Burn the Teacher's Desk

As we end the school year here in New Zealand, the speeches from leaving staff are one of the traditions that schools have. Usually, such speeches are related to thanking the school or witty anecdotes of the past, but in my most recent experience, one teacher decided to provide insights on what he thought were the keys to making an effective teacher and one was simply to burn the teacher's desk. 

The traditional classroom usually has the teacher at his or her desk at the front, where content is taught from, instructions given, and more often than not emails are read and replied to.

However, is this the most effective way to interact with our students? The key to good classrooms is the relationships in them. One of the easiest to develop these relationships is to simply walk around the classroom or even to sit in different locations within the classroom, which is something I often do.

When a teacher mostly stays at the front of the classroom, students tend to become disinterested and this can lead to behavior issues out of the lack of focus. We all remember the students seated at the back of the class that misbehaves the most, hence every now and then I join them at the back to discuss how they are going, despite the groans, behavior has improved as has engagement. 

This is another advantage of removing the teacher's desk. By circulating in the room promotes and maintains engagement, it also allows the teacher to have personal one on one or small group conversations with learners to see how they are understanding the concepts being taught and how their learning is going and what support you can offer for them to move to the next step of learning.

This can further be enhanced by creating purposeful seating arrangements, with weaker students sitting with stronger students to allow collaborative learning in small groups. Additionally, circulating the classroom helps maintain proximity to your students, they are more likely to stay focused on tasks, and you are more likely to prevent behavioral issues from occurring by developing those critical learning relationships. You can use your walks to talk with your students, promote relationships, and keep the learning moving forward.

By incorporating movement into your classroom, you can focus on individual students as well as get an objective observation of how the class is learning as a whole. These walks facilitate the gathering of data and allow the teacher to better understand how students currently stand in their learning and areas that need improvement and might need to be retaught or focused upon. This personalization of the learning provides students who need it the most support and allows others to see what their next step in learning is and how to achieve it. This can be done individually, in small groups, or in rare cases the whole class. As with all teaching, this reflection on the observations you gain from walking around the classroom has a positive impact on your teaching practice as well as on your students' learning.

For some teachers this might be an issue due to limits on technology or space, there are some really simple steps you can take to burn your teacher's desk (metaphorically). If you tend to teach from the front at your desk, how about slowly moving from the front during lesson time which involves the students focusing on practicing what has been taught or during discussions - like think, pair, and share?

This will gradually allow your students to feel more comfortable with you moving around the classroom. Introducing small instances of you moving around the classroom is a strong way to effectively begin introducing this strategy. 

Taking even a brief walk around your classroom during student discussions or learning activities can have a long-lasting and positive impact on your students. You will be able to get a better feel for who they are as individuals and this will help create and build upon the relationships on which learning is based upon.

So how about it? Let us burn the teacher's desk.


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