The day I cried then ditched the desks.

One day I got bad news. Perhaps the worst news of my life.  Classrooms were moving and I was being relocated to…gasp…The Portables! Nooooooooo! I had the perfect classroom: view of the mountains, an interior door to the hallway, an exterior door to the courtyard. They say location is everything and it was: I was near the main office and counseling center, kitty corner to the staff bathroom and right across the hall from the copy machine! And I had a sink! A sink! I loved that sink!  I brushed my teeth after every lunch! My life was nearly perfect and my classroom was practically Shangri-La. And then my principal announced “Campus Restructuring “. At least it wasn’t just me…my whole department was banished…or should I say Spanished to The Dreaded Portables.

I know it sounds like I am being overly dramatic (and I have been accused of being overly dramatic a time or two) but this was devastating news. Not only are The Portables far, far away. (Not even exaggerating here, to walk from my portable to the main office and back is a quarter of a mile!) But the worst news of all: My new classroom was going to be 27% smaller that my current classroom, oh and by the way, they were projecting increased class sizes. Of course. Plan A was to convince my principal to change his mind and I may have cried in his office. (I thought we were friends! I even invited you to my wedding! How can you do this to me?!) Plan A did not work.

Plan B was to change my attitude and figure out how to make my trailer the sweetest trailer in the park. I was getting a smaller classroom and bigger classes and the only thing I could figure out was to get rid of the desks. It was a move of sheer desperation…I didn’t know what else to do. But now, two and a half years later, I LOVE teaching deskless! In fact, if by some miracle I get moved back to my old classroom, the first thing I would do is toss out the desks!

It’s been 2 years and here’s what I love about teaching deskless:

  • Kids can’t hide their cellphones under their desk while they’re sneakily trying to text during class. Señora Chase: 1  Clase: 0
  • Sleepy kids can’t put their heads down on the desk. They can’t prop their head up with their hand. They actually have to sit up. Score! Señora Chase: 2  Clase: 0
  • There’s no desk to etch dirty words into or a place to stick your unwanted chewing gum. Señora Chase: 3  Clase: 0
  • There’s so much room! We have room to move! My classroom doesn’t feel crowded, even with 32 kids in it. I’m able to walk around to everyone. There’s no desk barrier between me and the little darlings. There’s no place to hide from me! Mua ha ha.
  • It’s very flexible and easy to adjust the seating arrangement. Form groups of 3. Create 2 straight lines. Circle up. Easy Peasy!
  • Best of all: It makes Spanish feel different from the rest of their classes. It doesn’t feel like school, it just feels like we’re together and chatting informally.

Practicalities:

  • On their way into class, some students grab a mini whiteboard to use as a writing surface. Most students elect to use their binder. We don’t do very much extended writing and this seems to be working fine.  I haven’t had one complaint this year.
  • My Principal insisted on ordering me tables for activities that require a larger work surface. They’re light weight, foldable tables that I store behind the bookshelves. They are very similar to these narrow plastic folding tables on Amazon. We only use them for Final Exams and during our restaurant simulation in Spanish 1 or when we’re cooking and eating in class.
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Sometimes the Animal Sciences class needs doggy volunteers. Dog Day happened to coincide with Finals this year.

Seating Arrangements:

I’ve played with a bunch of arrangements and I like a modified U shape best. I like students to be paired up with aisles so I can access every student. And the best part, nearly half the class has a front row seat! (It makes it much easier to place those little stinkers who need a little extra help staying on task.) And it gives me a stage of sorts. I like to be on stage.

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See the sink on the right side? Do not be fooled! Although I have an actual sink, there is not actually plumbing to my portable, so it’s just a fancy storage receptacle.

For regular tests (Actually we call them Celebraciones de conocimiento, but anyway) students line their chairs up with the sunshine cutouts that are hanging on the walls at the front of my classroom. Each sun has a number written inside it which tells students how many chairs should be lined up with that sun. Makes it super easy to transition the class into testing formation.

A word of warning: 

After I got the fateful news and before I was relocated, we did a test run. I wanted to make sure I liked the new set up before I actually got rid of my desks. One day my kids came in and the desks were stacked neatly against the walls. Good grief, did they whine and complain! My back hurts! Can’t we have the desks back? Waa Waaa Waaaa. The following year my new students came in to chairs only and no one said a word. If you can help it, I’d wait to go deskless until the start of a new year. Unless you have an affinity for teenager whining.

There it is. That’s how I ditched the desks and why I’m not going back! Have you taken the Deskless Plunge?

12 Comments

    1. We use Chromebooks a bit…I haven’t heard any complaints. They just put them on their laps because we don’t usually use them for extended time periods. My Spanish 2s do a book project where they type up a story and they use the tables for that period. I know some teachers have the college style chairs with the attached collapsible table.

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  1. I want to go deskless but I share my classroom. Also, I just dont know if I can keep their attention and responding the entire time. I start using CI and TPR and I poop out when they don’t respond. I cant seem to get a set routine going. I follow several TPR and CI veterans but just can’t seem to get into the groove. Any suggestions?

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    1. I know what you mean! If they don’t play the game, it’s too hard to drag them along with you! (And that is no fun at all!!) I think the key is really training them well at the beginning of the year how you want them to participate, remind them often and then reteach when they start to slack off… Say like I’m asking a whole class question and as I’m listening to their response, I’m scanning to see that everyone’s mouth is moving. If I suspect a few kids (or even just one!) is not participating, I’ll smile, and say in English”Oops, no everyone is participating! Let’s try that again!” (without singling anyone out) Or I might say “I only hear 28 voices and we have 32 students…let’s try that again!” If it isn’t better the second time I’ll say again “Nope, that wasn’t perfect, let’s try that again…” and make eye contact with the little darling that doesn’t want to participate. If after that, you still have kids refusing, I’d talk to them privately and ask them to help you out. If you insist that everyone participates every time, your year will go so much smoother!! Start out strong with the training at the very beginning and the rest of the year will be a breeze! This is your year! You got this, Joyce!!

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