One of the more unsettling realities about teaching is being a push-in teacher. A push-in teacher is a one who doesn't have their own classroom and uses an “open” classroom when it is their period to teach. Rather than sharing a classroom with another teacher, an administrator decides to give them a cart for their materials to push from their designated work space to the designated class space they are assigned to teach. There are some pros and cons to this reality. For one, a push-in teacher doesn’t have a classroom to manage. When you have your own classroom, administrators want to see that bulletin boards are filled with information and student work. Administrators want to see that your classroom is neat and clean. When you don't have your own classroom, you don’t have to worry about those things. But when you push-in, you're at the behest of whoever the classroom belongs to. You may not be able to establish certain procedures because of how the teacher occupant has things set up. Every teacher sets their classroom differently, yet you're trying to maintain a level of consistency and routine's in the face of the challenges in doing so. Quick disclaimer – you may have your own classroom and you still have to push into another teacher occupied classroom. This was the case for me numerous times.
One challenge is setting up efficiently to not lose any instructional time. Administrators are huge on maximizing instructional time, however in many cases you can't get into your room before you’re class starts because there's another class going on at the time. When you can get in the classroom you still need about a good 2 to 3 minutes to set up; students are coming in at the same time instructional time is lost. The potential for student misbehavior prevents you from setting up. I understand that administrators have constraints that they have to account for on a daily basis where facilities are concerned, but it isn't the fault of teachers that some have to push-in a classroom. But being a teacher is all about making lemonade out of lemons. So how do you make the best out of a tough situation; that is pushing into a classroom, not losing instructional time, and establishing rules and routines for your students so that they don't take advantage of you? Here are some action steps:
- Leave certain items in the classroom you push-in. Textbooks, student folders or student notebooks; if these are items students use every day (and they do not take them home on a regular basis) ask the teacher occupant if there is space for you to leave these items. Usually there is shelf space for you to use.
- Prepare as best you can for class in your designated space. If you are in an office or shared space with others, try your best to prep before class. If you can get into your designated teaching space early, do it. If you have to get there to set up before the start of school, do it. Or, it may be better to set up at the conclusion of your class or at the end of the school day. The key is making sure that you’re ready to walk in your designated teaching space as soon as the current occupied class is over.
- Ask if you can prepare in the classroom you'll be using while another class is inside. Some teachers are cool with letting you set up while they’re still teaching or when they are finishing up. Not all teachers are okay with this so be sure to ask before just setting up.
- Bring your own laptop to use. This is sort of a no brainer. Don’t save your lesson on a USB drive and expect a laptop will be available. Make sure that you have your own.
- Make sure all technology works prior to your arrival. Make sure the LCD projector and speakers work if you need them. If not, bring a backup or alert the tech team at the school so you do not lose instructional time.
- Bring with you markers/chalk and erasers if there is a white/chalk board in the room. You cannot assume that the teacher occupant will have these items for you to use. Markers/chalk and erasers are at a premium; kids take them and so do teachers. Make sure you have your own.
- Work with the teacher occupant to organize a classroom and student seating layout. It is tough when the teacher occupant has the classroom organized for their class which doesn’t work for your own class. You should meet with teacher occupant(s) at the beginning of the school year to organize how the classroom is going to look and how to organize desk. If you’re school is a place that waits until the last minute to organize room and class assignments, meet with teacher occupant(s) as soon as possible.
- Prepare the day before; leave all of the next day's materials in the room. As I said in #2, if you can get into the classroom you’re using at the end of the day, get in there and set up for the next day. This may be tedious and it may not always work because you may need to leave immediately. However, if you can get into the classroom, do it and set up so that your next day goes smooth.
- Have students help you set up to cut down on loss of instructional time. This is a tricky one, but if you’ve identified some students who can help you with passing out materials or setting up in other ways, utilize them so that you can oversee behavior and make sure other students are getting prepared for class.
- Ask an administrator to model how to do push-ins effectively. If an administrator gets on you for losing too much instructional time, ask them to show you how to do it. They’ll be quick to give you strategies, but you insist that they model what it is they’d like for you to do. Administrators are quick to bark orders or make suggestions… push them to show you. They’re the “experts.”
There are worse things that you will be asked to do than pushing in a classroom. However, pushing into a classroom that is not your own comes with its own challenges. With practice and preparation, you can set yourself up for success. Do not let your circumstances get the best of you. You can thrive in any environment.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!