Creative Classrooms for The Traveling Online Teacher

Teachers are creative, and when you are teaching online and traveling your classrooms have to be just as creative as your mind!

Women sits in front of her phone waving her right hand. Behind her is a white board that reads "Home Schooling" and the number 1-9.

Being an online teacher gives you the ability to work from anywhere, however, if you are like me and are constantly changing locations you need to be able to easily adapt your classroom setup to any new environment. Whether traveling and teaching is a part of your lifestyle or you are planning to teach a few days on your next trip I hope the classroom examples below will give you ideas of unique areas you can utilize as your classroom while traveling!

1) Ideal Situation: Desk/Table and Chair Against a Blank Wall

A smiling woman sits in front of her computer holding up a "happy" flashcard and points to herself.  Her computer rests on top of some magazines which sit on a table.

In an ideal situation, your teaching station is going to have nice, warm lighting, situated in front of you to avoid shadows, a comfortable chair, and a desk or table to rest your computer on. I travel with a ring light so that regardless of the lighting situation in my Airbnb/hotel/friend's home I know I will have adequate lighting. Unfortunately, not all Airbnb's have a desk or spare table so I often set up on the dining room/kitchen table. When this is the case, I either commit to eating elsewhere in the house (counter, couch etc.) or clean up and set up before and after each teaching session.

2) Closets- A Surprisingly Great Place to Teach From

A computer rest on a shelf in a closet with a chair in front of it. 2D flashcards, a white board and markers rest beside the computer and below the shelf that the computer sits on.

A closet may not be the first place you think of as an ideal teaching station, however, you may be pleasantly surprised! Closets often have decent lighting and shelves that give you the ability to rest your laptop at eye level. Depending on the size of the closet, it may also give you a separate, enclosed space to teach from which will minimize outside noise. In the image to the left, you can see this closet has shelving space where I can easily lay out all of my props and doors that I can close to hide away my workspace once I am done teaching for the day.

3) Ironing Board For the Win!

An ironing board is being used as a desk in this image. A white plastic shelf sits on top of the ironing board and holds a mac laptop.

Another surprising arrangement is using an ironing board as a desk. Trust me, it sounds nutty, but, it is actually a great set-up once you confirm the board is in good enough condition to carry the weight of your teaching device. Lot's of hotels and even Airbnb's have these boards hidden away in a closet somewhere or can be requested. What I love about this setup is that you can adjust the height of the ironing board. This allows you to adjust the height of your "desk" so that it rests about eye-level. Once I get the board to a good height I will often raise my laptop even higher, using my plastic shelving unit (seen in the image to the left) or by resting my laptop on top of magazines or books I find in the room or apartment.

4) Find the Light! It May Be In Front of a Doorway

A smiling woman sits in front of a doorway in front of her mac laptop. She is pointing to her lips and is holding a white board that reads He/She/It runs.

Prior to purchasing my ring light, the main factor that determined where I set-up my classroom was lighting. This is why I highly suggest investing in a small ring light if you plan on teaching and traveling. In the image to the left, you can see that in this example I was forced to set up in front of a door because the only lighting in the room was near this doorway. This meant my wall hangings rested awkwardly on the door and after teaching each day I had to move my entire set-up so that the door could be used as it was intended.

5) The Floor- Not Great Long-Term but Do-Able for a Day or Two

Image of a corner of a small room. A white chair sits in front of a doormat which a computer on it. The wall in front of the chair has 4 wall decorations; a chinese and american flag, a Vipkid sign and an image of animals at the zoo. Surrounding the chair on the floor are an assortment of English flashcards.

The floor is probably one of my least favorite spaces to teach from. It's uncomfortable for long periods of time, your legs cramp up and your computer may rest at an awkward height depending on the chair you have access to and how tall you are. Teaching from the floor is certainly a worst-case scenario and luckily I've only had to do it a few times. Depending on what you have access to in your environment you can rest your computer on a chair, suitcase, or side table. If you have an extra pillow to cushion your bottom, I highly recommend it!

6) Use a Bed as a Table/Desk

A bed is being used as a desk in this image. A chair sits nestled between the bed and wall with some posters hanging on the wall.

I only ever used a bed as my desk in one Airbnb and it was when I had access to a bed other than the one that I slept in at night. This meant that I could leave my teaching area set-up all day which was a plus. If that hadn't been the case I may have been tempted to find another area to teach from. The one negative side of this set-up was the height of my laptop. Due to a lack of books in the house, and the fact that I was traveling internationally and didn't have my plastic shelf, I, unfortunately, didn't have anything to rest my laptop on. In hindsight, I could have used a pot or another appliance from the kitchen to remedy the situation but at the time I just made do with what I had...and you know what? life continued on, my students didn't mind and in the end, it didn't really matter. If there's one thing that I have learned while teaching and traveling it is that you make the best with what you've got and it's all temporary. At some point, you will move on to a new area and create a new workspace, so try not to sweat the small stuff!

7) The Award for Worst Place to Teach Goes To...The Bathroom

A woman with a slightly distressed face sits on the floor, crammed between the wall and a toilet. She sits cross legged and her laptop rests on the toilet as a workspace with an assortment of English flashcards resting on the floor.

The only place worse than teaching on a floor is when that floor happens to be in the bathroom and the toilet seat becomes your desk. I'm not proud of it, but here you have it folks, (and you may be surprised there are actually lots of online teachers who have also had to teach from the golden throne). Luckily, the apartment I stayed in had two bathrooms so this room became my teaching space and did not function as a bathroom during our stay. Some pluses to teaching from the bathroom; they often have great lighting and a door to separate you from other areas of the house which minimizes background noise and gives you privacy as you teach. Even in the worst of scenarios, there is still good to be had!

So now that I have shared the creative, uncomfortable, and interesting areas I've taught from I'd love to hear your best and worst teaching workspaces! If you've yet to begin your teaching and traveling journey feel free to share your ideal classroom set-up! Comment below!

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