So before I get into this post – I want to be very clear, I have a desk. Largely because I don’t have a classroom, rather an office as the schools academic coach it is a necessity that I have a place to hold meetings. However, that said, I will also say that I did not have a desk until I became a coach.
I do believe one of the best things that a teacher can do is get rid of their desk. Yes I know that the thought of getting rid of your desk is in many ways inconceivable, however, I do believe that the day my desk was taken from me was one of the scariest and most liberating days of my life as an educator.
My desk was an integral part of my teaching. I could not imagine a single day without having it as a focal point in my classroom. It was my space. The untouchable area. The “don’t go near that spot” in the classroom. And my students knew it. They knew not to go near the desk. Even when I asked them tog et something off of it they tiptoed around it like it was holy ground.
I had no intention of removing the desk from my classroom. However, my supervisor saw otherwise and all but took the desk out of my classroom, amidst my protests. I was devastated. My whole world as I knew it as a teacher was flip turned upside down. Yet as I stood in my doorway watching my classroom crumble, my supervisor looked at me and said, trust me – you will thank me for this. At the time, I wanted to scream at her. But in time – I thanked her time and time again.
Losing my teacher desk in many ways, gave my classroom over to my students. It is easy to say my classroom, but in reality a productive thriving classroom is one that belongs to the students. There was no longer the my classroom/your classroom with my students. Every part of the room belonged to them and there was a new sense of pride and ownership.
I also discovered that without my desk, I did not find myself buried in paperwork because there was no were for me to pile it. I had to regroup and review more often. My students received feedback on their work faster, my room was cleaner and overall production in my classroom was better.
Even now in my office, I find that my desk is more of a place for students who need some space to do their work. Most of them don’t know what to do when I tell them to sit there. They are all used to the “untouchable” area of the the teacher desk, yet I find when they do sit there and get to work, their are quite productive and consider it a privilege to work in the usually off limits space.
As a coach, when I tell teachers they should get rid of their desk, the have the same look of horror on their face that I had over five years ago. And while I do not just remove the desk from their room the way my supervisor did, I encourage them to let go. To remove the paperweight, the clutter spot, the off limits section of their classroom. Time and time again, I find if I can get them to trust me enough to remove it, they find they have similar experiences that I had in liberating themselves from paperwork and creating a more student centered room and not a teacher centered one.