Love It or Leave It? The Case for Keeping Teacher Desks
Last updated on April 29th, 2022
The mere mention of “teacher desks” still evokes images of worn-out, wooden behemoths. Not so with today’s modern teacher desks. They’re more relevant than ever, with features that support flexible classrooms and meet teachers’ practical needs.
Yet, many school districts have embraced the ditch-the-desk trend. And not all teachers are happy about it.
This blog explains why many educators still want their own personal classroom desk. Below, we share the benefits, candid comments from teachers, and details on an affordable teacher desk solution – Smith System’s new MotumTM Teacher Workstation paired with the MotumTM Mobile Lectern.
A Personal Basecamp Still Matters
Why are schools removing teacher desks? A major driver is the need to create a flexible, student-centered environment. Plus, some teachers find it liberating to be desk-free. But schools can’t overlook other educators who know from experience that having the right personal desk makes them better, happier teachers.
That’s a big deal. According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, school districts across the country are increasingly fearful of losing newly hired, highly talented teachers. In the United States, 8% of teachers leave the profession annually, and more than 50% quit teaching before reaching retirement.
For many teachers, their desk is their personal basecamp; it’s an expression of themselves professionally and personally.
According to one teacher, “It’s a space for me to work. The rest of the classroom is for student work. I rarely sit down during lessons, but if I can, I like to have a divide between myself and the students. I give them all my time and energy ... they don’t need my desk, too.”
Why Teachers Say ‘Yes to the Desk’
Here are the biggest benefits of including a teacher desk in your classroom design strategy:
Despite our digital world, there’s still a lot of paperwork that comes with being a teacher, as well as writing tools, staplers, paperclips, etc. A teacher’s desk is a landing pad to consolidate, stay tidy and keep things within arm’s reach, especially if school Wi-Fi goes down.
Ideal desk features: Various-sized drawers for under-desk storage.
Tip: Be realistic about storage needs. Add additional classroom storage so the teacher’s desk doesn’t have to do it all.
Wallets, phones, keys, sensitive student information. Teachers need to keep certain items secure, and not all classrooms have closets that lock or even a teacher’s lounge.
Ideal desk features: Lockable storage draws.
Teachers routinely grade papers, meet with students, plan lessons and check email. Using a nearby student table may work fine for teachers in higher-level grades. Not so with furniture for meant for lower grades.
Ideal desk features: Durable desk surface with space to spread out.
Flexible, collaborative classrooms expect teachers to roam the room. But we’d never expect students to stand all day, nor should teachers. An ergonomically correct teacher desk-chair combo provides a comfortable place to pause, each lunch, open a laptop and check e-mail.
Ideal desk features: Ample under-desk clearance for a supportive “sit,” like Smith System’s Theorem Chair.
The student-centered classroom remove barriers that inhibit students’ access to teachers and knowledge. A desk that is durable, yet easy to move, allows teachers to quickly reconfigure their space.
Ideal desk features: A sleek, lighter-weight design that includes castors.
Smart add-on: Give teachers a small, mobile lectern. They can wheel where needed, whenever needed.
To foster social emotional learning, choose a teacher desk that’s rightly scaled and designed to convey a degree of openness. Students should feel comfortable, not intimidated, to seek help.
Ideal desk features: Minimal footprint, welcoming design and colors.
Candid Teacher Comments
There’s no shortage of articles online that promote ditching teacher desks. But scrolling to the comments sections tells the real story. This “love it or leave it” topic strikes a nerve for many teachers who want to be respected for the professionals they are. Here are comments from one such article:
“I don’t have a teacher desk and wish I did. As a primary teacher, sitting at the children’s tiny desks and on their little chairs is killing my back. We get these prescriptive rules that if you’re not following the crowd [and going desk-free] your performance is slammed. Each to their own.”
“Are you suggesting yet another move to take away teachers’ rights to a comfortable working environment? There is a division between pupil and teacher. The primary staffroom is no longer a place to chill out; the lunch break is nonexistent. No teacher should sit on a chair of child size to do marking and assessment.”
“I rarely sit behind my desk. I’m always on hand or wandering the room. But my desk is my space – it’s where my teaching [materials] reside .. and it’s a little part of me with [personal items]. The students see me there and know something about me. It leads to a chat and we get to know each other.”
“There is nothing wrong with teachers having a little space for themselves in a busy and chaotic school.”
“As a new teacher, I don’t think I could do without my desk! I can understand the arguments against them, but I’ve found them to be really useful and help a very disorganized person, become an organized teacher.”
Consider Motum Teacher Workstation and Mobile Lectern
Contrary to some thinking, a teacher desk can be mobile, versatile and practical. Those were the design goals for Smith System’s newest teacher tools, the Motum Teacher Desk and Motum Mobile Lectern.
For the workstation, Smith started with a stationary desk made from a rugged steel frame and high-density board. Using a wheelbarrow-type motion (glides on one side, lockable casters on the other), teachers can move the light-weight desk almost anywhere.
Schools can choose from two desk sizes, in right-hand or left-hand configurations: a 24 x 60-inch fixed-height desk or a 24 x 72-inch fixed-height desk with an extended surface for one-on-one tutoring. Fixed-end pedestals can be customized with one of three options, each with a lockable front panel. There’s a three-drawer pedestal, a tote-storage pedestal or the adjustable-height, mobile lectern.
Smith’s 15 standard laminate colors for top and sides make it easy to match with Smith’s student tables and desks.
About Desk Placement
If your school opts for teacher desks, pay attention to where they get parked. The placement of a teacher’s desk within the classroom can go a long way in determining student and teacher success.
In the traditional classroom, the teacher’s desk is front and center. Some students feel self-conscious getting up to ask a question, so they don’t.
Consider putting the teacher’s desk in the back or side of the room. You preserve a student-centered environment, because the teacher’s desk is no longer the first thing students see when they walk into the classroom. Equally important, teachers still get their desk. It’s a win for everyone.
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