At the beginning of each term, or at the end of the last (depending on how organised you are), our classrooms get a little makeover. Newly covered walls, exciting displays and a revamped book corner add a little life to our spaces. This term, however, I have decided to do a little simplifying, a little decluttering if you will.
For too long my desk (and I assume yours too) has served as a dumping ground for files, textbooks, student work, forgotten cups of tea, lunch boxes and all manner of other school-related paraphernalia. Every morning my desk starts clean, well mostly, and ordered. Yet somehow by the end of every day, my desk looks like a cyclone has hit it.
So I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get rid of the whole desk.
It seems extreme, but I’ve been asking myself for some time now – what is the purpose of every object in my classroom? For me, the clutter is a distraction, but it’s more than just about keeping a tidy desk. This experiment for me is about questioning what drives student learning in our classrooms.
Being Present in the Classroom
As teachers, our interactions with students are precious and we need to make the most of them. Having a desk has often provided a (highly desirable) barrier between the teacher and the students. It’s a place we can retreat to, to mark work, take care of some admin or just have a timeout. No judgement, we’ve all been there. The temptation to hide behind our fortress is often too strong for us to resist.
Removing our desks increases opportunities to engage with our students. This increase in classroom interactions should also help to improve learning outcomes.
The Decluttering Bonus
Everything must have a place –no longer can things be dumped, thrown or ‘filed’ away on a desk. This means that books, stickers, pens and folders need to have a home and my students and I need to learn new habits of putting everything in its place.
By establishing new classroom habits and processes, I hope to save myself a stack of time reserved for tidying at the end of each day/week/month.
I have high hopes for my desk-free experiment, but I’m not looking for a one-off cure to all my classroom challenges. As I said, I’ve been questioning the necessity of every item in my classroom. I believe that we can all make small changes which may incrementally improve student learning.
Getting rid of desk won’t fix all our problems, but it may just help us be a little more present in your classroom. Our job is complex enough and we need to ensure that our students’ learning is central.
Wish me luck as I embark on this new term without my trusty desk. I’ll keep you updated with the challenges and rewards. Maybe you could join me in this experiment and we can learn something new together.