It’s Tuesday, so I’m talking teaching. (I’m also using entirely too much alliteration, but that’s neither here nor there)…
Several years ago, on my old blog, I shared that I didn’t have my own classroom for my first two years of teaching. In fact, my first year, I had three preps in SIX different classrooms! Yes, I was a one-woman traveling show on an old metal cart through the high school halls… Really, all I needed was an air horn to clear a path for me when I came pushing through. 🙂
Since then, I’ve gotten quite a few questions about how I managed and what advice I have for teaching from a cart. So, I thought I’d repost an updated list of tips here:
1. Invest in some good binders – at least one for each prep – to keep your lesson plans, all hand-outs, etc. for a unit.
2. Sort EVERYTHING by class period/block. You can’t have too many accordion or hanging files in my opinion. I even went so far as to color-code everything by period/block with a folder for each class where I placed papers-to-be-handed-out on one side and papers to be graded on the other. *I’ve switched this up a little bit now and use a stacking system with removable drawers for papers to hand out and an accordion file from Target with papers to grade. Regardless, just be SUPER organized.
3. Label, label, label. I keep Staples in business with the sheer number of sticky labels I purchase and print at the beginning of the school year. EVERYTHING has my name on it. EVERYTHING.
4. Organize classroom supplies in plastic bins or drawers. That way, you always have what you need in each classroom and everyone knows where everything is. Also, it’s nice not to have to depend on another teacher/classroom to have supplies you might need for an activity. I had one for pens and pencils, markers, scissors, glue, colored paper, white paper, lined paper, you name it.
5. For the love, be neat!! Don’t mess up another teacher’s classroom!! I always stopped class about two minutes before the bell to have students help me straighten up the room and re-organize any materials I handed out, etc. It’s polite, and it will keep you sane. (Teach your students to help with this from Day One!!)
6. Act like a guest in someone else’s classroom. This goes along with #5; but, basically, I found that I had a better relationship with my colleagues and was able to “get further” with them, if I behaved like a “guest” when I was teaching in their room. This includes asking before I borrow anything, cleaning up when I leave, and always being polite and thankful for the fact that they are sharing their space. The truth is, they probably had no choice – the principal likely forced them to share – but you may as well be grateful. (Also, be open to learning from those teachers and getting feedback from them – it isn’t super common in our profession to be able to observe other teachers doing their thing OR have a peer watch you… It can be hard, but try to take advantage of that opportunity and look it as a chance to “up” your own game.)
7. See if another teacher will let you put a desk in his/her room to serve as your “home base.” I realize this isn’t possible for everyone – the library or teacher work room will be fine too – but it really helps if you have a spot that is designated as your own where you can start and end your day, sit during planning, etc. etc. Of course, if you are lucky enough to get a “home,” remember #6. 🙂
8. Try to embrace cart living. You do save money on classroom decor, have less to clean up at the end of the day/school year, accumulate a lot less junk, etc… Plus, I truly found that being a cart teacher for my first two years established some organizational skills etc. that have really stuck with me and made me a better teacher. There will be really hard days, but TRY to look for the positives.
Well, there you have it… Have you or are you currently teaching from a cart? How does it work for you? What advice do you have for someone just starting down this (cart) path? What questions?
*For more classroom organization ideas or to see my decorating ideas for when you do get your own classroom (and, chances are, you will one day) see this post.