Are you an instructor with no space of your own? Stuck floating from room to room, finding an available corner to offer your support services from? If you’re finding it difficult to function on the fly, here are several teaching tools to get you on the right professional track.
TEACHING TOOLS ON WHEELS
Wheeled Metro Shelves
While I’ve previously touted the benefits of using metro shelving in the classroom, the taller five-shelf variety likely won’t be suitable for moving between classrooms. However, both Lowe’s and Sam’s here in the United States sell waist-high sets of metro shelves suitable for adding heavy-duty castor wheels. This shelving, at least at Lowe’s, has available add-ons such as extra individual shelves and attachable sliding drawers, enabling you to seriously “pimp” your rolling resource cart. Use s-hooks to hang difficult-to-stack items via handles or drawstring mesh bags. Your rolling classroom can be stocked at the dollar store for very little money. Use a tackle box for small supplies.
Stair-Friendly City Carts
Let’s face it. You can’t always count on a school that schedules all of your classes on the same floor. You could have several flights of stairs to climb with no elevator, or be assigned to outdoor portable classrooms which may not have a ramp. These urban grocery carts designed for apartment dwellers with stairs would come in handy for teachers in such situations.
Not only are these great for weekend business trips, they are well-suited to meet the needs of the roaming educator. Granted, it probably won’t work for a floating music, science or art teacher. However, high school math or history teachers or those operating their own mobile essay service such as Writing-Expert.com, for example, should be able to use a rolling briefcase and get by just fine.
Lockable Storage Carts
These are particularly useful if you don’t have a secure closet to lock your things in every night, or need to leave your files and test copies in a room full of high school students while you grab your lunch break. You can keep a tight lid on your sensitive documents while maintaining mobility and organization. Two of note include this lime green metal push cart and this lockable rolling cart with a fold-out computer stand.
Personal Luggage Carts
For those dealing with multiple school locations, consider a few clear totes with snap-on lids and a sturdy folding luggage cart. You can easily transport your supplies between locations in the trunk of your car and assemble your rolling classroom on the fly when you arrive.
It’s way less money for a rolling tool cabinet on ‘roids than it is for one of those locking specialty teaching cabinets I’ve seen priced at over three thousand dollars. Try the stackable, multi-drawer variety with different sizes of storage space, similar to the styles professional mechanics use. Use inexpensive rubberized shelf liner on the bottom of the draws to store eye droppers and petri dishes safely if you are a science teacher. Art teachers could use a similar strategy for brushes and paint sets. Stanley also used to make a tiltable, wheeled two-drawer cart with detachable top tool box. This, along with a tote bag, could make a decent floating classroom for a social studies teacher.
Rolling Cart of Opportunity
This is basically the bare bones solution of grabbing whatever extra media cart is left over in the supply closet and snagging extra containers from the thrift store. It might not be the most aesthetic solution, but it will get the job done and you can fine tune it as you go.
LOGISTICAL TEACHING TOOLS
Digital Storage Solutions
In addition to your laptop and thumb drive, consider Google Docs or cloud storage to keep your data safe and mobile. Monthly curriculum subscriptions are another way to keep your hard copies of lesson plans and unit themes to a minimum, keeping you as portable and flexible as possible.
If your school doesn’t have it, perhaps your PTA can assist you with purchasing mobile WiFi service from one of the cell phone companies that currently offers it. Being able to get online at each classroom, and on your free planning periods will be critical to staying up to date and organized.
Electrical Plug Adapter
Hit your local box hardware store and pick one up. They are great for turning one outlet into several if your host teacher has most of the electrical resources in use. The cost is minimal and they also come in handy for the same reason at airports. (Here’s a related article on just such travel items you can buy at the hardware store.)
These cost way less money than the “cubbies” of the same size in the teacher supply catalog. Save your classroom supply budget for something jazzier and pinch pennies on storage tubs by picking up the dish washing variety at dollar or department stores.
These help your documents stay put with a securable top and have enough space to handle assignments from multiple sets of students. Accordion files can also fit easily into a lockable rolling cabinet or the trunk of your vehicle.
Retractable Extension Cord
Even with an adapter, the nearest voltage access may be in a very inconvenient corner of the room. Having a retractable extension cord will keep you prepared without having to untangle a long cord with every classroom relocation. This retractable cord by Coleman even has three outlets on the receiving end.
If the best you are able to finagle from the supply closet is a basic hand-me-down extension cord with no extra outlets, then you will definitely need a power strip. Here’s one by Belkin that should serve to keep your laptop running, Blackberry charging and have extra slots left over for perhaps a decadent electrical pencil sharpener. (Live large people, live large.)
As a teacher in the Middle East, having a classroom bomb bag was mandatory for me . As a floating teacher, you never know when a fire drill or other evacuation will be launched unexpectedly . Having an evacuation tote with your grade book, parent contact information and room for your laptop, smart phone and other essentials is just a smart idea. Even smarter? Have one of these “grab and go” bags as part of your standard set up, be it a messenger bag or shoulder tote. This way, the routine is streamlined into your daily system and nothing is likely to be forgotten.
There you have it, readers. Teaching tools for educators on the move, as thoroughly as I can explain the concept. Are you the “floater” at your school? If so, how do you handle the logistics, politics and day-to-day issues? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links for products I feel provide solutions to the issues addressed in this article.
Photo Credits: Photo of children by Trek Hound. Product photos courtesy of Amazon.com.