What I have learned from a year as a roaming teacher

After years of having her own classroom, one English teacher shares her experience of becoming a 'roaming teacher', and moving from room to room

Katie White

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For the first six years of my teaching career, the majority of my behaviour management strategies were reliant on having my own classroom. My room was my domain, my storage area, my evening marking space and early-morning lesson-planning area. Students entering that room would have made no mistake about who was the boss.

But for the last year, I have been working as a roaming teacher. I have had not one room, but eight. The cupboard that used to contain everything that you could ever imagine needing has been replaced by a backpack that I haul around the school with me. At first, it felt overwhelming, but I am finally getting the hang of it.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past year.

1. Time

There will be times when even finishing a bit earlier with your previous class won’t be enough to stop you being late. Unless you have the power of time travel, you have two options: a) train your class to queue up outside and wait for you or b) train your class to enter the classroom and read last lesson’s notes while waiting for you. Both require rigorous practice.

2. Gear

If you are about to become a roaming teacher, invest in decent, waterproof shoes and a light-weight rain coat so that, if you have to cross sites, you stand a better chance of arriving slightly less soggy. On a similar note, a decent backpack to lug around all your resources is a must. I organise each classes’ resources into a different coloured folder so that they are easier to find.

3. Technology

PowerPoint is the main tool I use for teaching. However, you will quickly discover that every room is set up differently; the power cables are always hidden and the computers always take a bit too long to turn on. To combat the time wasted with all the IT faffing, I have finally realised that the best thing to buy time is to make every starter the same: read last lesson’s notes. This allows me a few precious minutes to get organised and also settles the class. I then either quiz a few students on what they have just read or get them to quiz each other.

4. Seating plans

Just as technology can be irritatingly variable, so can desk arrangements. I made a cut-throat decision at the start of the year that I would not create a different seating plan for each class/classroom combination. Instead, I made each class one seating plan and, in each new space that we encountered I spent a few minutes ensuring that the students were sat as far as possible with the same people, in the same place in the room.

5. Corridor wars

One of the initial problems moving all the time, was that I was constantly encountering students between lessons. I do not have time to deal with behaviour issues between every lesson, but also do not want to be seen to be ignoring anything either. I have settled with a happy median. One, highly visible, “tuck in that shirt” reprimand and one “watch your language please” chastisement is all I do before putting my head down and getting to my next location. You will need to choose your battles in order to retain your teacher presence, without wasting actual teaching time.

Katie White is a secondary English teacher in Devon

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