If you are an elementary music teacher, there is a strong possibility that you have been a traveling teacher at some point in your career. I am currently on my second round of being split between two buildings. It comes with a unique set of challenges, some of them obvious, some of them not so much, but whether your situation is temporary or more permanent than you would like, here are a few things I've learned while navigating the wonderful world of traveling.
Tip #1 - Even though you don't have your own walls to decorate, make deliberate plans about the space you are going to use.
As shallow as it may seem, for me, one of the hardest parts at the start of the year was not having all of those "new crayon" experiences a lot of my colleagues had. I didn't get to pick a theme for my room, or decide how I wanted to change my physical classroom around to maximize student learning.
What I did do, however, was problem solve how I was going to organize my resources and make the most of the space I do have. Although I am very much sharing spaces at each campus I teach at, I quickly figured out how to make the best learning environment happen at every location. This means coming early to move tables out of the way so students can move, and putting tape on the gym floor so my kindergarteners still have a set seating chart and routine when they enter whichever classroom is the music room for the day. Although it takes a little bit of planning on my part, I know exactly how each room is going to be set up each day, what activities I can plan for, and have communicated with the staff members I share space with.
Tip #2 - Create a "Portable Classroom"
Going along with #1, it is so tricky to have all of your resources organized when you are going back and forth between buildings. Particularly, if you teach a lot of the same grade level at all campuses (three cheers for 10 sections of kindergarten!) it's hard to remember where this book or that manipulative is.
I keep a lot of things at home, but for keeping all my resources in one spot, I use this flat bottom thirty-one tote. It holds all of my seating charts, plans for the week, any manipulatives I'm using for the week, hand sanitizer, pens, pencils, and a whole bunch of stuff.
Tip #3 - Go Digital
If the technology is available in whatever spaces you're teaching in, I highly recommend putting your lessons in a powerpoint presentation. This not only limits the amount of "stuff" you have to carry, but your lessons will flow better and you can have everything prepped the moment you stick in a thumb drive.
When I started putting as much of my lessons as possible into digital files, it made my life so much easier! It's a slow process, but I'm hoping to get as much and as many of them as I can into digital format.
Tip #4 - Find Somewhere that is YOUR space.
When you are serving more than one campus, it's really easy to feel like you don't belong anywhere. Find somewhere (and ask you administrators) where you can take some time to check email, go over plans, and generally have a moment to yourself. If you are sharing office space, but still need a quiet moment or two, let your teaching partner know you need to power through some emails and put your earbuds in for 20 minutes.
In the middle of the day when you have been totally "on" with 3 hours of classes (without a break), it's really important to take a moment for yourself. Sometimes for me, that's driving between schools with the radio off. That fifteen minute sensory break usually gives me the peace of mind to conquer whatever comes my way in the afternoon.
Tip #5 - Develop Positive Relationships with Colleagues
Even if you don't have a designated "home school," take some time to develop relationships with coworkers as much as possible. The relationships you build with others in your building will help you get through all of the challenges that come with being a traveling specialist. Be sure that in getting to know others, you focus on positive things rather than the frustrations you are feeling in your current situation. Remember that positive attitudes are contagious!