My first year as a teacher I was given that devastating news: I was going to be a floating teacher. For those not aware, floating is where a school hires a teacher but does not have a classroom available for them. So the teacher must float through other teachers’ classroom during their prep time.
For me, this meant three uncomfortable conversations with my colleagues about how I would be invading their space, and then panicking about how I would survive the year. A sample of thoughts that ran across my mind include
- How will classroom management work?
- How do I integrate technology?
- How do I arrange desks?
- How do I cope?
- How do I stay organized?
- How do I stay communicate with my host classroom teacher?
The first few weeks knowing I wouldn’t have a classroom resulted in crying and panicking. Teaching is already hard enough, but throw in not having a classroom? That’s certifiably crazy.
Most of my anxiety was derived from the fact that my teacher preparation program crafted most of my training around the idea of having a physical classroom; from how I would arrange desks, to how I would decorate walls to reinforce classroom mananagement rules, and finally to how I would accept assignments from students. Everything I had learned hinged on having a physical classroom.
I thought I wouldn’t survive.
So needless to say, the world ended when I was told I wouldn’t have a classroom. In my dramatic mind, I even considered quitting the job before I had ever began.
I honestly think that my experience was compounded by the fact that my school did not have a system for floating teachers, and refused to make one on the idea that it was a temporary situation. But what most schools get wrong is that whether or not the situation is temporary, teachers still have to cope with it for the school year.
But I figured it out eventually.
I learned overall:
- To keep organized
- Keep prepared
- Keep my sense of humor
And everything went as smoothly as possible for my first year teaching.
Keeping organized proved to be the deal breaker. I have struggled my whole life with being organized, but keeping organized for floating was life or death. Either I had my attendance sheets, or they were crumpled at the bottom of my backpack. Either I had my handouts for the day’s lesson, or I didn’t.
Keep as many things digital.
The best thing that worked for me in terms of being organized is keeping as many things as possible digital, including attendance, handouts, and PowerPoints, and making use of Google Classroom as a way of having students turn in work and disseminating work to students. I learned to run around wearing a backpack as my classroom, instead of those hideous carts everyone seemed to love.
This goes hand in hand with being prepared. I was terrified of being caught unprepared. For three separate fire drill procedures, I went out and bought a small recyclable bag for each classroom, with clipboards and attendance sheets, so that I would be prepared in case of emergencies.
Keep your sense of humor.
And lastly, and most importantly, I learned to keep my sense of humor. I learned to joke with my students and the fact that I didn’t have a physical classroom. I chose to use my situation as a teaching moment and show students that even dream jobs may not be ideal. And I learned to shake off when I would forget something and improvise.
Overall, I think a year of floating benefitted me. And if you get the same news this year, I have no doubt you’ll succeed.