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.