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My Life Without A Desk

October 9, 2013

At the end of the last school year, I declared to my colleagues that for the 2013-2014 school year, I would not use a teacher desk. I was quite surprised by the comments I received about my “radical” decision. Many of my colleagues were shocked that I would even suggest such a course of action. “Where will you work?” Where will you put your stuff?” “How will you function?!?” What started out as a way to increase the amount of learning space available to my students turned into a conversation on my radical shift away from structure.

I readily admit that organization is not one of my talents. All my life I have struggled to maintain any kind of organization. When I was in university I consistently had to use my day timer to ensure I kept track of assignments. As technology improved I graduated to a Palm Pilot, then a flip phone and my email calendar and now my iPHone calendar, Google Calendar, and my Outlook calendar, to track my deadlines and meeting times. As a  teacher, I have used colour coded folders to keep all of my student assignments organized. I have set up folders for work on our in school server system. Now, with our use of an LMS, I am able to work completely digitally. I still have colour coded folders for students, if they choose to hand in material in a hard copy. So, my decision to go desk free was quite scary. I knew that I would need to focus even more closely on my organization. But I don’t think that is why my decision to work desk free was so bothersome to my colleagues.

In going desk free, I suggested a shift away from the norm. I challenged a classroom structure that has existed for a very long time in our schools. I was proposing something new and different. I must admit I was surprised that my colleagues were so shocked by my decision. But, I didn’t stop there. In June, I read this blog: http://inquiryblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/a-starbucks-classroom/ and was struck by the environment the students and teacher created. I was so taken by the idea I declared that my classroom would be a Starbucks Classroom for 2013/2014 and I would not have a desk. Again, this declaration was met with skepticism.

My classroom partner and I set out at the beginning of the year to create an environment that was inviting, comfortable, warm and safe. We wanted a space that reflected our personalities, the personalities of our students and maximized space for learning. As the blog about the Starbucks Classroom suggests, any space in our room is a learning space. We have hung student art along our walls. We have created comfortable, well lit areas for collaboration and quiet work. We grouped our student desks so as to foster more collaboration. I left the desk that should be mine in the classroom and students are able to work there if they wish. The space for learning in our classroom far surpasses the “teacher” space in our classroom.

Over the passed month, we have found our room to be a congregating space for students in all classes and in all grades. We just completed a round of parent interviews and parents declared: I wish I had a classroom like this!! Students are comfortable and work all over the room. But still, there are some teachers at my school who still seem not to get why we would organize in this manner. I have had teachers tell me they could not do this. I have been told it lacks structure. My response to this: Thanks! Learning in 2013 is not about structure. It is about inquiry, connection, networking, creativity, and sharing. I believe we are achieving this goal. And, I still work without a desk.

Have a great day everyone,

Sean

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