Teachers on the move
Nov 13, 2012 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Every day, Morgan Robinson, chemistry teacher at Permian High, pushes all of his assignments, graded papers and supplies from class to class.
Robinson is one of a few teachers at Permian known as a floating teacher. Floating teachers, like Robinson, don't have a permanent classroom or desk but move in and out of other classrooms where teachers have an off period during that time.
"I don't have the luxury of having my own classroom," Robinson said.
Instead Robinson has a cart that he stores in other teachers' classrooms and pushes around during his three chemistry classes. His cart contains several folders with all of the class material, makeup assignments, calculators and a class set of chemistry textbooks. He even has all of his class rules, policies and procedures laminated and taped around the cart.
"It's pretty much all right here," Robinson said, pointing to the cart and calling himself "a mobile Staples."
Robinson said he was a floating teacher last year and really doesn't mind being a floating teacher again this year. With his coaching duties as an offensive lineman football coach, Robinson said he teaches three periods so it makes sense that he should be the one to float. And being a coach, Robinson said he has a computer and desk in the coaches office where he can grade papers and put them in the computer if he needs to.
During a class on Monday, Robinson instructed a class of students to cut out questions and glue them into their interactive notebooks. Robinson quickly pulled the materials out his cart and put them away after.
"I've learned to be organized with each of my classes," Robinson said.
Teaching out of a cart can be a challenge at first, Robinson said, but after there's a system in place, it's not bad at all. Robinson said he learned to carry a backpack for items he needs to take home. Robinson said he has everything he needs in all of the classrooms he floats into.
"I try to make a point to leave every classroom the way I found it," Robinson said.
Shelley Van Dusen, a physics teacher at Permian whose classroom is used by Robinson during a period, said she uses the time when he's in her class to make copies, gather materials or grade papers in the science storage area. Van Dusen said floating has the disadvantage of not having a permanent classroom, but there are also advantages.
"You don't have to keep up with your classroom, because it has to move from room to room," Van Dusen said.
For the past several months, Van Dusen said she has gotten used to having her classroom occupied during her conference period and has not minded.
The only times when floating can be a bit of a challenge, Robinson said, is during a lab week. Robinson said he has to push a separate cart with all of the materials needed for a lab, but he said the other science teachers have been really helpful with getting his cart ready for him. When the class does have a lab, Robinson said he knows he has to be quick with getting all of the supplies up and down quickly.
"You've to completely set it up and take it down (during on period)," Robinson said.
The other science teachers at Permian, Robinson said, have been really great with making sure he has what he needs for his classes. He really does not mind floating at all.
"There are little things I have to do, but it's not hard," Robinson said. "I've got a pretty good system."
And at the end of the class period, as students shuffled their papers into their backpacks, Robinson followed a similar routine system of packing up all of his cart and backpack to move to the next nearby classroom.
"I usually try to give them a couple of minutes to pack up, not only for their benefit but for mine as well," Robinson said.
But all and all, Robinson said he doesn't mind floating at all.
"It's really not as bad as people think," Robinson said. "I just have to keep up with my cart."
Roy Garcia, principal at Permian, said when deciding which teachers float, they try to select teachers with fewer classes, and most of their six floating teachers this year are coaches. Garcia said they also try to position the classes so the teachers don't have to move around too much.
"We're trying to keep them in the same area," Garcia said.
And floating classes are not unique to Permian. Not only are they used in a number of schools in cities across the country, but also a few are used at Odessa High.
Karen Wilson, science department head at Odessa High, said their science teacher who floated recently left so she has been filling in for the time being. Wilson said floating can be very difficult for the teacher and for the students because they might not know where to find the teacher during an off period.
"You have to make sure you have everything you need when you float," Wilson said.
Gregory Nelson, principal at Odessa High, said at Odessa High they only have a few teachers that float and none of the teachers that he knows of are using carts. Nelson said some of the teachers just leave space for the teachers to leave their supplies.
And even with the passage of the bond and additions coming to both high schools, neither principal could say that the need for floating teachers would be eliminated because it's not efficient to use an entire classroom for a teacher who only has a few classrooms.
"It's just natural for high schools to have floaters," Nelson said.
Contact Caylor Ballinger on twitter @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Caylor Ballinger, or call 432-333-7781.
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