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?

If you’d like to see the rest of my sweet trailer, Here’s the full tour.

17 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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  2. **Omgosh…sorry this is so long.***

    So glad I’m not the only one who cried when I got similar news! 😊 It’s my 20th year teaching, and I’ve made 17 room changes. It.Is.HORRIBLE! The room I had 2 yrs ago, we called the Penthouse Suite. It was huge! So much room, a wall of windows, a big storage area, and yes, a sink, too! I loved it!!! Then, the next year I got moved back to the room I was in before the Penthouse Suite, which was much smaller, but off to the side was a medium-sized storage room that I turned into a Spanish resource center, learning lab, and mini library with work stations. I swear I spent my very last dollar making that room a place where kids could have the best of eveything (and they did)! We have a young, new principal this year, and a week before school started, he moved me out of that room, along with all of our amazing classroom resources. 😢 He moved me across the hall (yes, that close….literally 3 rooms down) to a room with no windows, brick walls, no board or projector, and not even one closet or cabinet. In fact, years ago they used the room for t-shirt printing because internet connection is bad in there for some reason. I explained to him why I felt the move was not beneficial to the kids, as well as to our school as a whole. He didn’t seem to care; he said if he lets me stay in my old room, then he needs to let everyone stay in their rooms. Crushed does not even begin to explain my feelings. Not only am I our only language teacher in our entire HS with class numbers in the 40s (except my 3rd hour which only has about 28…shhh! It’s heavenly!), but finding ways to survive in our “brick box” is near impossible. Because we would have to add about 8 more tables to fit all of my students, I told him I would get rid of the tables, and I would just need more chairs. He said no to that idea, too, because I’d be “setting them up for failure.” Really???!!! I’m not sure what a teacher is supposed to do in a room without anywhere to put classroom resources, supplies, etc. Everything is in boxes around the floor. I even asked for a bumch of filing cabinets to use for storage, and he siad he would try to find some. We don’t have books, so he thinks I can fit everything that I own in the 2 drawers of a desk. I work in an urban setting district where funding is non-existent. My kids deserve (and need) so much more than they get. We are headed into our 6th (7th…?) week of school, and b/c we still are not all able to fit in “the brick box,” and no one can seem to find even 1 spare filing cabinet, I’m still feeling helpless. I’m pretty sure everyone is expecting me to purchase my own shelves, etc., but I feel like after 20 years of spending, what feels like, my life savings, I’m not going to do it, especially when this could have been avoided. I have been teaching in our large group/meeting room (set up like a mini-auditorium) every day, as a result. I carry boxes of materials back and forth daily, and I share it with the drama class during 4th hour. I feel like I’m on Candid Camera every day of my life. I cannot believe this is happening. Ughhhhh….sorry to vent/rant/complain, but thank you for listening (if you’ve made it this far!). Idk what to do…my students rock, and are super supportive, but my frustration and sadness (still) are at an all time high. I’m the only teacher in the building without a place of my own, and the crazy thing is that we have MANY empty rooms in our building that sit unused. However, he said putting a teacher in those rooms (which are down a different hall and in the 9th grade hallway), doesn’t mesh with his plan for how students rotate to and from class. Thanks for listening…I feel a little better getting it out and sharing my frustrations. Thank you so much for all you do to help teachers everywhere! I love your blog – it is a giant plus and huge help to me! 😀💯🎉 And, your portable is pretty sweet, I do have to say!

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    1. Wow! That’s awful! That makes me feel like a baby for making such a big deal out of our move. Can you email you staff asking is ANYONE has a cabinet, shelf, filing cabinet they can spare? Does your district have a warehouse with unused furniture/supplies? What about asking around at businesses or looking on Craigslist for office equipment, and explaining your situation and asking them to donate equipment to your room. I agree, I wouldn’t want to spend one penny more!!! Do you have a teachers’ union- they should know you have a room where no everybody can fit!! Would parents be able to advocate for a classroom? It’s ridiculous that there are EMPTY rooms at your school- I’d keep being the squeaky wheel until there’s a solution!!

      I’m so sorry that you’re teaching in that situation. Hang in there… it just has to get better!!! Abrazos!

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      1. Thanks for the response! 🙂 Do NOT feel bad about feeling sad about your move…moving sucks, and I’ll probably live in my house for the rest of my life bc I know what moving is like, and I hate it! 😂 I totally understand what you were feeling bc I’ve moved almost every year, and I was upset every time.

        We do have a union, but we currently don’t have a rep at our school, so they are working on getting one they said. We have an extremely difficult time keeping staff bc of the difficult enviroment (constant changes in staff, admin, lack of support, and challenging behavior of students…sadly, we have some classes with different subs all year long bc we can’t fill and then keep teachers in those positions – those classes even have classrooms!!!), so when we get a union rep, they end up leaving our school bc it is too difficult, I guess…?

        As for the parents, we don’t have a ton of involvement, and many of our students probably play more of a role as a parent to their siblings than the parents do, sadly enough. So, I probably won’t take that route.

        I have contacted the head regional district custodian, and he said he would be on the hunt for some file cabinets, so that is a plus, but he said it would take him some time bc a couple years ago they eliminated our district storage building that housed the extra furniture…no clue where it all went, but hopefully he can track some down. Also, our district already has big companies that provide furniture to our schools, but, unfortunately, it always goes to the schools who are already doing just fine (or so it seems). I swear they forget we exist, which is probably why I’ll be at my HS forever – I don’t want my kids to think I’m giving up on them, too! But, I could, I should, seek out other places on an individual basis. Thanks….I’m going to give it a try!

        Our current principal was at our school last year, but kind of like a prinicpal in training (working under our old principal who was moved to our central office this year). So this year is like his first full year as principal. I’m worried about “making him mad” bc apparently last year when he evaluated teachers, only one of them received Effective. All the others received Minimally Effective or Ineffective, and they no longer work in our district. I just assumed they didn’t want to teach at our school and moved on, like so many others have done. But, another teacher told me otherwise at the beginning of the year. Since our principal is now my evaluator this year, that other teacher told me to make the best of my situation, or I would probably also get Ineffective, too. That seems ridiculous, but I don’t want chance it by going to the union and challenging our principal’s decision. In 20 years, I’ve had a lot of principals, but never one who is so young and out of tune with teachers’ needs. It seems like a young guy would be more in tune with reality, but being that he only taught 1 or 2 years, maybe I’m wrong…maybe he just doesn’t know…? He has made some positive changes, but I still can’t help but feeling I’m being set up for failure, myself. In time, I’m sure it will all be fine, but in the meantime, it is so hard! Thanks for being so positive and supportive! ☺ I’ll have to keep you posted!

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      2. Please do keep me posted! That sounds like a tough situation all around! I’ll be praying for you and your kiddos! They’re lucky to have you! ¡Ánimo, amiga!

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