My school year begins TODAY! My students will be noticing something new…I’m deskless! Yes, I’ve done it! I got rid of MY large
unnecessary crap-storage unit metal teacher desk, and I’ve moved all tables to the back and sides of the room.
A trend that has been gaining momentum in the TPRS/TCI community for a few years is the Deskless Classroom, also known as flexible seating. There is a facebook group entirely dedicated to the concept which currently boasts almost 450 members, both the deskless and the deskless-curious. Many teachers are interested in going deskless but have a few concerns. Most of the teachers who try it begin quickly singing its praises. I’d like to share my own experiences with you and help you decide if deskless might be right for you!
Concerns of going deskless:
What will my administrator/department head/other teachers think?
Well, have you asked? My principal has been very supportive of my requests to try out new ideas. One thing you can try is joining the TPRS – Deskless Classroom group on facebook (it is a closed group so you may have to wait a few minutes to be approved after you request to join). There, you can gather some practical information and go in to your principal armed with facts and anecdotes. The first time I tried deskless (yes, I waffled) my principal was supportive from the beginning, and he allowed me to simply move my tables into an unused room while I “piloted” the idea.
What will other teachers think? My guess is that some will be curious and ask you questions. Maybe you’ll convert others to the movement and have colleagues to brainstorm with! Win-win!
What will my students think?
In the experience of teachers who have taken the leap, the vast majority of students are on board! Who might complain? Those who prefer not to engage, those who like to doze off, and those who like a convenient shield between the teacher’s eyes and their iPhone. My first round of desklessness, I actually caved in because students were saying the chairs were uncomfortable and they missed having a writing surface. How am I combating these problems now? I have acquired MANY more comfortable chairs and I also bought clipboards to use for writing. When we use our chromebooks, they will be just fine of their laps (they are called LAPtops after all, right?) or students can certainly take a seat on the carpet if they prefer during times when we are reading, writing, or typing. I plan to acquire as many more comfy chairs as possible and gradually lose ALL of those uncomfortable little school chairs.
How will we write or type or do group work?
See paragraph above! I have clipboards for writing. Many teachers use dry-erase boards or have “shower board” cut at a home improvement store to use as dry-erase boards that double as lap desks. I have opted to keep tables around the perimeter of my room, at least for now, so students can pull a chair up to work at a table during those times. For a group activity, they can also pull chairs around a table. My genius friend (who loves to call me her work wife…and I’m honored) Carrie Toth handled this issue beautifully when she convinced her principal to let her get folding tables! She purchased several folding tables which can be stored away until needed and then easily set up or put away by the students!
Won’t those chairs be migrating all around the room?
Yes, they will. Limits need to be set and jobs assigned, quickly. Grant Boulanger recommends using velcro on carpet to mark off where chairs belong. You only need to use the “hook” side of the velcro and it will stick to the “loops” of the carpet and will leave no tape residue. Other teachers have recommended “gaffer’s tape” for hard surface floors. Please check with your custodian before affixing anything to the floor! Many deskless teachers also recommend using “classroom jobs” to manage your chair migration. Put a few students in charge of seeing that the chairs are in place at the end of the class period. You can even go as far as to stack the unneeded chairs prior to each class coming in so that you don’t have extra chairs floating around.
Benefits of going deskless:
Students are more engaged
In a deskless classroom, it is much more difficult to “hide.” Students can no longer tune out, shut down, look at their phone, fall asleep. Students are also closer together (yet not awkwardly or uncomfortably so), so the teacher has less physical space to “manage.”
Classroom feels more open
With desks gone, there is SPACE. Space feels good. It can mask the fact that your room is overcrowded. It is more comfortable to see open space.
Feeling of “this class is different”
Our classes ARE different. In my own classroom, I want kids to feel like they are about to experience something cool every time they walk through the door. I have soft lamp lighting, pretty cultural decorations, lots of music, and as much comfort as I can provide. I want my room to feel more like a home and less like an institution.
Flexibility and creativity
With desks out of the way and all that space, you can let your imagination go to work. Want to make a Venn Diagram? Get out the hula hoops and do them on the floor! Reading time? A pillow against the wall makes a comfy reading spot. Want to do a quick mixer or inside-outside circle activity? Push the chairs against the wall and go for it! Read more here from Carrie Toth!
Do you already have a BEAUTIFUL classroom? We are giving away sets of books to THREE teachers in our CI Peek “Classroom Beauty Pageant!” And we know that beauty is more than skin deep! Don’t miss out!
In addition to editing the CI Peek blog, Kristy Placido also blogs at kplacido.com. She is the author of several novels for novice and intermediate students and teaches Spanish 2, 3, and 5 at Fowlerville High School in Michigan. She has been using TPRS and TCI since 1998.