A few years ago I wrote about getting rid of half of the desks in my classroom. The result of the experience was a more agile learning space that constantly evolved to meet the needs of the learners.
I forgot to write about the most important classroom desk I got rid of in the process, the giant teachers desk.
My teachers desk lasted about seven weeks into my teaching career. I realised that I wasn’t using my desk to work on. It was more of a giant surface for clutter. It also took up a lot of valuable floor space in the classroom that could be used for learning.
To solve the problem I got rid of the desk and replaced it with a small set of drawers. The drawers can fit my laptop on top of it and that’s about it.
I have never really looked back.
Getting rid of the desk immediately opened up a lot more learning space. It forced me to be organised and remove anything that wasn’t related to student learning from the classroom.
The lack of a personal desk freed me up to move around the classroom. The nature of having a teachers desk is that you will sit at and have kids come to you rather than vice versa. How can you have child-centered learning if you require the kids to come to you?
No teachers desk made for a more equal classroom between myself and the children. No more was a large amount of classroom floor space off limits to children.
Everywhere is a learning space.
So with no teacher’s desk where do I work?
I work where the kids do!
I work at classroom tables and on sofas.
As a teacher from New Zealand I’m well accustomed to working on the floor with the children. When visitors come into my room, they often have to search me out when I’m teaching. To me that is the sign of learning as it should be.
The teacher is one part of the classroom learning community.
At my current school there is a large area between the classrooms. When the kids are away at specialists, I much prefer to work out there rather than in my classroom as there’s more chance of bumping into colleagues and having a chat about their day.
Getting rid of the classroom desk opens up the idea that teachers shouldn’t be hidden in their classrooms when they are working. Bringing workspaces together makes professional conversations with colleagues more regular and authentic. For PYP schools this is even more important given that we should be collaboratively planning our learning engagements.
Now that the era of desktop computers have passed us by, teachers don’t really need a huge individual work station. Most of our work is done in laptops and tablets. Much student learning isn’t found in books but rather on devices and in the cloud.
The same is true of our resources.
As the daughter of a teacher I know of our capacity to hold onto resources for years, even decades, ‘just in case’ they come in handy some day. Is it time to move on? I subscribe to the if you haven’t touched it in a year, then lose it philosophy. But really don’t our students deserve better than learning that is recycled year on year?
Stackable storage and regular purges of clutter frees up classroom space both physical and psychologically for learning to happen.
I have not had a desk for years and can comfortably fit all I need in my backpack. It means that where ever I am I am prepared for all that I need. Had a lot of work to do in the holidays and my desk was in Starbucks for the day. All I need is some highlighters, a pencil case, my devices, USB keys and some lego minifigures (I do not know why, but I do).
The kids love it when I work next to them and often it settles the unfocused students without needing to mention a word to them.
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Hi Luke – gosh haven’t heard from you for years, since I was a first year teacher in beautiful Central!!! I’ve just made the big step to get rid of my desk and have not looked back. I have a small set of drawers and this tends to be the place that the kids place things that I need to see. I am in a team teaching, future focused learning environment and my co-teacher does not have a desk either. We are spending this weekend having a gigantic clean out of all our old printed resources as we have found we have not used most of them for several years.
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Hey there Nic,
Glad to hear you are all well and still in the game. I even went as far as deleting all the word documents from my computer saying if I don’t need them in the next 6 months I will empty the recycle bin… 4 months later I emptied it and haven’t looked back. I only keep photos now.
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I’m an education reporter from Canada who is doing a story about teachers wanting to get rid of their desks. How has it worked out? What do you use as a “home base” to sit? My name is Louise Brown and I work for the Toronto Star – can you reply to me at firstname.lastname@example.org? I’d love your help!
Hi Luke I agree that having a desk puts so much distance between you and the kids.
Good reminder to go through my resources this holidays. Time for a purge!
Amen! I am hoping my principal will give me the ok to get rid of my teacher desk. I am SO excited for the new collaboration area I am planning. My 8th graders need space to move!
Good luck. I find it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission.
Hi Amy – i’m an education reporter in Canada who is doing a story on teachers wanting to get rid of their desks. Where are you? Contact me at my work email if you care to help out; My name is Louise Brown and I work at the Toronto Star newspaper email@example.com Thanks!