This time of year, it seems like everyone is posting pictures of their new classroom decorations and beautiful instrument set-ups. (Since I have a portable at one of my schools, I actually just wrote one such post yesterday.) I know that this can be a difficult time for those of us who approach the new school year from a very different perspective. Yes, I'm talking about the brave souls who teach music on a cart.
Just over a year ago, I found out that due to increased enrollment at one of my schools, I would have to give up my teaching space and push-in to the gen. ed. classrooms. At first I was devastated. I had no idea how I would adapt my methods to make them work under such conditions. However, I've developed some routines and systems that work for me and make teaching on a cart a decent experience both for me and the kids.
So I've decided to start a miniseries dedicated to the unsung heroes of music education. Those of us who have learned to make the best of a tough situation, for the sake of our students. Those who have learned to problem solve and think on our feet when resources may be limited. Those teachers who are responsible for "Music on Wheels."
Cart Tour 2015
I'm kicking off this miniseries with a back-to-school tour of my cart. I'm going to go through what I decided to put on it and how I keep it organized. When space is at a premium, decisions about what goes and what stays are super important. I also dressed my cart up a little bit to make it more interesting as I roll through the halls.
This is a Luxor brand cart: it's all industrial strength plastic and has a built-in power strip. The plastic design makes it super lightweight and maneuverable, and it is the perfect height for me so that I don't have to hunch over at all when I'm pushing it. I totally lucked out because this cart was donated to me by another teacher at my school who wasn't using it. So I didn't have to spend any of my budget on it. However, a quick internet search brings up this A/V cart, which I'm pretty sure is the same exact one I'm using. For under $200, it is practically a steal compared to some of the "music carts" marketed by the big music school supply chains.
You'll notice that I don't actually have any technology on this cart. I know that some teachers bring a boombox or speakers around with them. I guess I'm pretty fortunate in the tech department because every classroom in my school has a wall-mounted smartboard and wired-in sound system (because we are Title I.) So, rather than fumbling to try and plug in my own technology in each classroom, I just hop on the classroom computer. I have all of my electronic presentations and audio files on a flash drive. All I have to do is plug and play.
The space that I saved by not having technology is chock full of instruments and teaching supplies.
Hover over the spots on this ThingLink to see what I keep on my cart:
And here's a more detailed breakdown...
- Class set of egg shakers
- Class set of rhythm sticks
I find it's important for my primary students to have enough of these instruments so that everybody is playing the same thing. Of course I also let them use the other instruments as well. But, from a management standpoint, I like everyone to be playing the same instrument when we're doing rhythm review exercises, etc.
- Mini djembes and conga drums
I have about six of them all together and they are small enough to fit in the plastic storage bin.
- One set of handbells
- Five glockenspiels built into yellow carrying cases
I specifically chose this set of glocks because they can be stacked and transported easily and the sound is not terrible. They have a full chromatic keyboard, too.
- Boomwhacker Xylotote
The xylotote is a brilliant invention!!! The cloth carrier keeps one diatonic set wrapped up nice and compactly. It can be opened up and played like a xylophone with rubber mallets, or each boomwhacker can be taken out and played the usual whacky ways.
- Class set of scarves for movement activities
- Medium djembe for teacher use and student performances
- Three bins holding various class percussion instruments, such as guiros, claves, wood blocks, triangles, finger cymbals, tambourines, and hand drums.
- Set of five remo stacking hand drums.
- Work space where I keep my plan book open and ready
- Office supplies organizer (so I don't have to search through other teachers desks for basic stuff)
- Big basket for holding papers and Arpeggio the Cat
- Cannister to hold mallets and pointers
- Small baskets for manipulatives, books, anything else I need for that day
So there you have it... That's the breakdown of my cart. I know it doesn't hold everything that you'd find in a typical music room, but it holds enough to give my students a high quality musical experience. It served me well last year and I'm looking forward to using it again. Even though I don't have my own classroom, I still feel like I have my own little space when I'm with my cart. I'm also lucky enough to have an "office" of sorts... it's a work room in the back of a kindergarten classroom:
As you can see, lots of different teachers use this space. I get to keep my cart here and have a little desk area in the corner. I'm working on getting a laptop to use again this year so that I don't have to go to the computer lab to plan the digital parts of my lessons!
Thanks for reading! I hope this miniseries resonates with those of you who might be in a similar situation and teaching "music on wheels" this school year! You are doing good work for your students, no matter what obstacles you may face. Remember my motto: Just roll with it!