Tuesday, November 07, 2017

I broke up with my desk

I broke up with my desk. 

I removed it from my classroom without a single thought about it. It served no purpose and I had no emotional attachment to it. So, breaking up was not very difficult. I almost feel heartless with the lack of emotion I have about getting rid of it. Who just tosses a desk to the curb as if it has no purpose? To make matters worse, I replaced it with a media cart and a metal organization shelf. I sometimes imagine my desk peering into my classroom and becoming downtrodden over seeing me with my media cart in such educational and organization bliss.

However, to be honest, my desk stressed me out. 
I stared at it and was overwhelmed by the stacks of papers and random items that students gave me.  I once opened the middle drawer and found a back scratcher that was in the shape of a small hand and tiny pink toothbrush. Why were these items in my desk? At some point, they were handed to me as keepsakes and I tossed them into the abyss without regard to them. My desk had become a black hole. We lost respect for each other.

When I made the decision to say goodbye, I had no instructional strategy or advice from an educational expert to guide me. I didn’t even have a hallway conversation at the tardy bell with a co-worker. I simply walked into my classroom and I could not stand the sight of it. 

My desk mocked me with its mountains of paperwork that I intended to file and the piles of lesson plans that I planned to develop. I often hoped that if I dug around, I would find a secret map that would lead me to a hidden treasure. But, in reality, all I found was a toothbrush and a small metal hand.

I’m mature enough to admit that my desk was probably relieved that I made he first move in the breakup. After all, I forced it to hold a random toothbrush and back scratcher. Who knows what else I would do it in the future?

Truth is, I rarely sit down in my day. I teach Advertising & Design and Yearbook. My students are active and I like to walk around and view their progress. On the occasion that I am siting, it is either at my classroom computer next to my students or a tall stool that I can easily move around the room with my media cart. 

Ah, that media cart. I’m not one to boast about relationships, but I will admit that I’m rather smitten with my media cart. It offers everything I need. My laptop fits perfectly on the top and I have room for a few papers. My media cart knows that if it offered me a lot of space, I would, no doubt, take advantage of all the space and overwhelm it with papers. My media cart moves with me. It is there for me. It simply gets me.


If you are thinking about breaking up with your desk, think about these things:

You still need a working space in your classroom that is just for you. I have two spaces. My media cart is for my laptop and daily walkabouts. I also have a classroom computer that is placed with my students. Even when I’m sitting and working on projects, I’m next to them. Bless their hearts, they can't get away from me. So, make your space work for you, but don’t distance yourself from your students.

If you can’t get rid of your desk, think about placement. If your desk is at the front of your classroom, then consider moving it so that it is part of the student’s environment, not a barrier against it. Also, while you still have your desk, write down the main storage you will need if you get rid of your desk. One by one, create space in your classroom for those items. Do not tip off your desk about the impending breakup. Play it cool. Clean out the drawers one at a time. You can slowly work your way into the breakup, instead of throwing everything on the floor and giving your desk the boot.

If you sit down a lot, ask yourself if it is for you or your students. I mean it. This is a tough one. Teaching is tiresome. However, doing walkabouts often in your classroom keep your students engaged in the activity. If you sit a lot, what message are you delivering to your students? If you can sit among them, try it. Keep in mind, you may freak out your students at first. However, I promise you that the more you are engaged with your students, the less you will need your desk.

Theresa Shadrix is an IDEO Teachers Guild fellow. She encourages you to Defront your classroom and set it up for student-centered learning. 

  • Move the teacher’s desk to the side (or remove it altogether)
  • Ask students to help design different class configurations for different purposes, and create “reset” options