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Take these five tips for success if you join the rolling suitcase brigade. For me, the decision was easy.Even my traditionalist mentor teacher told me not to hesitate to leave one big Spanish classroom for a traveling job. A job that allows me to move among three rooms in two schools and share my t

Sep 07, 2018

Take these five tips for success if you join the rolling suitcase brigade.


For me, the decision was easy.

Even my traditionalist mentor teacher told me not to hesitate to leave one big Spanish classroom for a traveling job. A job that allows me to move among three rooms in two schools and share my time with middle schoolers from a variety of backgrounds.

My mentor knew my least favorite parts of the job were decorating walls, cleaning up at the end of the day, and worrying about things like broken desks and chairs. She knew my favorite parts included individualizing lessons for students with varying levels of Spanish ability and using technology like Google Classroom in my lessons.

In short, being a traveling — or itinerant — teacher was the perfect job for me.

I joined what I like to call K-12 education’s rolling suitcase brigade a little more than a year ago. Itinerants typically teach special education, music, art, world languages, and other specialty subjects on two or more campuses.

My job allows me to divide my time between two K-8 schools. One is a Title 1 school with so many heritage Spanish speakers that only about 30 middle schoolers enroll in the subject. The other is a magnet school that requires all sixth graders to take beginning Spanish, then encourages seventh and eighth graders to take the equivalent of high school Spanish 1-2 and earn an early high school credit.

Does this type of routine sound interesting to you? If so, here are my tips for beginning life as a traveling teacher.

  1. Do some self evaluation.


Do you feel the need to stake out territory and decorate a classroom? No? Are you organized enough to put everything you need for your classes on the cloud and just carry a few materials from school to school in a rolling suitcase? Yes? If so, you can be happy with this type of work.

  1. Prepare to be very extroverted.


Teachers, these days, see many colleagues come and go. They won’t necessarily reach out to you if they think you are just there temporarily. But it’s important to have connections at all of your schools. After all, who will help you when the copier breaks or when you need to find the stash of reward tickets? Therefore, participate in Secret Santa gift exchanges and happy hours, get to as many staff meetings as you can, and have lunch in the lounge with other teachers.

  1. Be a good (class)roommate.


Think about it from the perspective of the teacher whose classroom you are sharing. They had planned to have their room free for grading and lesson planning, but instead you are there taking up space and making distracting teaching noises. Be very polite and respectful to this teacher — who is making it possible for you to be there to teach your class. If you move things, put them back where they belong. Try not to borrow anything, but if you must, bring a brand new replacement as a gesture of good will. Thank you notes and Starbucks gift cards also go a long way.

  1. Get T-shirts for all of the schools where you teach.


Trust me, the kids are watching you. When you wear another school’s T-shirt they will wonder about your loyalty, be sure to rotate your logos. Never show unintentional favoritism.

  1. Follow the reward and discipline policies of each school.


Districts will have overall rules, but as an itinerant, you will find that the way discipline is enforced varies from campus to campus. Know the policies as well as you know the subject you teach. And, of course, make sure you have a good supply of reward tickets and consequence forms for each school!

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