I do not use a teacher desk.
This is always SHOCKING to fellow teachers when they hear me say that I ditched the teacher desk and some of the top questions I get asked is
1. Why don’t you use a teacher desk?
2. How do you organize your things?
3. What space is ‘your’ space if you don’t have a desk?
So let me explain my thoughts and reasonings. I know that some of you work at schools where you don’t have an option and you have to keep your desk. I know some of you love it and you will continue to love it after you read this post- and that it totally fine! I’m not here to judge or critique your decision. I’m here to give a different perspective and shed light on something you might not have thought about before. If you have always used a desk, just hear me out. Think about it and see if you may need to ditch the desk, too.
Why don’t you use a teacher desk?
My answer is simple. Teacher desks are HUGE and take space away from students and it creates a space for the teacher to hoard and pile things.
The day I moved into my first classroom, there was no desk. At first, I thought it was weird. Why would there be no teacher desk in a classroom? Isn’t that a given? I probably could’ve asked for one to be moved into my room, but being the first-year-baby teacher I was, the thought of asking made me nervous so I just made the furniture I did have work.
I pushed a trapezoid table up to the end of my small group table and stuck a Sterilite 3 drawer container underneath. That was it. My computer sat on another table close by so that wasn’t an issue. This was all that I had and it worked! Kinda. It got me by for my first year, but honestly I had absolutely no idea what I was doing my first year and ended up just piling binders and things on the floor next to the Sterilite container. I moved from a portable to an indoor classroom the next year and that room had a desk. I decided to keep it because YES I wanted to be a real teacher!
As the year went on, I realized I was ALWAYS cleaning off my desk.
It was constantly cluttered. It even got to a point where I felt a little selfish for taking up so much space for something I wanted for myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully believe in having a space for yourself that brings you joy in your own classroom. But every inch taken up by my things in my classroom is one less inch that my students can utilize.
From that year on I ditched the desk. I always had my own bookshelf to house my binders and things I needed out of reach of children and I began using a teacher toolbox to store all of the paper clips, sticky notes, and other odds and ends that I kept in my desk. I kept the small group table as my desk surface when I needed to plan or grade things. Do you know what I realized? When I forced myself to share that table with my students, I kept it more clean than when I had a desk.
It forced me to actually put away the papers and other things into their proper place instead of just throwing them on top of my desk.
My 4th and 5th year of teaching was spent on a brand new campus that didn’t even come with teacher desks. We had a back counter top to hold out computer and serve as a small work space and a teacher table. And I LOVED it! It felt so good to continue to ditch the desk and give that space back to my classroom.
How do you organize your things?
1. Rainbow cart: I use this to sort my copies for the week, hold papers I need to copy, store ungraded papers, etc.
2. Teacher toolbox: Spray paint it your favorite color and then search TPT for some labels.
4. Pens/Pencils/Markers: I have a couple of pen organizers because I have an obsession with pens and markers.
5. 3 drawer cart: This baby has survived 5 years of teaching. I put this under the table that holds my computer and inside of the drawers I keep white boards/markers/erasers, random things like nurse passes and an EZ grader, and all of the wax cubes for my scentsy because WOW I’d rather smell fresh coffee than 10 year olds.
And that’s it! There is nothing else I need readily available at all times. All of my other materials stay in the cabinet until they are needed.
What space is ‘your’ space if you don’t have a desk?
I turn the computer table area into my space. I keep a couple of my pen organizers, markers, and a lamp on the table. Above my computer I have a photo display to hang up pictures or notes that mean something to me.
Around my room, I also add in some more pictures of my family or things that represent me.
For example, I have a small teddy bear with a Texas A&M shirt that my older brother got me during his first year of college. The bear sits next to a football helmet and a lego version of JJ Watt. In years past when my students see things like this around the room, it shows them that I’m a real person who has passions outside of school and it can open the door for conversations that can help a student connect to me and build a relationship.
And let me just say this-
We spend so much time at the beginning of the year thinking about how we can make our classroom work and be comfortable for all students. We leave bulletin boards empty and walls blank so that we can work with our students to create things to put up so that it feel like it is just as much their classroom as it is ours. So if your teacher desk is serving as “your space”, what does that say to your students?
I’m sure by now some of y’all are thinking I’m crazy, and that’s totally fine! I won’t look at pictures of your classroom with a desk and think you’re making a horrible decision. I promise! But hopefully, some of y’all are taking these thoughts, doing more research (if needed), and deciding what is best for the classroom that you and 20+ students call home every year.