No Desk? No Cart? No Problem!

Sep 21, 2012

stepsAfter last week’s post about teacher desks, a few of you wrote in to share your stories of not having a desk, or not even having a cart!

I feel your pain.

I spent a year teaching in three different outside trailers…there were  frequent afternoon torrential downpours… this definitely challenged my Togetherness on every possible level.

Whether it’s due to overcrowding, facilities issues, or last minute departmentalization decisions, Going Mobile can throw a wrench in the plans of even the most Together Teachers!

Sara B., in South Texas, has 12 years of teaching experience—many of which were mobile. Michelle K. is in her fourth year of teaching middle school math in San Jose, but in just her fourth WEEK of being mobile. One of her classes is even taught on the cafeteria stage —with stairs—making use of a cart impossible!  As you can imagine, these two ladies have many great tips to share.

1.     Be over-prepared. Michelle suggests, “Put handouts you will need for each class in the correct room in the morning before class starts. It is too easy to lose the handouts for next period in a stack of collected papers.” Instead of traditional hanging folders or file crates to store work for absent students who missed class, Michelle actually keeps a binder with 31 tabs to represent each day of the month and inserts each day’s classwork, assessments and homework. She leaves a copy of this binder in each classroom so students can help themselves to assignments they are missing. This binder is also helpful when she cannot use wall space to file missing work.

Michelle’s absence binder with 31 tabs for each day of the month.

2.     Divide space within classrooms. Michelle suggests discussing sharing existing space within classrooms: “Try and find a way to divide up wall space for anchor knowledge charts and student mastery charts. They are too big and bulky to carry around…Find a place to stash a necessities kit in each room. For me, this includes a class list, clipboard, timer, white boards, dry erase markers, tape, and binder clips.”

Michelle’s mobile supply box of must-haves! She leaves this in each classroom and even bought doubles of essentials, such as timers (needed constantly), whiteboards (too heavy), and binder clips.

 3.     Turn communal space into individual space. Sara discusses her “life saving” strategy (which also takes some diplomacy skills!): “Often the teacher’s lounge or workroom will have cabinets that are being used to hold nonessential things like coffee cups and bowls. I argued to my administrator that any teachers storing their cups and bowls there should use their classrooms to store their lunch items, and that those cabinets could be better utilized by the floating teachers. Each floating teacher was assigned a cabinet in which they could store their essential working supplies. This kept me from having to interrupt another teacher’s class during my planning period to get my stored supplies or having another teacher resent me for having to give up some of their storage space. Simple locks were installed on the cabinets, so I was also able to store my purse their safely during the day. At first I was met with resistance by some teachers who were upset at their coffee cups losing their spot, but they eventually came around when they realized that they could ’borrow’ my supplies during conference periods without having to return to their classrooms. 

A divided whiteboard shared amongst three high school teachers.

4.     Employ student helpers. Michelle notes, “Because I work in a school with stairs, having a cart is not very useful. However, my students are very helpful when I ask them to carry something for me and it beats awkwardly juggling my computer, water bottle, writing utensil, clip board, and hand outs!” 

5.     Close the day strong. Michelle advises, “At the end of each day, do a quick sweep of each room to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind and have packed everything up that you need at home. Sometimes I only have two minutes between classes, so I will leave a stack of unorganized papers on a desk or bookcase that I need to organize later in the day. I definitely feel less stress if I take care of this in the afternoon instead of walking into my own mess the next morning.”

Thank you to Sara and Melissa for sharing your experiences with us!

Together Teacher Sharing Question: If you are cartless and/or deskless, what survival strategies have you employed?