The Teacher’s Desk: An Unspoken Message

 I have a lot of changes going on lately, and I’m not just talking about my wardrobe with the onslaught of the chillier, fall weather. A new job, a new location, even a newly expanded family. And I’m finding that in addition to all of these new changes come many new perspectives.

One new viewpoint in my life involves the classroom. I have attended countless open houses as a classroom teacher, but never once as a parental unit. Until now.

Last month I walked into the classroom not as a teacher, but to represent “Team Dan,” my new middle school stepson. And boy, did I see things from a new angle!

I’m going to summarize a few observations and assumptions that I made about what the placement of a teacher’s desk says about an educator’s teaching philosophy, style, and/or views on learning.  Please note this is not an absolute and there are always exceptions, but below is my humorous and somewhat satirical take on the unspoken message sent from a teacher’s desk. Enjoy the chuckle, share more ideas below. 

  • Front of the classroom: Perhaps the “sage on the stage” style of teaching, more teacher-centered. There could be a lot of direct-instruction with a lot of sit-and-get and lectures. The type of chair that is paired with the desk can amplify this.  A possible correlational relationship might be: the more comfortable and squishy the chair, the less likely a teacher moves around the room. Could be a sign of a more traditional classroom.
  • Back of the classroom: Student-centered, perhaps it is only in the classroom for lesson planning or grading long after students have left.  It’s seen as a non-important place. The classroom emphasis is on the students, not the teacher. The teacher is the facilitator, the planner, and the behind-the-scenes coordinator: the students take the center stage. If the desk were to be kidnapped one dark night, chances are that nobody would notice.
  • Desk? What desk? This teacher is totally student-centered. The message that a teacher’s desk sends doesn’t mesh with the teaching philosophy in this classroom. It’s all about the kids. It’s their space.
  • Student abducted teacher desk: It’s just another workspace for the students. This might be a rotating seat for students, another area for collaboration, a comfy spot for reader’s workshop and independent reading, or a group workstation. There are subtle signs of teacher life here on the desk, with thoughtful feedback on student work, encouraging post-it notes, and the echoes of accountable talk that has been embraced by the students. All signs of student-centeredness.
  • Middle of the classroom: In the words of my CTQ colleague Bill Ivey: “Huh?”
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