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Surviving the Cart

September 6, 2013

I have been meaning to write up this post for almost a month, after a former student teacher of mine contacted me looking for some advice.  I am about to start my thirteenth year of teaching. Where did the time go?!??!  In that time I have taught in numerous settings: my own classroom, on the stage in the auditorium, and “art on a cart.”  All have had their challenges, but none so much as being itinerate.

Being on a cart poses challenges that are unique, but certainly manageable. You need to be able to teach your curriculum, sing, dance, work in groups, and all of this must occur in someone else’s space. It is a balancing act between respecting the space of your colleagues and providing a well-rounded music program.

After a few years of walking this balancing act I have identified a few things that can make the experience a bit easier.

 

1) A good cart. Seriously, there are few things that will make this situation smoother. I used a basic two level cart one year, which was good for carting xylophones. The second year I was able to get a super fancy cart with storage tubs and a built in dry erase board.  ( http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/regal-reading-writing-center/p/303987/ )  It was like a mini classroom on wheels.  I assigned a grade level to each tub, storing the materials I needed for the week. The dry erase board saved me from having to take time at the beginning of each class to write up rhythm patterns or journal questions.

2) Chart paper.  All of my anchor charts and lyric charts were written on my spiral bound pad of chart paper.  They tend to have two holes punched in the top and the cart had a few hooks on which to hang them.  You could even use a page to create a mini word wall!

3) Your own space.  If you are on a cart you, obviously don’t have a classroom. It is very important, though, that you have some sort of space to call your own.  If your principal has not provided you a desk and some storage somewhere you might want to raise a stink. If this “courtesy” would be afforded to a reading specialist, then it should be given to the music specialist. My space was located in the wings of the stage one year. Another year there was a music room that was shared by four music teachers.  Our desks were all lined up against the wall. Since I only taught two periods a week in the room I was essentially itinerate. Last year my desk and shelves were in one corner of the Art teacher’s classroom. He felt horrible that I didn’t have a room, and grateful that he wasn’t on a cart, therefore he was super great about me encroaching on his space.

By providing you a space, your principal is showing the value of what you do.  It allows you to prepare in relative peace. You have the ability to keep your stuff organized, and you know how we music teachers collect “stuff.” Trust me, there is nothing worse than feeling like you have no where to go or feeling unwelcome in your own building. It is bad for morale.

4) Collaborate!  Talk to the classroom teachers. What behavior plan are they using with their students?  Is there one that is consistent school-wide? If so, you are very lucky.  More likely each teacher will have their own gimmick. Marbles. Points. Tickets. Clip chart.  There are hundreds of permutations. The trick is consistency. Find out if the classroom teacher will let you piggyback onto what they are doing. If the kids know that behavioral expectations are consistent across all of their classes, and that you are in communication with their classroom teacher, they are more likely to transition smoothly into and out of your class time.

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5) Stereo.  Find out if the classroom teachers have stereos in their rooms. Most likely they would be small boom boxes. So long as you can play CDs or plug in your iPod/iPhone/iPad, you are golden. Just have your listening examples prepped ahead of time.  If the classrooms are not outfitted with audio equipment make sure you have some sort of portable music player.  I have a great iPod dock at home that has an internal rechargeable battery. It sounds great and the charge lasts quite a long time.  It is nice and small, so is easy to move around AND fits easily on a cart.  Heck, it fits in one of the storage tubs with room to spare, which is great when your lesson pans require few materials and you don’t want to push around the cart.

6) Chocolate. The good stuff. OK, I jest. Well, sort of.  Make sure you have a stash of something in your desk for those days that get rough.  What gives you a boost? My shelves contained chocolate and Dr. Pepper. (Horribleon your voice, I know!) Stash away some trail mix or jelly beans or pudding cups or Cheetos. Whatever.  But trust me, it is best to be prepared.  Just in case.Unknown

7) Plan, plan, plan. This is even more important than when you have your own classroom.  Make a plan, then make a contingency plan. You were going to have the students work at their tables to complete a written assignment? Oh wait, all of the science fair projects are set up on said tables for viewing. No problem! You have slates or clip boards on which they can write, or a game you can do at the rug, or manipulatives that the students can use in pairs on the floor. Remember, it is the other teacher’s classroom. They aren’t going to be thinking, “What does Ms. Music need today?”

 

There are so many more things that could be listed, but I think this is a great starting point. I hope it helps!  For you veteran cart teachers, what could you add to this list?

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4 comments

  1. Great ideas Shannon! I’m impressed. I would love to see you in action someday. I bet you could have done amazing things with my students.


    • Aw, thanks, Mindy! The feeling is mutual. I am in awe of my SpEd friends who make it look so easy. I know just how difficult it can be.


  2. How long were you on a cart? I’ve noticed that I need my own space (desk and office) but as for my teaching space (the classroom, the stage, or my own music room) all I need is a routine that I stick to and the kids expect.


    • Hi Colleen!

      I was on a cart for two years out here in NJ. Prior to that in Chicago I was on the stage, which was hit or miss. (You know how that is!) I was very lucky that my cart tenure was so short. I have a real classroom now, for the first time in about eight years, but I know that could change any year. I am loving the space and having a blast with it. No specials teacher appreciates their classroom as much as one who has been itinerate!



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