Beyond "Get a cart:" Teaching in different classrooms

Before this year, at one school I barnstormed in to other teachers’ rooms to teach my classes during their prep periods. At another, the school culture called for shared rooms, with teachers usually teaching in two (or even three) different rooms each day. At another, most rooms were shared and, depending on class sizes, I sometimes taught in one, and sometimes taught in three different rooms in one day.
Because of this, I tried to get advice on how to handle commuting from room to room during the day. Unfortunately, when I talked to other educators about it, the usual response was “Yikes!” or “Well…get a cart?” or “At least you don’t have to decorate.” or “You’ll break 10,000 steps every day!”
So, in this post, I’ll share some things I found useful as a traveling teacher.

  • Don’t get a cart!
    If you teach in different buildings or on different floors, don’t get a cart. You’ll just end up carrying your cart with all of your other things. The elevator may present itself as a tempting way around this problem, but, if you have to wait, you’ll be late for class. Carrying a bag or a plastic tub is much better, since it’s lighter and doesn’t increase the space you take up in the hall.
  • Bellringers

    I’ve been starting my classes out with dicta, sayings in Latin, for a while. The students come in and copy down a Latin saying written or projected onto the board. Depending on their level, we try to find English derivatives of the words, look at the grammar, and identify words we recognize. Then (again depending on the level), I or the students translate the dictum and they write down the translation. We compare it to modern proverbs and talk about what it means. Some years I will occasionally collect one week’s dicta for a grade, but others this is just an enrichment activity. Having this as a bellringer gets the students into their seats and thinking about Latin while I get out what I need to teach. I can tailor the dicta to use vocabulary and grammar we’ve used recently or just choose ones that are funny or thought provoking.
    Conversely, though, I didn’t use exit slips: students needed varied amounts of time to complete them, and waiting and collecting them tended to make me late to my next class.
  • Use overheads/portable whiteboards
    If you are required to have agendas or objectives or the like on the board, if there’s an overhead projector, make up a transparency per day. You can come in, turn on the projector, put out the transparency, and be ready to go. If you don’t have a projector or need to have it on the board all day, try a “portable whiteboard.” The resource teacher at one school taught me about these: they’re white posterboard run through a laminator. They can be written on with whiteboard marker and are light enough to stay on a board with magnets. You can walk in, put it on the board, and be ready to go.
  • Label, label, label
    Label everything with your name, a phone number or e-mail address, and your room numbers. If you share a room, it’s easy for another teacher to pick up something of yours and take it to a different room without knowing. If you’re rushing from room to room, it’s easy to leave one thing behind. Also, if your school has official planbooks or gradebooks, mark all over the front and back covers of yours to make it clear. When one teacher is coming into a room and another is leaving, books can easily get mixed up. Then, the other teacher may leave your book in a different room where you don’t teach, thinking it belongs in that room.
  • Sort by class
    Each of my classes has a two pocket paper folder. When students turn in quizzes or other wrk, they are to put it face down on top of the folder. At the end of class or when all the work is turned in, I put the papers inside. Once they’re graded and clipped together by type, papers to be returned go in the left pocket, while papers that need to be held (if I’m waiting for a make-up) go on the right.
    Each class’s folder color is the color of the class on my planbook calendar. Now that I teach more than one class in the same room, each class’s agenda is written on the board in marker of that color. When I used index cards to call on students, the cards were clipped together with a clip in the class color. This made it much faster to get together everything I needed for Latin I- I could just make sure I had a green folder, a green clipped stack of cards, and the right book.
    This year, I came up with a refinement of my plan: each class has a set of manila folders in its color labeled with each day of the week. All the handouts for that day go into the folder, and, at the end of the day, the folder goes behind the others. I can check and see if I made copies easily, and, if I were traveling from class to class, I could just pull the folders for that day.
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  • Go electronic
    Traveling from room to room became much easier when I was in a school with computer projectors bolted to the ceilings in most of the rooms. Instead of having to deal with an overhead projector that was going traveling or sticking things on the board, I could just plug in and start. Similarly, switching attendance and calling cards to my iPad, which also had an e-version of the textbook, reduced what I had to carry.
  • Have a place to keep your coat
    There is nothing quite so depressing as coming into class to teach while carrying a sodden raincoat and a leaking lunch bag. Find a place to leave the things you don’t need, whether it’s the faculty room, a cabinet in a friendly teacher’s room, or an office.

These are things that were helpful to me. If you’ve been a traveling teacher, what was useful to you?

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