This is my eighth year teaching and I've worked really hard to get rid of my desk. Of those eight years, over half of them I've gone without a traditional teacher desk.
A lot of substitutes are confused. And some of my teammates don't get it. But it's been one of the best things I've done for my class. Ever.
It was in my third year of teaching, and at that point, I was at an elementary school, doing fifth grade for the very first time. I had almost thirty kids and the student desks we had were individual and over-sized. Throw in that these kids were hitting growth spurts and we were always cramped in our tiny room.
And that's when I did it. I decided I was going to ditch the desk, reclaim the space and move forward. I spent an afternoon cleaning out the papers and the 37 packs of every color you can imagine Post-Its from the drawers and said so long.
My desk was gone. And it was great.
And then I ran into issues.
Where will I grade papers?
Where do I put my stuff?
Where do I keep my nice pens, sharp scissors and fancy stationery?
But I figured it out.
I graded my papers during my plan times at one of the thirty unoccupied student desks. Or, I scored papers next to the student who owned it.
I saved the important stuff in a folder in a cabinet. I threw the unimportant stuff away. After doing that, there's significantly less stuff to keep track of. I had no idea. I was just saving everything.
I stopped buying "teacher supplies" and used the money to buy "classroom supplies" that everyone in the room can use. So they went on the supply shelf like everything else.
There were more workflow issues that came up, but I also found solutions to them.
Fast forward to this year and I'm still very proud that I haven't reverted back to the security of the teacher desk. After going without a desk for years, there are some great things that have resulted from its absence.
What I've gained from losing my desk
- Space in the room Teacher desks really aren't that big, but neither are classrooms. The actual physical area that it takes up isn't very significant, but once you factor in the space you need to walk around it, behind it, pull out the chair and so on, it becomes a monster.
- Time with my kids I rarely spent time at my teacher desk when I had one, but every now and then when my class was fairly occupied, I found myself sneaking breaks at my desk. Whether it was to catch up on grades, get a little more organized, finish stapling some papers, or starting to score the last spelling test - I always was invited to my desk to do something other that interact with students. Since I've lost my desk, I have no option but to be with them. If I need to sit down, I sit with them. It forces me to check-in with students frequently.
- +18,000 steps When you don't have a nice chair to sit in behind your workstation everyday, you rack up a lot of steps walked during your classes. Makes you move.
- Scoring work One less place to have a stack of papers laying around for a day before I got to it. Or two days. Or three days. You get it. There is a greater sense of urgency when the homework turn-in basket is the only place papers can live before I get to them. It keeps me accountable to my class. Their papers aren't on my desk, hiding in plain sight.
- Organization This is an ironic outcome, but having less places to put things, pile things, store things, etc. really makes you re-think what things you have. In the past, I would keep all of the handouts given at a training and throw it on my desk. Same would go for ANYTHING ELSE that was handed to me. And on the rare day that I had extra time, I would go through all of the piles and stacks of papers in and on my desk and toss most of it because I was running out of space. Now that I can't just set things down, it makes me take organizational action immediately. If it's important enough, I can take the ten extra seconds to file it away.
- Power By giving up the desk, I gained influence with my students. Letting go of this sacred space surprisingly helped me share power with the class. The room no longer reflected a teacher's classroom where students just visited; it was a shared space. I was now just another learner sharing the same space.