Itinerant teachers make up a key part of schools’ staff. These teachers travel between schools, teaching classes at multiple buildings during the day or week.
These teachers face unique challenges that come with not having one base school — or even classroom — that they report to every day.
For any teacher, organization is key. When it comes to maintaining schedules, itinerant teachers take various approaches.
Meghan Fraifelds, a physical education and health teacher at Solley and Pershing Hill elementary schools, relies on technology to stay organized.
“I have separate email folders for each school that are broken down into different categories. I also save anything and everything I need to remember to my Google calendar,” Fraifelds said. Her calendar is even color-coordinated: Solley is scarlet and Pershing is purple. “I use the calendar widget on my phone so it is the first thing I see on my home screen. This way, I can scroll through and see what I have coming up for the next couple of days.”
Brittany Ranck, a music teacher at Solley and Pershing Hill, said her lesson planning book is her Bible.
“It helps me keep track of individual classes so I don't miss anything with each class,” Ranck said.
Anne Dickinson, the band and orchestra director at Lake Shore and Pasadena elementary schools, said she is “fortunate” to be assigned to only two schools this year. She keeps her flash drive organized so she is able to find things whether or not the school’s internet is working that day.
“I do try to set up both of my classrooms as similarly as possible to make it easier to find things,” Dickinson said.
An added challenge is the materials teachers need. Classroom teachers have exactly that: an entire classroom to store resources. Itinerant teachers often have to bring the materials they need with them between schools.
“My backpack carries as many physical items that have to move as possible,” Dickinson said. “Plus, I carry multiple instruments in order to model for my students. And a lunch.”
Stacey Feeney, a media specialist at Bodkin, Solley, Jacobsville and Glendale, is new to traveling between schools this year. Feeney said she uses a bag on wheels to carry her materials between schools.
She plans at one school and uses those materials for the whole week, which alleviates the stress of knowing what is at each school. She also has four full-time media specialists to help her.
“At the beginning of the week when planning, I place enough materials in each folder to last me the whole week. These folders are then placed in a bin in my car,” Feeney said. “When it comes to that school, I pull out only what is needed.”
Fraifelds brings two bins full of equipment with her to both schools, some of which she purchased herself or handmade.
“I sometimes get mixed up about what equipment is available to me at each school,” Fraifelds said. “I have a lot of equipment in my car because I'm not sure where the best place to store it is.”
Unlike other itinerant teachers, Ranck utilizes a curriculum that is mostly online-based, limiting the materials she needs to bring with her between schools.
“I thankfully have a lot of materials provided for me at both schools,” Ranck said. “AACPS also provides most of our curriculum and lessons online, so I don't need to bring anything from school to school — except for the things that I personally need or want every day.”
When teachers have to be at multiple schools in the same day, the travel time can factor in frustration.
“On days that I have to travel between schools, everything feels rushed,” Dickinson said. “You’re trying to clean up and pack up at one school, travel, set up the other school and lessons, eat lunch and connect with the student who needs their instrument fixed or an extra copy of an assignment.”
Sometimes, the hardest part is remembering the day’s schedule.
“I started driving to the wrong school, so I was a little late — and I hate being late,” Fraifelds said.
Feeling Like A Stranger
Without spending too much time at any one school, itinerant teachers can struggle to make connections with students and other faculty members.
“It sometimes feels like I am a little bit of an outsider because I can't be at the same school every day,” Fraifelds said, “but I try to be friendly and talk to everyone so they remember I do work with them.”
Dickinson said her lunch time doesn’t always line up with other teachers, creating an extra barrier in getting to know them.
“Itinerant lunch times are usually earlier or later than traditional classroom teachers’ because we have to travel,” Dickinson said. “Even when we do have a regular lunch, as with any teacher, sometimes there’s just too much work to get done to go to the lunch room.”
The limited face time can also impact an itinerant teacher in the classroom.
“Since I am only in the building once a week, the staff and students don’t recognize me,” Feeney said. “Sometimes this interferes with classroom management because I don’t know the students well.”
While every school has a different culture, that can be both a positive and negative factor.
For Feeney, it is difficult to keep the culture of each school. The full-time media specialist teaches a few classes at every grade level, and Feeney teaches one class per grade level.
“I want my classes to be exposed to the same curriculum as the full-time staff classes,” Feeney said. “This is hard when you are dealing with four different schools and four different media specialists.”
Fraifelds said she really likes being at two different schools, and the different cultures break up the week.
“Each [school] has a different style of leadership and a slightly different culture. It is nice to break up the week and have things be a little different every day,” Fraifelds said. “It is also cool to get to know students at two different schools.”