Being a supply, cover or peripatetic teacher can be great fun, seeing different children in different classrooms in different schools. The main downsides can be frustrating though … with things which many take for granted not helping these ‘floating teachers’. In this extract from the October 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine, Lubjana Matin-Scammell shares some of these frustrations and suggests how teachers can work together to help smooth the issues…
I dreamt of inspirational quotes of the day on the classroom door, a gallery of my students’ best work on the wall, a hanging globe to show my young scholars places around the world amidst the various interchangeable desk layouts; a horse shoe so that each student faced me or individual desks during assessment time. Inspiring my students with the feng shui of my classroom. Instead, I soon got the reputation as the teacher with no room or also known as in the profession as a ‘floater’ or nomadic teacher.
If you have lessons in different classrooms across the whole school, speak to your designated health and safety officer. I was always carrying several bags at once and too often this consisted of whole class sets of exercise and text books. I could feel the early signs of strain on my shoulders. It’s a matter which all employers take seriously. The officer gave me the heads up to buy a suitable bag on wheels.
Think of Mary Poppins’ bag. Your teaching bag becomes your classroom. I keep all the essential teaching items I need with me, including a few spare exercise books, loose leaf paper, board pens, a board wiper, stapler, etc. Use those exam friendly pencil cases to store scissors and glue so that you can easily see the items. So that your bag doesn’t get too heavy, empty your bag between lessons and replenish essential items. Use large canvas bags to store dictionaries and thesauruses. I also keep spare canvas bags with me for collecting exercise books and send a few students to take them to my office.
A lot of valuable lesson time can be wasted moving and setting up between classrooms. When students are lining up outside the classroom and waiting for the previous class to vacate make sure they have their exercise books and equipment ready. I try and prepare a small paper activity ready as a pre-starter which I hand to each student as they walk into the classroom. This gives them something to begin whilst I write the date on the board and login to the computer.
If you have to manage with several different rooms with one class, ditch the seating plan. I spent the first few years cross referring between my seating plan and the class. With a class of 28 students and in a different teaching room, it is not worth the time and investment. Instead plan around the days when you know students need a seating plan. I select two lessons which are usually in the afternoon when students have a low attention span and they know that is when they must sit in their designated seat. It is less complicated to move individual students when they are being defiant than to waste time checking your plan.
Find small spaces to keep things temporarily. The main school reception is a where I keep items like a bag of novels which can be easily collected and returned by some students. I bring them down at the start of the day as I might not get the chance to return to the department office. If you can, try and find a place or a classroom where you can have a small cupboard; this is the perfect base to keep items.
Paper is the bane of every teacher’s life and can be incredibly frustrating if you don’t have a base. You might only teach one subject, but there are various pupils’ books, pastoral and departmental information you may have to lug around with you. In a fast paced environment like a school you need things at your fingertips. Organise your desk area so that it is easy to find documents. Use magazine files and in and out trays so that everything has a home.
Sharing the room with another teacher can bring difficulties. Teachers can be possessive over classrooms and attach belief that it is ‘their’ room. It is important to maintain …
Lubjana Matin-Scammell is an English teacher in South London. This is her 8th year in teaching and continues to be a nomadic teacher. Find her of Twitter at @ObieMatin