“Portable” Teaching

So…you found out your classroom is in a portable.

In my fourth year of teaching I was assigned planning time coverage to primary classes and had a portable to deliver the physical education program, which was an interesting challenge, particularly in the winter. Getting kindergarten students dressed, out to a portable with winter gear, out of winter gear and into indoor shoes before even beginning a class was not the best use of instructional time, but it was the task I was given. On the upside, I didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time planning to fill our gym periods.

This year for the first time in 20 years of teaching, my classroom is in a portable. I am choosing to embrace the life of the portable classroom and focus on the positive aspects. Before I even see the inside of the building, I decided that it would become our “cabin/cottage” retreat space. My classroom is next to the parking lot, which is great for lugging my teaching items in and out and it will be handy when I forget my morning tea in my car. We will not hear students as they travel between classrooms. We will be able to engage in inquiry and play our musical instruments without worrying about disrupting the learning in other classrooms. We will be close to our playground for quick entry after the bell and quick exit at the end of the day.

Of course, there are serious logistic challenges of working in a portable classroom that I cannot ignore. I talked to some of my colleagues who are veteran “portable” classroom teachers to find out some tricks of the trade. Here is the advice that I have been given in order to keep our “cabin” in good working order.

Keep only the basics that you need in your classroom. (Good tip! My portable came outfitted with one bookshelf only deep enough for paperback books. My closets at home are now filled with labelled boxes of teaching resources.)
Endeavour to keep clutter from your classroom. (No issue. No storage=minimalist teaching.)
Have a sweater and a fan in your classroom at all times to combat the change in temperature. (In my experience this is good in any classroom.)
Have a job available for a student (perhaps one that needs to move a lot) to be a messenger to the office or other classrooms.
Have a class set of clipboards to take work outside on a hot or beautiful day.
No sink in your classroom to paint with your students? Bring three buckets to your classroom. One filled with water, one for dirty water to be dumped and one for things that need to be cleaned later.

Updated: September 3, 2017 — 9:03 am

The Author

Michelle Fenn

I am a teacher with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and I have been teaching for over 20 years. I am an Instructional Leadership Consultant with the portfolios of Innovations and NTIP. Which means that work with new teachers and their mentors as well as helping teachers develop 21st Century learning competencies with their students. When I grow up I want to be Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus.


Add a Comment
  1. Nancy Forrest says:

    Michelle, I taught in a portable for seven years in a row and LOVED every minute of it.
    Students wanted to be in ‘the cottage’ . . . . so many positives, for sure.
    Enjoy your year; and I will continue to enjoy retirement!


    1. Michelle Fenn says:

      Thanks for reading Nancy! It has been a bit of a hot start up but I do love my little cottage!

  2. Will Gourley says:

    Thank you for this post Michelle. As a colleague who spends many hours in our tarmac chalet, your words of advice ring true. I really appreciated the time that was gained through transitions during morning, recess, and lunch bells. It was like gaining an extra 20 minutes of time every day compared to lining up and marching through the school halls to get to class. Looking forward to reading more from your point of view.

    1. Michelle Fenn says:

      Thanks for reading Will. I appreciate the feedback. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in it is important to keep a positive outlook!

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