Teaching on a cart I have taught in a high school setting without my own classroom in the past, and found that teaching from a cart is not optimal, but was manageable with students of that age....

Teaching on a cart

I have taught in a high school setting without my own classroom in the past, and found that teaching from a cart is not optimal, but was manageable with students of that age. However, I am now teaching Middle School Language Arts, in a more difficult district, and have been informed that I will be traveling. I am sure that I can overcome this minor hiccup (because teachers are flexible by definition!) but am wondering if anyone has any pointers, suggestions, or tips?? Thanks!!

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have found that I try to keep things on the cart that I think I will need because I cannot be sure that they will be available in the classes I share with others. I keep supplies on hand (including my own dry erase markers—if your school uses them...or chalk); I usually keep things (wite-out, paper clips, scissors, tape, safety pins, hole-puncher, etc.) in some kind of sealed container that cannot be easily "messed with" when you leave it near students. I keep a box of Kleenex on my cart—always. I have some kind of file, too: there are those that you can put hanging folders in that even have straps (like a purse). This is easily removed, cleaned out and refurbished, as needed. It can also go with you to, say, the library, if your cart cannot, with papers you want to work on.

I try to start the day with an organized, fresh cart. I add new things that I need for the day. If I have a place to keep anything in the classroom (and other teachers are really good about this), I may leave a couple of extra copies of what we used (handouts) each day for absent students (so I don't have to carry around a lot of older materials), as well as a clipboard on which I write dates and what we did that day. Because I know I need to move through the halls, I pack up five minutes early. If you sense kids will have questions, you can pack up as you speak to them. Sometimes I'll have a student follow me to my next class, walking and talking, and then send them along with a pass to their next class.

I try to have a bin on the cart in which I place collected papers (paper-clipped). It would be nice to have another bin to place graded papers that you want to return. (If there is little space, they can be stacked.)

Organization is key. Have things ready to go at the start of the day; clean cart up at the end of the day if you can. Make sure kids know that without your permission, the cart is "off limits," expecially with the younger kids.

I try to move my cart at the end of my prep or lunch while the halls are empty, waiting outside the door of my next class until the bell rings—or if the previous class is finished, I pull inside the room, out of the way to avoid the crush. I always try to plan my route, learning to avoid bottlenecks in the hallways if I can. When I park my cart at the end of the day, I try to make sure that I don't leave it where students can access it—if there is a departmental office, I put it there over night.

Do not leave anything valuable on the cart. This may seem to be a no-brainer, but kids are not always the only ones you need to worry about. Take your laptop with you. I try to never bring my purse even into the building, but leave it in my car.

Good luck. Those of us who live on carts are real classroom warriors!

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From my experience, I would echo several of the suggestions already offered.

I strongly believe in color coding as a basic part of the organizational process that is essential when you need to maximize every bit of storage you can take with you while minimizing weight.

When I was in the itinerant phase of my teaching career, computers were not in our teaching world, but if a laptop is traveling with you, I would certainly become very proficient at recording everything possible on it. Use an electronic grade book and attendance records, if you have access to an electronic teacher's guide I would leave the hard copy at "home base", find web-based materials to project as support information for your instructions.

The cart - let it show your personality and that you are having fun with your travels (even if you aren't)! Get a little ringer bell like on a kid's tricycle to help you make your way through the hall or find a "Slow Moving Vehicle" sign to add to the cart. Take care of yourself, too - attach a cup holder and make sure you have a bottle of water with you wherever you go.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a teacher who has had to share a classroom with "floaters," I can give you a few suggestions for how to keep peace with the teacher whose room you're in. Make sure that your students don't trash the room while you're in there. My room was always a mess when the other teacher left. If you move things around, make sure you put them back. The teacher who shared my room moved my books and podium and stool every day and never put them back where I had them. It was very annoying after awhile. Make sure your students respect the other teacher's things. I am the yearbook/newspaper adviser, and I have an area of my classroom devoted to journalism. I don't let other students in that area because I have things that I don't want them to bother or material that we don't want them to see yet. But the teacher who shared my room thought I was too strict and let students roam all over my room. Needless to say, things disappeared or got torn up.

I feel for you. I wish no one had to float, but I hope your experience is better than mine!

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Color coding would probably be helpful. Assign a color to each class that you teach, and then code a set of folders for each. I don't have to travel from room to room, and haven't for years, but this is a habit I kept. For each class I have folders for homework in, today's handouts, handouts for the next few days, and an extra folder to corral late work, copies I'm holding for absent students, etc.

I teach night classes at a community college, and for that job I have three different colored briefcases, one for each class.

Also, having a box of basic office supplies that you can carry with you will save you the time and frustration of having to hunt around and learning where the spare whiteboard markers are hidden in each room that you use.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oh, it's rough to be a teacher that travels!  I have done both in my career.  When I did travel, I found it helpful to actually have a tiny corner of each room where I could leave important things (which usually turned out to be a locking cabinet).  Keep in mind, however, that when I was traveling the room actually "belonged" to another teacher.  He/she usually didn't mind if I took a corner or a cabinet for my own.   In this way, I was able to minimize the weight of my cart by leaving my large textbooks right in the room (when I didn't need to take them home to prepare, that is).  This also presents a problem of privacy/theft.  Therefore, it was also important that the cabinet was able to be locked!

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Organisation, organisation, organisation. As others have mentioned, this is absolutely key. I used to work in a college that moved us around all the time, and so we never had "set" rooms that we could decorate. One thing that I found really helpful was analysing my resources and then adapting them so that they could be easily used or posted in new classrooms. For example, I always use a series of posters with "Agree" and "Disagree" and other variations. Making sure that I had a laminated set of these with means to stick them onto any wall meant I could use these resources wherever I was teaching.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that you have been offered some very good ideas. Outside of what has been said already, I think that you should take ownership of your cart (in the same way a teacher takes ownership for their classroom). I think that if students see you as anything but a "real teacher" (if you express negative feelings toward being a traveling teacher) the students will pick up on your feelings.

If they can look at you and see that you are excited to be coming into the classroom with the cart that you are proud of (decorate it, for example) they will respect you in a different way.

teachersyl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best advice I can offer is to have a sense of humor about it. One of the English teachers in my HS had to travel, and he decorated his cart with all the posters he would put in his room, and a big sign on the front that said, "This is, for all intents and purposes, Mr. _______'s room." I have been fortunate enough to have always had a home base (even now as a part-time teacher, I have my own room), but if I had to have a cart, I'd definitely do that. As another responder said, if you have negative feelings about it, the kids will pick up on it.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The only piece of advice that helped make my life more managable as a cart person was to learn to throw stuff away. Sometimes we save the most irrelevant assignments to pass back to kids. Other times we save so many assignments to grade, when every once in a while we need to realize that our job is certainly to give practice and feedback, but sometimes extra practice doesn't hurt. Learn to let go of some of the small stuff. (If you already knew that one, I'm sorry... it's just the best one for me!)

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't have much to add to the great suggestions already given, except to make sure to communicate with the teachers whose rooms you have to teach from. I have never had to teach off of a cart, but I have had my room used by other teachers who have erased important notes, spilled pop in the room without notifying me, and misplaced tests I had printed and ready to go.  It does create tension between the two teachers if there is not a plan in place to handle these types of things.


bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've had to do this in my teaching past, and I feel your pain. Hopefully, most of the teachers whose rooms you share are agreeable to allowing you cabinet and file space. It would also be nice (but probably impractical) to have a computer to use in each classroom, but a school or personal laptop would probably be more suitable. My biggest problem was realizing I'd forgotten something once I was in the next classroom, so as several of the other posts mentioned, organization is key.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I traveled in my first year teaching.  The classrooms you have been assigned may not be optimal.  Find out of there are better classroom arrangmeents, especially closer together or unused for two periods in a row.  If you map out an efficient area, you'll save a lot of stress.  Also make arrangements with each teacher you share a room with to borrow certain things and have a storage space in each room.  Fight for that!

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I assume you will be teaching in other teachers' classrooms during their plan periods which, while not ideal, can be workable.  It might also help if you can work out an arangement with each of those teachers to give you at least one cupboard or specific space in their classroom so that you can have some additional materials for each class without having to pack it around each day.