If gone are the days of industrial age education, then it is time to part ways with one of the most prevalent symbols from that time period, the teacher desk. The teacher desk represents a place of power in the classroom. After all, this is the place where decisions are made! Papers are graded! Stickers awarded! Serious conversations are had between student and teacher! This is the space where a teacher can make a hasty retreat to create the illusion of distance from students.
Made during the industrial era, most teacher desks are bulky, made of drab painted metal and topped off with faux wood. Due to never ending budget cuts these desks are still in most classrooms across the United States today. Said desks are heavily fortified with items such as office supplies, aspirin, random items collected from students, cough drops and the ever essential stash of chocolates/candies all shoved into one drawer (as the other drawers no longer function). The tops of the teacher desks are covered with personal memorabilia, caffeinated beverages and various piles of paper.
By the time students reach high school, the teacher desk is one of the most avoided spaces in the classroom. Why? Let’s circle back to power. The teacher desk is to the classroom as the Berlin Wall was to Germany; a place of power that is heavily guarded, unapproachable and a void between two entities. Dramatic? Maybe. The point being, just as the Berlin Wall eventually came down, it is past time for the teacher desk to be removed from the classroom.
You may ask, but where do you put everything?
I use a bookshelf with baskets to hold my belongings. I also have three drawer rolling carts for classroom supplies, manipulatives and various other items. For those that worry about securing confidential assessments or records, this is easily rectified by cabinets or closets that lock.
You may ask, but where do you sit?
First and foremost, sitting is a luxury I simply do not have. I am on my feet and moving about from student to student to keep my fingers on the pulse of their learning needs. Students need to know that they are learning with you, they are not learning separate from you nor are they learning for you. If and when I do sit, it is with the students. Yes, with students. Even if I just need a moment to sit and take attendance, send a quick email or if my feet just need a break, I pull up a chair to student desks and sit with students. There is something that happens in these small moments of sitting with kids. They begin to realize that I can exist alongside them without requiring anything of them except for simply wanting to be with them.
You may ask, what is in the space where your desk used to be?
In the space where my teacher desk once resided, now sits a small round table with multiple chairs. I chose a round table as the shape of a circle suggests unity and thus is more inviting than the traditional teacher’s desk. This is a community space where anyone can sit. On occasion, I will use the small table for student-led conferences or presentation space. The choices of what to fill in this space are limitless. However, if this space does not become a community space then one is missing the point entirely.