Last summer, Katie and I moved into a different classroom, yet again. We elected to move to a more remote part of our building, which used to be an early childhood center and was vacant. We were like a moth to a flame when seeing the potential this space could provide for us: shared work areas for our students, some outdoor space, and, if you can believe it, a KITCHEN! This space, however, was in need of some love. After years of housing infants and toddlers, there were Sesame Street characters painted on the walls, the cabinets were covered in glue, paint, and markers, and the carpet was caked with food remnants. We took the risk and I think, a year later, we can both agree we are so glad we did!
Recently, I read a blog post about a teacher choosing to ditch his teaching desk in his classroom and many educators Tweeting on both sides of this argument. The blogger, Matthew R. Morris, talked about how often teachers covet that space (which I totally get… our ‘office’ is totally taken over by students for almost every single moment n the day) and that many teachers never let their students sit at ‘their desk.’ I have been guilty of this exact thing in my early teaching years. It was the only place in the room that felt MINE: it was where I kept confidential papers like IEPs, my special grading pens, my purse, extra supplies, etc. Kids did NOT have free reign of that space at all.
When Katie and I were moving our stuff in last summer, it became very obvious that our new classroom was smaller than the other ones in our building. As we were shuffling tables around trying to make room for thirty sixth graders, a space for community meeting, our book shelves, and of course, our ‘teacher’ desk, we realized quickly that we needed to prioritize what was actually going to BE in our classroom. It was no surprise to either of us, as we discussed, that anything that did NOT directly affect our students and their learning Had.To.Go.
So… we decided to #ditchthedesk and did not stop there. In fact, we got rid of every single thing in our classroom that was “ours.” The most powerful quote in that blog post, I believe, was this: “But then I realized that the teacher’s desk is just another obstacle that is impeding teacher-student relationships and classroom authenticity.” YES. YES. YES. If we constantly preach the importance of students having voice and choice in our classroom, if we fervently believe in creating a safe risk-taking/mistake-making environment for our empowered students t share their opinions and thoughts, if we consistently stand behind teaching STUDENTS not STANDARDS, than all of our actions should back this up. My classroom is not MY room… or Katie’s room… it’s OUR classroom with OUR students.
When you walk into room 127, you will see nothing that even closely resembles something that could be ‘Mrs. Hundt’s’ or ‘Mrs. Bielecki’s.’ Every single item from the computer down to the smallest eraser is for our community of learners. There is no drawer or cabinet or bin that is ‘off limits.’
Our students not only have voice and choice in what we are learning and how curriculum is delivered, but also in the way we use our classroom space… our ENTIRE classroom space. We think that’s exactly how it should be 🙂
Read Mr. Morris’ blog on ditching his desk here