Advice for the Floating Teacher?

My school has two types of teachers: those with their own rooms and floaters. The floater is a teacher with no room of her own. She moves every class period to a new classroom, annoying the crap out of the teacher whose room she visits because that teacher is trying desperately to relax plan.

I think I’m going to be a floater.

Which really sucks because I have this guy with no place to put him:

What advice do you have for me?

Stuff I am worried about:

  1. Feeling discombobulated as I rush into a room to get set up in time for the kids.
  2. Feeling like a guest all the time.
  3. I will have a desk in one of the classrooms I float into. During my planning, that room will be in use. See #2.
  4. How can I not use the rolling cart that makes teachers look like bag ladies? That is, how can I cleverly avoid carrying my crap around all day?
  5. Dealing with the mess other teachers leave. I keep a tidy classroom. Some of my colleagues, less so.

How have you seen it done well? What pitfalls do I need to avoid?

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13 thoughts on “Advice for the Floating Teacher?

  1. Hello future bag lady. Yes, you can deny it, but trust me, bag lady is much better! Otherwise, you are FOREVER forgetting the most important stuff that you need on a constant basis. I have a cart, and it is mighty fine. See? http://ispeakmath.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/this-is-how-i-roll/ My kids love the cart and this year I swear I am getting Christmas lights. ;)

    Also, I do many activities that require lots of STUFF. I bought 5 large clip-together plastic boxes and put all of the stuff they will need for the day/activity in there. I put clip them together, put them on top of my cart, and then roll to the next class, Mount Rushmore style. As soon as I roll in, I unclip them and place one bin on each table. Viola – instant classroom set up.

    Good luck! I’m at jreulbach on Twitter. btw, LOVE the poster!! I’d tape him on the side of the cart and take him with me everywhere you go!

    • Wow, excellent advice! Love your cart. If I go with one, it will definitely be tricked out in superfly superhero fashion. It’s not that I hate the cart — but my classes will most likely be up/downstairs with no elevator access.

      Can you show me what you mean by clip-together plastic boxes?

  2. I second the cart. I will be a floating (er, rolling) teacher this year. I tried it once with a briefcase and backpack but it was too hectic and messy. I also can’t afford to buy the Modeling whiteboards for every classroom I visit, so I will be bringing those with me, along with all the supplies. I like @jreulbach’s shoe organizers, so I may have to appropriate those too. Since I am teaching a science (with rock samples and all kinds of other lab supplies), I can’t imagine doing without the cart. As for your specific concerns:

    1. I plan to carry a large clock/timer for activities, which will also help me to monitor time. Students, always avid clock watchers, can help you to know when just a few minutes remain. They can also help to clean up and organize your cart. It helps if they always have the same thing to do during the first few minutes of class (and maybe a set group of people can take attendance?). If you use technology that needs to be configured/logged into, you might have to talk to each host teacher to make sure that they will leave it in a ready state for you.

    2. More like an honored guest. :) Ask if you need a small amount of storage space in each room. Offer to make a pleasant home for the host teacher in whatever office or space you have…something inviting enough that they will want to go there. If there is no such space, make it a point to spruce up the teacher’s lounge. If a teacher stays in the class against your desires, bring it up quickly in the year.

    3. So that desk is useful to you during one and only one period? I’m not sure I’d bother with it.

    4. As mentioned above, a briefcase and/or backpack can work, but they will be harder to pack. Then, if you need extras, you will have to bring them in extra bags. If money is burning a hole in your pocket, buy a set for each room. Or, ask the host teachers to use their supplies and chip in a fraction for replacement costs.

    5. Students can help here. Train them to ask the host teacher where something goes before they leave (in case they are gone by the time you get there). In case the teacher splits, assign a weekly clean-up crew to ready the room. You can brief them on any unusual setup the day before.

    All that said, I’m no expert, as this will be my first year to try the cart. I look forward to hearing how your year goes. Good luck!

    • You guys nearly have me convinced on the bag lady cart. Hectic and messy ruin me during the day.

      As for the Modeling whiteboards, it’s something new for me this year (I bought enough to make a class set out of showerboard). I may have good luck convincing my colleagues to use the idea, too. If my roommates get Modeling boards, then I don’t have to travel with mine!

      1. Clock — check!
      2. I’m going to scout space tomorrow, on my first workday. Our building just inherited 50% more students but only got about 10% more classroom space. Hence, almost no space will go unused this coming year. But if it exists, I will find it!
      3. True. The county issues a desktop-mounted computer to every teacher. I won’t use it much but plan to travel with my laptop.
      4. Yes, yes, and yes.
      5. Yep, great advice.

      Thanks! Let’s keep each other apprised of our progress, ok?

  3. My containers are at school so I found a pic of something close. Mine are much more shallow however. I have 5 and snap them all together and then snap the one with the handle on top. Then I can carry the whole set around. I found them at Target. It wasn’t cheap, $30 total I think for the whole set, but I love the size bc a whole sheet of paper fits inside of them flat. (I put card stock in page protectors for activities). http://www.splatpat.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/www_splatpat_com_11.JPG

    I had the white boards made from shower board about 15 years ago and am still using them. I love them bc they are huge. But they are heavy. They are on the bottom on my cart in the pic.

    I bought a cheap kitchen timer (5 min timer) that I use for activities. It is on my cart too in the shoe caddy.

  4. 1. Ask the teacher(s) whose room you use if they would like to return to the room for the last few minutes of your period so that they can set up for their next class. That way, your students are supervised, and you can get a ‘head start’ toward your next destination and won’t have to fight through hallways filled with students.

    2. Being a guest can be a good thing! Think of it as visiting friends, maybe? Seriously, do what you can to foster warm relationships with teachers who have permanent rooms.

    3. Yeah, that’s going to make it challenging to get any work done. Is there a nearby teachers’ lounge / work room? Or could you go to the library?

    4. Um… this is not a good idea. Carts rule! I’m assigned a classroom and I still got a cart! They are INCREDIBLY useful. Do take some time and $$ to personalize it and make it fun & interesting. Who knows – maybe you can get your poster framed and hang or mount it on the front of your cart!

    5. You might just have to suck it up on this one. (See #2.)

    One nice thing about this is that it forces you to be very focused and organized. So you might want to take some time before the term begins to plan out how you’ll keep materials to a minimum and how you’ll keep items from different class periods clearly separated.

  5. Oh! I have a great idea for the floating teachers that have to float between floors. I have a rolling briefcase/laptop holder found at a garage sale for $5. It looks like this http://www.overstock.com/Luggage-Bags/Olympia-Deluxe-Rolling-Business-Tote/2999718/product.html?cid=123620.

    I use it because I take my work to soccer and need supplies when grading papers. It has three sections, one for my laptop, one for papers, and a front section with organizers to put all of my pens, erasers, calculator, scissors, motrin. lol! I love it! You could fill it up, roll it down the hall, and then carry (or drag/roll) it up the stairs.

  6. I am a floater again. I have a file/box in each classroom I use. I do have a cart (with a license plate) but it’s a hand truck with a crate bungee’d tight.

    I didn’t have many issues with others, but I am a very social person and handle that stuff well but have your own supply of everything; scrap paper, dry erase markers etc…

    Nobody wants to be a traveling teacher so at least I got a good amount of sympathy (except from one teacher).

  7. Oh I feel your pain. Entering my 3rd year on a cart and will remain so until I retire. Another cart teacher and I had a “trick out your cart contest” and involved the students and they decorated our carts. Trying to make the best of it.
    I suggest talking to each host teacher at the beginning of the year to feel out their particulars. One teacher is very picky about what pens are used on her whiteboards, so you can only use hers and you cannot accidentally take them or she will hunt you down in the middle of your next class. Other teachers are picky about a student sitting in their chair (when I don’t have a clicker, I have moved the teacher chair over to my laptop and a student sits in it, I didn’t realize people had an issue with that.). It’s impossible to foresee every idiosyncrasy he/she may have, but each year, my list of potentials grows. I can handle any of those, just if I know.
    I find the most difficult issue is handling calculators. I have to bring my calculators to every class, distribute them, and recollect at the end of class. Looking for a good way to store them so I know that I got all of them back. Every year, I’m down a few calculators and I hate being the calc police. Caddies? I saw a folding calc caddy that unzips and has a hanger you can put over the door. I could put it up in each room and then see at a glance that they are all returned? Price is an issue.Any ideas?

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