A la Carte?

My first few years teaching I had a grand-sized classroom, I even had my very own prep room. I had an endless amount of drawers, all of which were mine, all mine (and how I took them for granted).  I had shelves, I had cabinets, I even had a large cabinet with my very own coat rack! I almost had too much room!

Then, I moved 90 miles away, I was hired at a new school about 2 days before school began, and I showed up the next day to set up my classroom, and hit a brick wall.

A cart????

Ya know that saying, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?

I’ve been on  a cart for 2 years, and this will be my 3rd. I guess you could say in some ways I’m a slow learner. I am a very go-with-the-flow person, and *gasp* I don’t always plan ahead. I think because I had no idea what it would be like living on a cart going from room to room, because I could not imagine such a thing, I could not plan for it. The first year you would have thought it was my first year teaching! I’d show up to one classroom having left papers in the last classroom I was in. The kids could pick up on my disorganized disarray, and it was not for the better.  That is a major NO-NO. If you’re on a cart you have to think of it this way- you’re a guest in another person’s classroom. When leaving the classroom, you want it to look just how it did as when you first entered it. To take the ten seconds of your time to look around the room before you leave to make sure you have everything that is yours is not only courteous, but more importantly, it helps you to stay organized! The most important thing is to make sure you make a conscientious effort to leave everything on the cart. You do not have the time or mental capacity for frustration when realizing you left paperwork in the previous classroom and you have to go get it yourself, or most likely ask a student to do it for you.

You have to think of the cart like a mini classroom. Draw out the plans if you have to as if you were designing a room.  Your best friend? Paper organizers! I had a stacked paper organizer that I labeled in descending order “Period 1, Period 2” so on and so forth. This was for papers that were corrected and had to be passed back. Next to that I had a vertical organizer which I kept folders in, again labeled Period 1, Period 2, etc.  I noticed that clipboards with attendance sheets work just as well as the paper folders, depending on your budget. Behind the attendance/grading sheet would go any collected papers, and use the sheet to write down their grades. Again, once the grades were in, I’d move them to the stacked organizer. I also had a simple plastic container which contained overhead markers, pens, pencils, chalk, whiteboard markers, etc. And,  a final vertical paper organizer for the worksheets, labs, etc. that we would be doing for that day. Every couple of days I would remove the old papers, but you don’t want to do that right away in case of absences- so that particular vertical organizer should have at least 8 slots! On the bottom of my cart I had yet another paper organizer. This had white lined paper, computer paper, blank tables of contents, course syllabuses, etc. I found that this set-up was most effective, and really, it had everything you needed, you just had to keep on top of it.

The absolute worst thing about not having your very own classroom is that you miss out on all that multi-tasking time-management opportunities. When there was downtime, say if the kids were testing or doing some bookwork, I would always use this to tidy up my desk, organize papers, grade, etc. When you’re on a cart, you don’t have your own classroom to be able to do that in. Sure, you can spend any down time organizing your cart but you can only do that up to a certain point. I would often find myself disappointed because if I didn’t think to bring papers to grade with me. This usually ends up in spending more time after-school that you need for yourself, and takes away from after-school time that the kids need, or of course, you end up staying longer hours.

I welcome any further tips you have. I personally don’t think any teacher should be on a cart, but times are tough, and unfortunately not enough money is invested in education. Teachers are seemingly becoming a politician’s worst nightmare (which I find asinine considering I’ve seen ZERO politicians in my school observing, nor have any of them ever been teachers themselves- if that were the case I’m sure there would be some fresh, more accurate perspectives), and we end up crammed in schools busting at the seams where there is just not enough room. Perhaps some of you look at it in a more optimistic way, which I would also welcome you to share.