i’ve gotten a few requests for my favorite school supplies as an english phd student, so here’s a rundown of my top picks! they’re mostly inexpensive, since grad student stipends aren’t huge & i tend to blow most of mine on books, lush products, & alcohol.
pens & highlighters.
- pilot precise v5 rolling ball. yall i switched to these pens 2 years ago and haven’t looked back since. the ink is hella even and they write very smoothly. $13/dozen.
- pentel rolling writer. way thicker than the pilot v5s, so i only use them for labelling or lettering, but they’re very satisfying to write with. $8/dozen.
- mildliners. these are super popular, for good reason. they’re more expensive than other highlighters, but they’re nicer on the eyes, they last a long time, and the colors are really lovely. $16 for 15, or you can buy the 5-packs individually. see them in action with the pilot v5 pens here.
HARDCOVER NOTEBOOKS ARE THE SECRET TO GRAD SCHOOL. or at least, the secret to taking notes during lectures/job talks/conferences. you’re gonna be sitting in weird chairs with a plate of crackers on one knee and a dixie cup of wine in your non-dominant hand. get yourself a notebook that is also a table and won’t bend when you write in it.
- blueline hardcover. this is the notebook i used for my bullet journal last year, but it also makes a really good miscellaneous events notebook. $10.
- leuchtturm 1917 hardcover. a smaller, fancier, more expensive version of the above. i splurged on this last year and i love it. $20.
- those cheap, cute 100-page paperbacks. i use these thin ones for individual projects, when i know i’ll need to compile a lot of scattered information (there’s an example in this post). i tend to oscillate between taking hand- and type-written notes on projects, and having one notebook for each project at least corrals the handwritten ones into a single location. $8 for 3.
ideas & organization.
- trifold board (evidence here). yeah, the one from your 3rd grade science fair. i’m a really visual person and any time i’m working on a big project i like to have my stuff spread out in front of me so i can make connections and see the big picture. it’s exhausting and messy to keep doing that every time i sit down to work, though. so since i didn’t want my roommates thinking i was a serial killer, i decided to tape everything up to a tri-fold instead of just taping photos and string all over one of the living room walls. this isn’t a must-have, but it’s been really useful for me, so i thought it was worth listing. $11.
- i use those manila mail envelopes to save all the hardcopy syllabi, readings, and essay feedback from each seminar. i label the front with the name of the class & quarter so that i can look back through them when i need to. $15/100 or just steal some from your department.
- (a few people asked about agendas but honestly i don’t use one - i’ve tried and they’ve never taken. i just use google calendar to keep track of events & commitments)
- see this post for my whole-quarter to-do list strategy.
- BICmatic mechanical pencils. i tend to grade in pencil so that if i decide to change a grade or reword a comment, i can erase it rather than crossing it out. $8/dozen.
- index cards. these seem like a nonsequitur but man, i end up going through a 100-pack every year. they’re good for short pop quizzes when you don’t want to waste your students’ notebook paper or get up early to make copies, and they’re perfect for those syllabus-day introductory facts and random classroom activities. get a pack, they’re like 50 cents at target, you won’t regret it.
- paperclips. teaching has taught me that there is some kind of metaphysical law that keeps students from ever actually stapling their shit before they give it to you. also, i type up my essay feedback and then attach it to the front of their packets, and it’s easier to paperclip than attempt to staple through 15 pages.
- whiteboard markers & erasers. most departments have a supplies drawer you can pillage. take more markers than you think you’ll need, and keep them in your bag, not in the classroom, or they will be spirited away by the university pixies.
- some kind of paper organizer. you may need more than one, since a) you’re not allowed to get rid of old student exams and essays until a certain amount of time has passed, so you’ll always have piles of old materials lying around, and b) there’s a lot of paper to keep track of - things to grade, things you’ve graded, things you need to hand out, things you won’t need to hand out for 3 weeks, etc.
- grad study for the 21st century: how to build an academic career in the humanities. greg lays it out, folks. the book’s strongly geared towards humanities grads seeking tenure track positions, so if you’re fervently pursuing an alt ac career you might not find it as useful, but it has a ton of info on professionalization and advice on developing your work practice.
- how to write a lot & how to write your disseration in 15 minutes a day. full disclosure: i have not explored these books as thoroughly as i should. they come very highly recommended.
- the professor is in. another resource i haven’t looked into as deeply as i’d like. i hear that she took many of the more useful things off the blog when the book was published, so you may need to shell out that $$ to get the best stuff.
- my tags: resources / rad school. these are pretty eclectic, but they might be helpful.