Going Deskless

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11 thoughts on “Going Deskless”

  1. Bernard Rizzotto

    No desks for me either since January. After hearing about it, I just felt that it was the next big thing to do in CI teaching. A bold move really for me! In order to give feel better maybe, or to give it some legitimacy, I invited the principal to observe the class on the first day. I would like to share his feedback here:
    “Thanks for making my day. Good golly that was a terrific lesson. The clear purpose and intentionality with which you plan your lessons is undeniable. Also, in reference to this particular lesson:
    Every student was engaged – the best part is when students were asking you clarifying question – not for points or to impress the teacher – they truly wanted to clarify what they were asking. Better yet was when a couple of times students added on to what the previous students asked.
    The writing activity was very productive. Again, all students were very much engaged and having fun! When you would show your writing to let them quickly check their own writing and see the expressions on their faces was wonderful – truly engaged.
    I tallied no less than 30 quick assessments questions, 3 engagement questions, and then 10 or so direct interactions with individual students.
    And, to have observed the quick “review” I will call it at the beginning of the lesson and then see that specific vocab become part of the writing activity is to be commended.
    Just a terrific lesson! And add to that – and I didn’t realize – that today was day one with the new seating arrangement”.
    Since then, he is a true ally and I took advantage of this to forward him more info on the method.
    The experience has been overwhelmingly positive, despite a few negative comments from students. The best of all was “I feel naked”…
    The room is much bigger now and I spaced the desks so I can go around to any of my 30+ students and sit by them, talk to them one on one. Me, “I feel the class”…

    1. Bernard wrote, The best of all was “I feel naked”…

      I get that as well. After all, mine is the only class without some sort of barrier between the student and the world. Usually when a persons says “I fell naked”, he really means “I feel vulnerable”. That’s another reason why developing a safe classroom is so important: we’ve taken away a layer of defense.

      That’s a wonderful report, and the reaction from your principal was great – especially since he gave it to you in writing. Be sure you keep that e-mail for further use and encouragement when you’re going through a tough time.

      1. and I know that it has been mentioned on the blog before, but if you haven’t seen Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability, check it out on youtube. If you like it, consider her book on the topic. There are so many parallels between her work and being a CI / TPRS teacher…

        Thanks Greg and Eric for your thoughts on this! This also might be the answer to folks whose kids have the Spring doldrums…

        with love,

        1. I had seen that TedTalk before, but I hadn’t drawn all the parallels between her research and our work!

          Brené says something like Ben has said before, that until our society turns from being one that prepares kids to compete and perfect into one that prepares kids to cooperate and show compassion, then we’ll have problems.

          “And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, ‘Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.’ That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, ‘You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think that we see today. “

          1. …make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.’ ….

            Too many kids who are raised that way, to be elite people, conclude that the rest of the kids in the classroom, the rabble who gets ignored by the grammar teacher and and a few other kids in the room who are also going to Yale, are socially inferior. This is a disaster. The worst part of it, because of the nature of competition/exclusion vs. cooperation/inclusion, is that too many of those superstars cannot maintain it and end up getting carted out of their dorm rooms in body bags.

  2. Grant Boulanger

    Hey everyone, good to log in after a long hiatus and see a topic right at the top that I’ve been chewing hard on these days.

    I’m requesting desks with retractable tablet arms for next year and my prinicipal seems amenable. So, that’s exciting.

    But, then I log in, read this post, and say to myself, “Self, WHY THE HELL WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR???”

    I’m getting my desks out and replacing them with chairs ASAP and if I get the tablet arm chairs, fine. If not, what are some of your ideas for potential solutions for writing surfaces with just plain chairs?

  3. Clipboards.

    I have desks against the back wall if the kids need to turn around and use them.

    My kids store a notebook in the classroom. That notebook is where everything happens (speedwrites, exit quizzes, etc.). So I can just look in that notebook at the end of the semester and give a grade. My kids are perfectly fine sitting on the floor and writing or writing in their notebooks in their laps.

  4. Individual white boards.

    Students can use them as the hard surface to write on paper or write on them with dry erase markers. When it’s time to write something, students can either take out their notebook and write on/in that or grab a white board and paper.

    My students are also perfectly fine sitting on the floor; in fact, some of them prefer it. A former student* stopped by recently. He had just gotten back from visiting his sister, also a former student, who is studying in Heidelberg. During their time together she mentioned how much she appreciated my allowing her to stretch out prone on the floor to take notes. My only restriction on sitting on the floor is that I have to still be able to see a student’s eyes. Since I walk around, they have to adjust positions and locations to keep me in sight.

    *Just as a side note: the student who stopped by did not continue with German in college and has graduated – so at least four years of no German – but still had no trouble communicating in German while in Germany. That’s part of the reason he stopped by: just to tell me how much German he retained and how much he appreciated my class because of it.

    1. I wanted to add to this conversation, that the simple positioning of the seats, the angle, can affect a students’ interpersonal communication. I had a student recently tell me at a parent-teacher conference that she used to zone out more, simply because her seat faced more towards the window than the front of the room. I have been deskless all year, but I used to have the seats pushed to the edges of the room in more like 3 sides than a semi-circle. Since then, I’ve moved the chairs as close to the front as possible and made them a true semi-circle. And this one particular student told her mom and I how much she prefers this seating arrangement and how it has helped her to stay attentive.

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