TCHERS' VOICE / Class Culture

Should All Teachers Have Their Own Classroom?

Tch Laureate Team

I was frustrated.

I was angry.

I get it. I work in a Title I school with overcrowded classes where not every teacher is blessed to have their own room, especially new teachers. I was fortunate to have my own room for my first year of teaching. I already tasted what it was like to have my very own space, which is why it was that much harder to give it up. Year two I would roam.

It wasn't easy to hear the bad news from the principal, especially because it dropped at the beginning of the first week of school. It's moments like these when you feel unappreciated, devalued, and sometimes you want to quit. The thought of traveling to six different classrooms throughout the day made me feel defeated from the start. Six different rooms. That meant six different seating charts, six different classrooms to set up, six different offices, six different teachers to negotiate with, and the list goes on. As predicted, I had a miserable first week of school, but my despair ended quickly. After that first week, I realized that roaming as a second year teacher would be beneficial to my growth as a professional.

I want to encourage any new, roaming teachers who share my initial reservations to shift your perspective and look at this transient time as a valuable learning opportunity. Think of it as a year-long professional development course. At the end of my journey I had no regrets, but many rewards. I am confident the same will be true for you if you focus on the benefits.

Roaming Teachers Learn To Be Efficient

Roaming teachers will likely be given a "cart" to transport their belongings from classroom to classroom. However, I challenged myself to avoid the cart. It didn't seem reasonable for me to drag the cart to six different classrooms throughout the day. I had to think about efficiency. I carried only what I called "the essentials." Essentials I toted included worksheets, a flash drive, graphing calculators, and graded papers. I even bought a brand new briefcase to help me look professional and remain organized. During lessons that required multiple art supplies, I negotiated with other teachers. Teachers didn't mind that I borrowed their art supplies as long as I made sure they were returned properly and treated with care. By the end of the year, I carried nothing but my flash drive. Carrying unnecessary supplies can be exhausting -- so I avoided it at all costs. The whole experience made me intentional about asking myself, what do I need and what can I throw away or recycle?

Roaming Teachers Will Be Exposed To Different Styles Of Teaching

Going into different rooms has the potential to make a teacher feel disorganized. The desk arrangements and the set up are always different from room to room, but that's a good thing. You have an opportunity to feel what it's like to have different desk arrangements -- to experiment -- so that by the time you have your own classroom, you'll know exactly how you want your room to look and feel. You also have an opportunity to observe how teachers in different rooms utilize their space. How did they use their whiteboards? Where is their desk located? Where are all the supplies and how are they organized? Finally, roaming teachers have a unique opportunity to visit other teachers' rooms daily during their planning time. You'll spend some of this time working, but you can also plan strategically to leave time for peer observation. This time allowed me to be exposed to various teaching styles. In some ways, I was job shadowing. Afterwards, I often asked my colleagues questions about their lessons and strategies.

Roaming Teachers Will Make Time For Collaboration

Roaming teachers are not solitary creatures. They can't be. Not having a classroom means you're spending time in other teachers' rooms. During my planning period or on break, I always went to the room of one of my favorite colleagues to have lunch and share instructional strategies. Since I was a new teacher, this was a great opportunity to hear feedback from a mentor or more experienced teacher. Each day, we would collaborate on what to teach and how to teach it. But my favorite part was dreaming together. Much of our conversations were filled with laughter as we thought of the most creative ways to bring algebra to life. We were educational scientists -- hypothesizing, performing an experiment in our classrooms, reflecting on what worked and what didn't. The result? Academic success for all students, one of the best products of collaboration.

Whether you're roaming or have a classroom to call home, I hope your year is off to a great start!

Josh Kwon teaches math at Mariner High School in Everett, WA. He is affiliated with the Martinez Foundation, which provides support programs to teachers of color in underserved public schools. He’s devoting his time to finding innovative ways to teach math that will reach and engage diverse students. Connect with Josh on Twitter: @Jkwon0608.

3 Comments
Well, in Portugal(Europe) we don't use to give a classroom to any teacher. Students have their room, not teachers! I think it's a limitation but we deal with that the best we can. Nobody complains 'cos isnot usual.
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The comment below was supposed to start with "Josh's make lemonade out of lemons attitude is admirable" but I forgot those last to words before going on to the 'but let's face it' part.
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Josh's make lemonade out of lemons attitude, but let's face it -- one can develop coping mechanisms, but being a cart teacher (or a roaming teacher if you don't use a cart) places constraints on how you teach. Are you going to set up stations in 6 different classrooms? Are you going to arrive before the students do? What if you want to change your plan -- will you have the materials to do it? I appreciate Josh pointing out some of the benefits -- I love to visit other teachers' rooms and that is a benefit. On the other hand, I don't get to watch them teach, I cannot keep track of the students as I would like (with wall charts) and some of the teachers whose rooms I use are not helpful. Most are-- some exceedingly so--, but not all. And you mention the different seating arrangements -- some of my lessons require (or would greatly benefit from) a particular seating arrangement. If one class is shaped as a U, another has group seating, etc., then I'm up a creak without a paddle. At best, I lose time because I have my students arrange the seats my way and then put them back at the end of class, but more likely I will just limit my classes to lessons I can teach no matter how the seats are set up. What really bothers me about this is not Josh's article, but that admin people will read it and say, "See -- if he can do it, so can you," and ignore the negative effects it has on teaching. But if we are professionals, then we should be given the tools we need in order to do the best job we can. I bet you see very few admin observations that say, "Of course, that this teacher has to move from class to class creates obstacles that other teachers don't face and shouldn't have to." Instead, no allowances are made and teachers are told they are not 'efficient' enough. Josh, at the end, says this is a learning experience, but it is also denying teachers the tools they need to reach students.
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