A few weeks back a parent met with a colleague of mine regarding their child. The meeting went well and the conversation quickly turned towards the classroom redesigns that had taken place across ES homerooms last summer. The parent explained he liked the new look, flexibility and increased functionality of the rooms. He described that his children had been very enthusiastic about the improvements and he had been keen to see them in person.
One thing he was truly impressed by was that the teacher had gotten rid of her teacher’s desk. A move a number of teachers at our school have graduated to. The removal of teacher desks has a number of benefits including:
- Collapses the hierarchy between teacher and students, instead placing the teachers as facilitator and co-learner
- Provides additional floor space within your classroom
- If your class has tables- sitting WITH students allows to to keep closer tabs on student with higher needs
- Allows for greater flexibility in reformatting your space to meet the needs of your learners
- Minimizes clutter: one less place to store stuff!
The parent explained that the Scandinavian company he worked for had undergone similar changes in their office. The company wanted to change their culture and foster collaboration so they moved away from assigned cubicles. They wanted this shift to affect all levels of their staff so they even had removed the boss’ office entirely. The move had first been trailed in Scandinavia, been later implemented the U.S. and was now being put into practice here in China. The change had been accepted at various speeds according the culture but they ultimately have been a success. All staff no longer had assigned seats and worked more fluidly in a collaborative environment.
It was a very enlightening conversation and I was thrilled that a colleague shared it with me because I have been a big proponent of removing the ‘teacher’s desk’. I find them to a bit archaic and generally they act as a barrier to our connection with our students. One plausible argument against ditching the desk has often come from lower years teachers who explain student furniture is not built for them, but I believe if we design intelligent spaces we should be able to find spaces that can be defined as student centred but make room for the bodies of adults.