How to Decide Who Will Be the Floating Teachers in Secondary School

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.

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:

  • Most teachers are used to having their own classroom and expect to have their own classroom when they’re hired.
  • 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.

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.

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.

This means that:

  • Part-time teachers will be floaters. 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.

It follows that 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 will float.

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

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.

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

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 on both students and floaters, while at the same time facilitating teacher-student communication within the school.