Now that the custodians are done waxing the floors, we can get down to the business of setting up our classrooms. Well, most of us. Some teachers, like Carla who emailed me this week, won’t have a room of her own this year. What can she do?

Hi Laura,
I have spent the past two days sifting through your website and watching your videos. I am so excited to have found all this great info, and I feel confident now that I will have a great year!

I am entering my second year of teaching, beginning classes on Aug. 1. Last year, I took the first position offered to me, which was resource and team taught regular 9th grade. This position required me to be Special Ed certified, so I had to rush to my closest testing center and take a test over info I had absolutely no knowledge of. Luckily, I passed and got the job. Unfortunately, I was pretty much thrown to the wolves and expected to figure it all out on my own. I was dealing with learning the IEP process, having overcrowded resource classes, and working with team teachers who had no experience team teaching. It was pretty chaotic, and I had some serious organization and classroom management issues.

This year, I was able to get a job teaching regular ed at the high school in which I graduated and also did my student teaching. I will be in close contact with my mentor teacher and several others that I know well. I’m so happy to be returning to full-time regular ed and to my alma mater, but I’m nervous because the expectations are very high. There are several things I’m worried about, but one of the biggest stressors is that I will not have my own classroom. The school is overcrowded, so many of us will have to float. I love the idea of greeting students at the door and using your bell ringers to start class…but how will I manage that if I’m not in the same class more than one period a day?

I do have a home base (sharing a room with another teacher) with my own little corner and a desk, but I won’t be teaching out of that room; I will be teaching from a cart. I floated last year too, and I had several issues. The kids would be in the room before me, getting riled up, and it would take a lot of time to get them settled and ready to start each day. Also, it took awhile for the Smartboard to load up in order to get my computer set up to display daily agendas, so I was wasting about 5-10 minutes most days just trying to get situated and get the kids settled.

Do you have any tips for floating teachers on how to deal with these types of issues? Any advice would be appreciated!

Thank you so much for all you do,
Carla

Hey Carla,
So glad you found the blog! And congrats on sliding into a less-chaotic setting for your second year. The issues of being a floating teacher are definitely big. I’m blessed in that I haven’t had to deal with a Rolling Cart of Doom, but I’m thinking this is a situation where you’re going to get by with a little help from your friends. If I were in your shoes, I’d enlist the help of the teacher in each classroom the period before me. I’d ask those folks if they could fire up the Smartboard at the very end of their hour (that is, if they weren’t already using it) and you could even leave a desktop folder of the bellringer slides to be projected each day/each week. If your colleagues are friends or even your own former teachers, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they push a button and click open a projection slide file before they leave for their prep period. (And they shouldn’t be leaving the room unattended with students in it before you arrive, anyway. Right?)

Another idea is to use the bellringers as paper-based activities, creating a bulletin board designed just for your classes. For the MUG Shots, for example, I’d have the raw, unedited sentences printed on a half-sheet and train my students to grab the daily copy from the bulletin board. Establish that it’s your expectation that they’re working on editing those sentences as you arrive, take attendance, and get the projector set up. I might even have a student volunteer write the messed up versions of the MUG sentences on the whiteboard while I’m getting plugged in (choose someone with good handwriting) and then use that student’s written work on the board as the background for making the edits once class gets started.

Basically, I think the theme in my message is to try not to take everything on your shoulders. You are just one person and you’re sprinting across campus with a rogue-wheeled roly cart. (Those carts are always at least 25 percent broken in my experience.) Other teachers and your own students are a real resource, so ask for help – it’s a reasonable request, you know.

Good luck getting everything set up this week. Aug. 1 is too soon!
– Laura

Okay, teacher tribe, what do you think? Have you endured a year on wheels? Any tips or tricks that would help smooth Carla’s ride? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. Great ideas! Are they a 1:1 school? You could put the bellringers in Google Classroom. You could also give them bellringers for the week on paper, like you suggested. Another idea is to dedicate the first 10 min. of class to silent independent reading – and she could do individual conferences with students once she arrives. That would give them something solid to get started on and to get settled, plus it wouldn’t require that she prepare anything in advance. 😊

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  2. Excellent advice, Mrs. Turner. I really like the Google Classroom idea and she could put the slides on a slow drip, posting each one the night before class. That’d take, like, 90 seconds out of her evening, right? Let’s keep those ideas coming, folks!

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  3. Put your daily agenda type of stuff on a white board that you can take with you class-to-class. I agree with pushing the work via google classroom. You could schedule it so that it would become available to them at the start of class. Also, what about starting class off with SSR time? That could afford you the time to get your technology rolling and handling attendance, etc.

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  4. Hi! I’ve been on a cart for the last 5 years so am sympathetic to Carla’s plight! Let me begin by saying that among the negatives, I’m sure you already appreciate some positives: no room decorating, no ‘end of year room inventory’, lots of opportunity for being organized!

    I have a few practical tips that were game-changers for me:

    1. Be prepared: the classroom teachers were NOT necessarily welcoming or helpful. Some are a bit grumpy about the fact that they have to leave their room during their off-period (as if it was my doing!). So, be sweetly assertive, get classroom ‘space’ right away: display space, bookshelf space, writing on the board space, etc. Clear communication throughout the year with these teachers is key to success!

    2. Get a good cart! The old metal media ones are difficult to manage; have your school purchase a new plastic one, preferably with a bit of raised sides on each shelf. I did not have one with doors, I prefer open shelving. And again, be kindly assertive if any pushback: a cart is cheaper than a classroom! And effective learning for students begins in a classroom with a teacher who can GET THERE!

    3. Cart tips:
    a. The BEST thing about my cart: two sets of plastic drawers for student work (I put mine on the middle open shelf of my cart – measure first!). Each drawer is labeled with the class period. This is not fancy, I put a strip of pink duct tape across the front and wrote the number in Sharpie. ANYTHING a student needed to hand me went into his class ‘inbox’ on my cart. That way, the papers are always with me. I tried having an ‘inbox’ in each classroom but found that was difficult to manage. If students need to turn something in when you are not in that classroom, have a procedure in place for that – maybe a ‘while you were out’ box or something in the classroom that is ONLY used as contingency!
    b. Have anything you think you will need on your cart. It’s a mini-office. Not all teachers share what’s in their classroom. Sad but true. I kept a small box of ‘first aid’ (Bandaids, mostly), stapler, paper clips, pens, sticky notes, hand sanitizer, and pencils for borrowing.
    c. The top shelf was for today’s lessson: I had a standing file holder on the top shelf of my cart that held current handouts and graded papers. Colored folders are a great visual organizer – each class/subject had a color. Clip papers and label clearly! Red was my admin. color: all seating charts, extra help sign-ups, etc. were in red folders (easy to grab for subs, too!). Also top shelf was my planner, computer, and a pencil/pen/stuff cup holder. Again, it was easier for me to have everything with me than pre/post-placing things in classrooms. Inevitably, someone needs an extra copy, or yesterday’s stuff. I’d just rather have it with me.

    4. Yes, establish good ‘coming in’ procedures and expectations for students, state and ‘enforce’ consistently at beginning of the year. Many of my warm-ups were technology-dependent and yes, the start up is a factor in some classrooms, especially if you have a long walk! I recommend a printed weekly or even monthly printed warm-ups that students keep in the front of their binders: they can begin to work independently without you. Praise often and loudly those you see doing it right away! A colleague prints out a ‘calendar’ of warm-ups, quick questions/tasks that students responded to on that paper. If students have it with them, you don’t have to pre-place anything in multiple classrooms.
    b. Even if it’s a 1:1 school (mine is), I limit technology-based warm-ups. Just too much room for error among technology and opportunity for distraction. You can always do kind of a ‘second warm-up’ via specific video or something when you arrive and start class.

    5. Lesson tip: I always think ‘modify’ for movement and creative activities. For example, with station work or group work, instead of the luxury of labeling my classroom with activities (who wants to do that 3 times in 3 classrooms? or more?!?), I have labeled numbered folders (on front of folder) prepared with ‘station work’ that students come get from the front table, take it and do the task, then come get another, and so on. If you make one set of these folders, you can add different activities throughout the year without having to recreate the ‘folder station’ each time.

    6. Give yourself a LOT of grace! A good attitude and a smile will take you far, even if it can’t be at the door greeting the students! I think traveling has made me a more organized and more sympathetic teacher. I certainly appreciate the plight of students: getting to class on time (hello, bathroom break with a cart?), remembering to have everything WITH me, regrouping my mind for the next class.

    Sorry this is so long! I so craved some guidance in this area and am happy to share my trials, travails and triumphs!

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  5. Laura,
    Actually with Google Classroom she can program it to post automatically whenever she wants. So if she has free time, which is rare, she can type a bunch at a time and set up the dates and times to post them for her. That way, she won’t have to worry about doing it be night before! All our special teachers work from carts since we are so small, so I commend Carla for taking on the challenge. Good luck!

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  6. Stacey,
    I’m not sorry! I’m grateful for your detailed advice. This is EXACTLY what I was hoping to find to help Carla and all the other holy-rollers out there. Nothing like the voice to experience to show us how it can be done. And FIVE YEARS? Good grief, Stacey. Your department should give you a medal! 🙂

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  7. Great, Heather! I like the push scheduling tip – the set-it-and-forget-it crockpot approach is how I build my class links/calendar, too. Thanks for commenting!

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  8. Looks like I should explore Google Classroom more, Meg! I LOVE the idea of setting it to release the bell-ringers, say, five minutes before class starts. Technology…what’ll they think of next! 🙂

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  9. Hey Laura,

    Great job on the post! I’m so happy you covered this issue and hope all of this advice will help others, too.

    So I just bought a couple of your lessons from TPT, and I’m reading over your essay grading system. The one thing I’m confused about is how you came up with the content grade. I get the check system, but how did you calculate the exact number out of 50? I may have missed something within your instructions, and I also HATE math and could be just totally giving in to my mental block, but could you explain how you came up with the number you did on the sample page? I think it was a 41.

    Thanks! Rachel

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  10. Hey Rachel,
    Thanks so much! I’m happy to help. First, let’s go back a step. As you know, the grammar and content grades are completely separate. In fact, I enter them as separate grades in the gradebook. Kids and parents know that each essay gets two grades – one for content and one for grammar. The grammar grade is easy, right? It’s just adding up the number of times a student committed one of the numbered grammar errors and then subtracting that number from the points possible. Simple math.

    That content grade, though, is a little trickier and is determined by where the checkmarks fall on the rubric. The content codes are just there to save me from having to write (and rewrite…and rewrite) the same sorts of content-issue comments over and over. Content codes don’t directly or mathematically translate to the content grade, as the grammar codes do. Instead, they are writing guidance for students. It’s really just where the checkmarks fall on the rubric that determines the overall content grade.

    So, for the example on pg. 9 of the ebook, the bulk of the checkmarks on that example fell into the “B” category. In my mind, I start there, giving the paper an 85 percent, a mid-B level grade. Then, I ratchet up or down a bit, depending on the value of the outliner checkmarks. In this case, flow, transitions, and MLA held more weight than a snappy title, so that slid the score down from 85 to 82 (41/50), a B- at my school. Some teachers prefer to make each of the checkmarks on the rubric worth a specific number of points, but I haven’t needed to go that route because (one) I share your aversion to numbers and (two) making each line worth a specific number of points would slow my grading flow as I’d have to pull out a calculator each time. If a student questions one my content checkmarks, I just show him or her an “A” level paper and all those questions magically go away. 🙂

    Hope this helps clarify things. This grading system, seriously, has saved my career. I just finished Year 18 going strong, mostly because of those little codes. Hope you find a way to make it work for you, too!
    Laura

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  11. Ugh, Carla… I feel you! Last year, I was a first year teacher who traveled between two schools– two schools, two rooms, overlapping bell schedules, and a lot of forgetting papers at the wrong school! Oops! The good news is, it supposedly gets better (at least that’s what they keep telling me).

    Bellringers were definitely a lifesaver! It established a consistent routine so that, even if I was running late, students knew what they had to do without me having to physically be present. Plus, if they had something to do immediately, it gave me a few minutes to collect myself and power up all the technology for the day! I love the idea of putting stuff on Google classroom (if possible!!), but chart paper/giant post-it notes are also a brilliant way to do this if you don’t have access to 1:1 technology!!! Simply create the bellringer the day before, write it on the paper, and ask whoever you share a classroom with if it’s okay to stick it up somewhere where your students will see it. Plus, it’s movable if it’s truly in the way at any point.

    The most valuable piece of advice I learned last year… No matter what, IT IS YOUR CLASSROOM, TOO. I’m the type of person who hates getting in peoples’ way, or to feel like I’m intruding. Don’t be afraid to make some of the space your own, and ask (and sometimes even respectfully TELL) your colleagues about how you will be setting things up. I was lucky enough to have reasonable and understanding colleagues, but at the end of the day, your shared classroom is exactly that… Shared!

    Good luck, girl! And definitely check out some of Laura’s bellringers… I swear she’s a genius!

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  12. Two SCHOOLS, Blair? Oh, I’d lose it, for sure. And definitely get a lot of speeding tickets. And high blood pressure. Bless you and the work you do/did to survive the year. (I’m hoping that you’re not straddling those two worlds again this year.) My favorite part of your advice is to make it clear that you’re setting up your classroom, too, in that shared space. It always baffles me when folks ask if they can borrow my room for an evening or weekend class. I mean, I don’t own the building, so do what you need to do, right? So yes, Carla, get in there and claim your territory – in the nicest, but firmest way, of course. 🙂

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  13. Thank you for this! I just found out no one in my new school has their own classroom, and have heard horror stories of post-party food messes and giant decorations from other subject areas… I’m still wrapping my brain around how to leave my room and track down a quiet spot to work, all without a laptop!

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  14. Now that is simply madness, Jess! I’ve heard that this is the model used in some overseas schools – the teens stay put and the teachers travel all day. Oy! I’m tired just thinking about it. One word of advice: Flats. Definitely wear flats. And hang in there!

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