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How to Decide on Floating Teachers in Secondary School

A teacher working at his desk.
A teacher working at his desk. | Source

With ongoing state budget cuts in public education across the United States, more and more school districts are utilizing floating teachers as a means to reduce expenses and maximize the use of available space in their schools.

Floating teachers teach in classrooms that are available during their colleagues’ planning times and lunch breaks. They transport their materials and resources from one classroom to the next throughout the school day.

While floaters in elementary schools usually only teach specialty classes such as a foreign language or technology, floaters in secondary schools teach core academic classes as well as some specialty classes.

A Tough but Easy Decision

The resulting dilemma many secondary school principals face is how to decide which teachers in their buildings will be the floaters.

It’s a tough decision for several reasons:

(1) Most teachers are used to having their own classroom and expect to have their own classroom when they're hired.

(2) In designating some teachers as floaters, principals feel as if they’re forced to discriminate among their teachers.

The reality is that in deciding who will be the floaters, principals are forced to discriminate among their teachers.

But they must discriminate intelligently.

Deciding who will be the floaters is easy if the floating teacher designations are made thoughtfully and rationally.

An empty classroom.
An empty classroom. | Source

Maximize Available Space in the School Building

In determining which teachers in their buildings will float, principals need to keep in mind the underlying reason the floating teacher model was implemented in the first place: to maximize the utilization of already available space in their school buildings.

Maximum utilization of available space dictates that the teachers with the largest class sizes and overall higher caseloads will have their own classrooms, while the teachers with the smallest class sizes and overall lower caseloads will float.

This means that:

  • Part-time teachers will be floaters, as their caseloads are guaranteed to be lower than that of full-time teachers. In addition, they are utilizing classroom space for only a portion of the school day.
  • Full-time teachers of specific content areas with historically lower student enrollments will be floaters. Examples: advanced math or advanced foreign language classes.
  • In any given school, a classroom that seats 35 students will be assigned to the teacher with 6 classes of 20-33 students, while the teacher with 5 classes of 8-15 students floats.

There is a simple solution to the teacher who feels entitled to have his own classroom due to seniority, despite having small class sizes and a significantly lower caseload than his colleagues: Assign him larger classes and increase his student caseload.

Allowing maximization of available space to dictate the floating teacher designations within each building ensures minimal impact on students and teachers, and facilitates student-teacher communication.

Students often have questions or need help from a teacher after class.
Students often have questions or need help from a teacher after class. | Source

Impact on Students

 
Floating Teacher
Non-Floating Teacher
How easily is the teacher able to provide help to students after class and engage in conversations with students between classes?
is generally unable to provide help to students after class or converse with students between classes because he needs to vacate the classroom for the host teacher (who more than likely needs the room the next period) and arrive to his next classroom on time
is generally able to engage in conversations with students between classes as well as provide help to students after class. The only exception to this is when he needs to vacate his classroom for the host teacher, which is generally only one period per day
How easily can the teacher accommodate students who need to make up quizzes/tests during lunch or before/after school?
more than likely does not have the space or quiet environment to accommodate for students to make up quizzes/tests during lunch or before/after school – he will need to find an available classroom in the building
is able to accommodate for students to take make up quizzes/tests in his classroom during lunch or before/after school
How easily can students find their teacher throughout the school day to discuss personal or academic concerns?
more difficult to find by students who may seek him out to address personal or academic concerns, as he teaches in different classrooms throughout the day
easy to find by students who may seek him out to address personal or academic concerns, as he spends most of the day in his classroom
Students sometimes seek a trusted teacher to discuss a personal concern.
Students sometimes seek a trusted teacher to discuss a personal concern. | Source

Students First: Minimize Impact on Students

When the floating teacher has the lowest caseloads, fewer students are impacted by the floater’s limitations in regard to space and time.

This includes:

  • Students’ ability to ask questions and get help from their teacher after class
  • Students’ ability to connect with and engage in conversations with their teacher between classes
  • Students’ ability to make up quizzes or tests during lunch or before/after school
  • Students’ ability to find their teacher during the school day to discuss a personal or academic concern

This is critical because as educators, we are here to serve our students.

Or at least we should be.

It’s the little conversations that build the relationships and make an impact on each student.

— Robert John Meehan

Impact on Teachers

 
Floating Teacher
Non-Floating Teacher
How easily can the teacher access his materials and resources?
has at his fingertips only the resources and materials he is able to transport on his cart from room to room each class period
has all of his resources and materials at his fingertips (in his classroom) all class periods
Where is the teacher’s desk located?
has a desk in a highly trafficked working environment, such as the Math department office or the copy room
has a desk in his classroom
How much privacy does the teacher have to make phone calls to parents or school personnel about confidential students matters, or to meet with parents?
has little to no privacy to make phone calls to parents or school personnel about confidential student matters, or to meet with parents, as his office is located in a central and highly trafficked location
his classroom provides him the privacy to make phone calls to parents or school personnel about confidential student matters, and to meet with parents

Teachers Matter: Minimize Impact on Teachers

When the floating teacher has the smallest class sizes, the impact he experiences as a floater is minimized.

This includes:

  • Less materials and resources to transport from one classroom to the next
  • Fewer students who have questions or need help after class
  • Fewer students who need to make up tests or quizzes during lunch or before/after school
  • Fewer phone calls to make about confidential student matters, and fewer meetings with parents that warrant a private environment
  • Quicker and smoother evacuation of the host teacher’s classroom at the end of the period, which ensures an easier transition between classes

Conclusion

Maximizing available space in school buildings is the reason the floating teacher model was created in the first place and should be the guiding reference point in determining which teachers will float. It follows that floaters will be the teachers with the smallest class sizes and the overall lowest student caseloads. This minimizes the impact the floating teachers' limitations in regard to time and space have on both students and on floaters, while at the same time facilitating teacher-student communication within the school.

© 2016 Geri McClymont

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Comments 4 comments

always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 months ago from Southern Illinois

This is a sad situation that shouldn't exist. Education is so very important, and teachers in my time, were like family. Let's hope that funds for education will be the top priority in every school. A well researched article. Thank you....


gerimcclym profile image

gerimcclym 2 months ago from Colorado Author

Thank you for your comment, always exploring. Yes, it is a challenging situation for all those involved. Hopefully, future funding will reduce the need for floating teachers in schools.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 7 weeks ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for making us aware of this situation. Teaching in an ideal situation has enough challenges; imagine when complications are added. Appreciating the work teachers do, and hoping for improvement to make their jobs less stressful.


gerimcclym profile image

gerimcclym 7 weeks ago from Colorado Author

Thanks for stopping by, MsDora, and I could not agree with you more. If schools have to utilize the floating teacher model, then at the very least they need to make the floating teacher designations intelligently so as to minimize the stress on both students and teachers. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

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