Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I tossed my teacher desk

I've spent some time thinking about my teacher's desk, and I've finally decided that I just don't need it anymore. So for the time being, I'm going to go without it.

My desk was taking up an exorbitant amount of room, and to be honest, I was only using it as a dumping ground for piles of paper and other non-essential stuff. With my desk gone, I've made more room for my students by bringing in another raised table with stools to be used as a projects table. As you can see, the kids are already putting it to good use by building a 3D puzzle of the world. Today, Jay learned why the North Atlantic did not connect with the South Pacific.

With my desk gone, I am less apt to sit at it; as ridiculously obvious as that statement is - it is a critical one. Because I abolished grading, it is even more important for me to work with my students while they are still learning. Without my desk, I am committing myself even more to sitting, interacting and observing the kids.

I will know this was a success:

  • if someone walks in the classroom and it takes them a minute to find me.
  • if someone walks in and asks where the front of the class is.
  • if I sit next to a student and they act like nothing changed.
  • if the kids feel just as comfortable showing me their failures as their successes.
  • if the kids feel like they can teach me as much as I can teach them, and I feel like I can learn from the kids as much as they can learn from me.
After the first day without my desk, I feel like I did the right thing. I'm looking forward to finding out how I feel about this in a month.


  1. I remember quite vividly getting rid of my teacher desk in 1995, before the school year started. I got used to having people walk in the room and wonder where I was, as I was usually sitting at a table (I had gotten rid of separate student desks that year, also) talking to students about their reading or their writing. Students got used to seeing me reading across the table from them, or writing.
    Alas, the year that we were required to keep attendance and grade information on the computer, a desk was brought back in, but not because I wanted it.
    It is the right thing. You will see.

  2. Where do you keep your computer? Your antacids, cough drops, rubber bands, confiscated toys, agendas for meetings from three years ago, spare paper clips, dead batteries, empty CD cases?

  3. @Eduardo LOL. That's exactly the junk I had to throw out when I moved my desk out of the classroom. I looked at the contents of the desk and asked myself "Why did I ever need all that stuff?"

  4. So Mr. Joe Bower have you ask any other teachers to try what you are do in your classroom. What other ideas do you have for the project table because I like what you are using the space for now. I am a student at South Alabama in Dr. Strange EDM310 class

  5. Hi Mr. Bower,
    I am in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class. I am really interested to see how this works out. I do not remember any classroom I had when I was younger that did not have a teachers desk. I also like that you said you will know it was a success if when you sit down by a student and they act like nothing changed. I remember always being nervous when my teachers sat by me or came and watched me do my work. I look forward to reading more and you can also see my blog Here, good luck!

  6. @ T.J and Ryne: If you wanted to set up a Skype or Eluminate session with me and your class, we could do a live Q & A or something like that. Why don't you get your professor to e-mail me and we can work something out.


  7. Mr. Bower,
    I am from Dr. Strange's class in Mobile, Alabama as well. This is the second blog post I have read about tossing the desk and I love the idea. I was teaching for a few years and my desk was a collecting ground for paper, paper, and more paper, to be filed and never seen again! I can't wait to get back into the classroom and try it out with NO DESK! How did the class react? I think getting rid of the desk is an obvious way to let your students know that they should be the focus of the class, not yourself.

  8. Go Joe!!! As a parent I continue to applaud your efforts to push children to think and more importantly to understand that their failures are just a crucial as their successes. Goodbye great big piles o' paper!

  9. Wow, Joe!

    I loved how you will measure success with this idea of removing your desk. Too often I find myself sitting at the back of the room at my desk and have really never thought of removing the desk totally. I have felt guilty numerous times about this and have made an effort to always be up walking in the room.

    Please let us know what the result of this experiment is. I'm extremely interested.

  10. kenouz,

    I am a teacher from Algeria and I like very much ur ideas .you are a genuis .In fact you have inspired me to look at my classroom differently.
    Can't wait to be back in my clacc & make the change .Sure other teachers won't accept the changesince we teach in the same classroom .Wish i ll convince them to give it a try !!!

  11. I agree! Sitting with students as part of the community is more effective and students respond easier


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