Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The teacher's desk: A thing of the past


Desk
Originally uploaded by xJuliex.
I was surprised to see this article, At the Head of Some Classes, Desks Dismissed, in the Washington Post. "Coming out from behind the furniture helps interaction, some teachers say." No kidding.
Years ago, in a classroom that had chalk, blackboards and students seated in neat rows, teacher Lee Dorman had a desk of her own. But she found herself constantly roaming to oversee projects and answer questions. She never used the desk, so she got rid of it

"I just never figured out how on earth to teach sitting down," said Dorman, 58, a veteran teacher at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington County. She calls herself "a walker and a stalker." She carries what she needs in her pockets and keeps students in what she considers a useful state of alertness because they are never quite sure where she is going to be.

Here and there, a small but growing number of teachers is following Dorman's example, educators say, abandoning the traditional classroom power center. To them, a desk is really a ball and chain, distancing them from students.
When I taught, my desk was up against the wall; I never used it. My room, thankfully, had four big tables (maybe 4x8 or so) that I could move around; some days I'd have a big conference table; other days I'd have four tables for small group work. Sometimes I'd stack the tables off to the side, and we'd have no tables.

Here's one fifth grade teacher's comments about the teacher's desk:
I have a beautiful desk in my office at home. It's where I grade papers and plan for my days with the students. A classroom is no place to be planning or grading papers -- it's a place to work with the students. Any other pieces of equipment get in the way of learning, and the kids have enough obstacles as it is. A desk for the teacher in no way helps Johnny have a better life -- everything, and I mean every square inch of Room 56, is carefully designed to help a child discover something for which he is passionate. A desk for me certainly has nothing to do with the child.
Check out the rest of the teacher quotes. Some powerful stuff.

And if you think the students don't know the difference, check out these student comments:
  • Desks make teachers lazy, so they want to sit down. So it's good you don't have one.
  • It gives teachers something to do besides teach us.
  • They distract teachers from going around to help us out.
My sentiments, exactly.

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