For the traveling teacher who does not have a classroom of their own, a teaching cart becomes one of the most essential elements of their instruction. It’s from this mobile cart that all necessary equipment, teaching aids, and other lesson materials are found, collected, and stored, so it’s very important to select a cart that will meet all of these needs. In my own trial-and-error experiences over the years with researching and testing out various types of carts, I’ve found that there were surprisingly a plethora of different types and styles of carts to choose from! In Part 2 of this series, I'll discuss how to optimize the square footage on your cart so you can fully utilize its space in your daily instruction, but right now let's look at 4 key elements to keep in mind when determining which type of teaching cart is right for you!
Although I’m discussing this from my perspective as an elementary music teacher, these are tips that can be helpful for teachers of ANY level (elementary, middle, or high school) and of ANY subject area (music, art, foreign language, ELA, math, etc.) who also find themselves in a position of being a traveling, mobile teacher who must travel to different rooms every class period.
#1 - Size
A natural inclination after finding out you're going to be teaching from a cart is to feel like you need the LARGEST cart possible to fit as many things onto it as possible. Don’t give in to that knee-jerk reaction...bigger is NOT always better! I've found out the hard way that a bigger cart is not always the most useful and in fact, the larger size can potentially hinder and hurt you physically as well as logistically. Survey the classrooms that you’ll be teaching in to get an idea of the width of the doorway and potential classroom obstacles. Create a checklist of the daily instructional items you’ll need. Then, based on those things, select an appropriately sized cart for your needs.
Need some more tips for what to do after finding out you'll be teaching from a cart?
Click the picture below!
#2 - Material
Carts come in several types of materials, the most popular being metal, chrome wire, and plastic. Below is a very brief “pros & cons” list for each:
- Pros: sturdy, offers multiple ways of attaching items to its surface (magnets, adhesive strips, Velcro® strips)
- Cons: typically don’t come with a handle, making pushing/maneuvering slightly difficult
- Pros: light weight; usually a narrow, more slim design that's easier to fit through doorways
- Cons: narrow design limits storage space; can be flimsy or wobbly (for a sturdy version, look for keywords like "heavy duty" or "commercial"), typically lacks a solid surface so small items must be placed in separate bins or tubs to avoid falling through the holes
- Pros: very durable; usually comes with a handle for ease in pushing/maneuvering; the shelves typically have a “lip” that prevents items from sliding off of the cart
- Cons: can't utilize magnets to attach items (must use adhesive hooks or Velcro® strips); can be difficult to pivot and turn (look for the words "full-swivel castors" in the description for carts that will pivot smoothly)
#3 - Tiers
Carts come in various heights and tiers. Depending on the materials you’ll need to bring with you, it’s helpful to know how tall or narrow a tier you can get by on. For me personally, I needed a multi-tiered cart that could hold an average alto xylophone, which is the largest instrument I’d need to place on my cart. The cart I use now can hold two alto xylophones side by side on a single tier.
If a cart with fixed tiers isn’t working for you, then consider ordering one with adjustable height shelving, an option I had no clue about in my early cart teaching days!
#4 - Extras
Based on your personal and instructional preferences, you may want to consider what I call the “extras” of a cart. These can include:
A cabinet on the bottom containing a lock and key to hold valuable electronic equipment, adapters, or anything else that you want to restrict access to when you’re not using the cart.
Pull out shelves that can hold a laptop, iPad/tablet, papers or other items during your lesson. Just remember to fold down or slide the shelf back in again for ease of getting through doorways!
A cart with built-in power outlets with an extension cord gives you one less thing to have to remember to bring. I was quite sad when my built-in extension cord and attached double outlet stopped working (the cart was very old before I acquired it) and now I must use a separate extension cord for the electronic devices I keep on my cart. Not wishing to waste space, I hung two organizers over the broken outlet and the lower left pocket holds my wires and cords when not in use.
Do you currently teach from a cart? Which type of cart have you found most helpful? Were you able to purchase one or did you use what was already available at your school? I’m very interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Encouraging you to rock as you roll,