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Portable Teaching – This is Not a Cottage!

by Neil Finney

Drudging through the snow out to your classroom, you realize it – you work in a world of your own. Cut off from the outside world and the classrooms of the main school building, you are free to do what you want and not worry about the noise. You teach….in a portable.

While some schools choose to call these portables “cottages,” there is clearly a difference:

  1.  There are no Muskoka chairs here.
  2. I usually drink my morning coffee cold at first recess – not while staring out to a clear-glass lake.
  3. Don’t have to worry about bears walking past your portable window. Wait, this actually does happen at some schools.
  4. The only pleasure craft I’m riding here is my wheeled computer chair between guided reading groups.
  5.  I get to nap at the cottage – but my principal seems to have issue with it here.

There might not be the same peace and tranquility in your portable as there is at a cottage, but this can be an exciting place to teach nonetheless. Many of us have come to understand that teaching students is not about where you are – it is about what you do. Whether in a classroom, pod or portable; your learning space is cultivated by what you do in it.

A space like no other. Even though it might look like a bowling alley, there are so many ways to uniquely craft your classroom in a portable. The furniture can be moved around to build reading corners or discussion “round tables,” and usually all of the walls can be stapled, so displaying student work or workshop ideas has never been easier.

 Student conferencing made better. Whether you need to speak to a student privately about behavior or meet with a small group after a presentation, your portable affords you the opportunity to share a conversation without worrying about disturbing other classes.

Look on the bright side. Portables are removed from the rest of the school. Choose class activities that demand noise. Be as loud as you want – no one can hear you. The steady bustle of learning and student progress should fill your room and seep into the coat hook area. Whether dancing, singing or just listening to music loud enough to enjoy – this is your space to mold as you deem fit.

Your portable can have as much character, and pack as much punch, as any other learning space. It’s all in your approach. Don’t fret about walking out to your class in the rain – rejoice that your kids get outside for recess first!

How have you made your portable more welcoming for students? What’s the best portable set-up you have ever seen?



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