American Association of Blind Teachers

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Carla Hayes

If we lived in an ideal world, every teacher would have his own classroom which could be arranged, organized and decorated to fit his needs. The reality is that many schools have limited space and there simply aren't enough classrooms to go around. Teachers must often share classrooms, or worse yet, travel from room to room. For a blind teacher, this can be especially challenging because it makes it more difficult to keep work space and teaching supplies organized. However, with a little planning, a teacher can work effectively under these not so ideal circumstances.

If you must share a room with another teacher, the keys to success will be communication and compromise. First, the two of you will need to discuss your teaching styles, needs and how you will handle such things as bulletin boards, decorations, use of chalkboards, tidying the classroom, arranging supplies and furniture.

Second, if your needs are different, you may need to compromise from time to time. Sharing a desk means you must agree how the drawers will be divided. Drawer space can be optimized if you agree to share such things as paper, push pins and thumbtacks, a stapler and staples, paperclips and other supplies. These can be kept in a place freely accessible to both of you. The remaining drawers can then be divided between you. If you share supplies, it is important that you both agree to always keep them in the same place so that you will not waste time looking for them. Each of you should always take the responsibility of replenishing supplies as necessary. It is also best not to store things on the desk. Plants and books take up work space and can easily be knocked off by accident. Before leaving, each teacher should put away his/her books, papers and teaching aids. This way, both teachers can use the surface of the desk while teaching. Doing this will also make it less likely that things will be lost or that one teacher make take something that belongs to the other teacher.

How you arrange the furniture is also an important factor when sharing a classroom. If you both have the same teaching style and use similar lesson activities, you will agree on a furniture arrangement easily. With different needs, you may have to rearrange the furniture for your class, but be sure to move it back before the other teacher arrives. If there is not enough time to rearrange the furniture, a compromise arrangement which will work for both of you is in order. In short, even though sharing a classroom is not what most teachers would choose, almost any problem can be worked out.

Even more difficult than sharing a classroom is not having a room at all. Moving from room to room is a challenge, but with planning, it can be handled. First, you will need your own place to work and store supplies. Ask for your own teacher's desk, preferably one with locking drawers. Even if your desk must be in the corner of the library, teacher's lounge or office, it will give you a place to work and regroup between classes. Another reasonable request is for a cupboard to store additional equipment and supplies.

Second, become familiar with each of the classrooms you must visit in advance. Take careful note of things like furniture arrangement and location of chalkboards, electrical outlets and light switches.

Third, learn the layout of the building and the most efficient way to get from one room to another. It is best to do this while students are not in the hall. Finding your way from one room to another for the first time in halls crowded with students is almost impossible. Also, take the time to orient yourself to the nearest fire exit, restroom and water fountain for each room.

Finally, decide how you will move your teaching supplies from room to room. If all your classes are on one floor or if your school has an elevator, you may want to request a utility cart. Using a cart has several advantages. You can wheel everything you will need from room to room. This will eliminate the need for a heavy tote bag and make it much easier to transport things like books, notebooks, and other equipment. The cart will also give you instant work space in every classroom. You won't have to share this space; it can be your desk on wheels. You can spread your things out on it and you won't have to gather things up before moving on.

If you cannot have a cart, you will need to arrange for things like overhead projectors and table space in each classroom in advance. Use a tote bag with shoulder straps or a backpack to transport books from room to room. This way, both hands will be free to open doors, grab a railing, wield your cane and carry additional items. Occasionally, you may want to ask a student to help you carry things to the next class. Not only will this make it easier for you to transport things, but it will also make that student feel important. In addition, it will give you an opportunity to talk to students outside of class, and you will get to know them better.

In short, being a traveling teacher requires planning and versatility. By trial and error and using common sense, you will find methods which will work for you in your own situation. Believe it or not, there are advantages to not having your own classroom. You don't have to decorate bulletin boards or keep the room neat and clean.

Whether sharing a classroom or teaching in several classrooms, you will face many challenges and discover techniques which will enable you to do your job better. You will learn to be even more organized, and you will grow as a teacher.

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