN LOTION: Exposure to the elements can be made more tolerable.

 RAINCOAT: On more than one occasion, I was thankful to have this.

 SMALL UMBRELLA: If this doesn’t help you, it may help someone else.

 BAND-AIDS: Can you ever have too many?

 RUBBER GLOVES: Recess accidents happen, resulting in bloody noses, and sometimes the school nurse isn’t readily available.

 WATER BOTTLE: A convenient holder on the side provides easy access.

 CANDY: Not for the students, but for the teachers as a nice treat to leave on their desk.


Nathan W. Wills
About the Author

Nathan Wills is principal of Puxico Elementary School in Puxico, Mo.

    Nathan Wills