‘Maths’ – deadmau5

The boy reluctantly peered into his report card envelope that cool, fall day. He knew that he had done his absolute best, despite what letters were printed the sheet of paper inside. He had been an honor roll student ever since elementary school, and he knew that he had given his best the first quarter of middle school. Even with the changing of classes and having to remember a locker combination, he was sure that he had succeeded. What he wasn’t so sure about, however, was what he had made his first nine weeks in math. Sixth grade math wasn’t a whole lot different from elementary school math. He liked his teacher, he completed all his assignments on time, and he even did his homework each time it was assigned. It’s just that ever since 3rd grade, when the long term substitute told him he was in danger of failing if he didn’t pull the grade up, he was scared of the jumble of numbers that would mockingly peer back at him from the pages of his textbook. Somehow, he maintained an A that 3rd grade year. He did that until 5th grade, when his first B came in the form of a math grade. He had managed to pull out a B in math his entire 5th grade year. It so happened, that the story of the B continued that day in 6th grade–until 7th grade when it devolved to a C. And then in 10th grade to a D. It was then, that he decided he better rethink being an architect, something that he had wanted to be since preschool. He ended up being a teacher–then a coach–now he’s an administrator writing this blog post.

Math anxiety is real. I wrote my second masters thesis on it. I’ll spare the barrage innumerable statistics, but I will say that in a 2009 study, Mark Ashcraft and Alex Moore found that 17% of the US population suffer from high levels of math anxiety. Ashcraft also defines math anxiety as “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance” (2002, p. 1). I bring this up because there’s a strong chance that maybe 3 to 5 kids in each class have it, and even more, a significant handful of teachers may have it.

Math anxiety is said to come from a lot of places, but often it can be traced back to the classroom. This is sometimes due to a frustration that begins early on with difficulty to create 1-to-1 correspondence, the inability to memorize basic facts, or a lack of adequate teacher support. Now I’m the last person to beat up on teachers, but as I told my own story, sometimes we enter into classrooms with our own struggles and lack of confidence. Thankfully, I grew to adore math as a teacher due to the fact that I have a soft spot for the struggling math student. However, many teachers just don’t like math, or like me, we’re always just not as good as it as they were in other subjects.

We’ve got to tackle this thing head on. As the cheerleaders of every subject we teach, we have to approach math with a gusto that brings comfort to anxious students. Of course, this means pouring into ourselves with meaningful professional development that will assist us in reaching our students on their individual levels with a variety of meaningful strategies. I’m going to go into just a few, and the first comes from a colleague of mine, Austin Greene.

Groups | Responsive, small group instruction based on students’ needs is a powerful method for fostering students’ mathematics growth. Targeted and focused small group mathematics instruction scaffolds and increases student understanding by using the students’ specific skill sets and addressing the underlying misconceptions. Data plays a crucial role in this small group instruction. Formative assessments embedded throughout a unit of instruction can be analyzed to make decisions regarding small group instruction. These assessments include anecdotal notes, short pre-assessments, observations, and independent exercises, such as exit slips.

These data provide timely information in determining next steps and prioritizing the focus for groups of students, which allow the teacher to tailor instruction and meet students’ needs. The power of student work can be quickly lost in the data shuffle; however, the analysis of student work provides the why of a missed problem and point to what misconceptions exist. This allows teachers to group students together based on individualized needs and to develop a targeted implementation plan.

The teacher plays a crucial role in the guided small group. Once the teacher unpacks the unit, having a firm understanding of the skills needed for mastery on the unit assessment and the grade level standards, the teacher is equipped to analyze the real-time student data to find the balance between what each student knows and needs to know. The teacher provides a targeted lesson or a student-led activity and is responsive to the students’ needs during this small group instruction. The teacher serves as a facilitator, encouraging student reflection and helping students connect concepts, all while continuing to monitor progress towards mastery­. Small group mathematics instruction can be a powerful tool in providing differentiated and focused instruction when the teacher facilitates student learning using the unit goals and the students’ specific skills and underlying misconceptions, all while conducting ongoing data analysis to give specific, responsive feedback to students.

Austin Greene is a Title I academic specialist for elementary math at Greenville County Schools in Greenville, SC. She is in her 13th year of education, and has served as a teacher, math interventionist, and instructional coach.

Games | Who doesn’t love a game? Games engage kids like a Jedi mind trick–they are so jacked up on the idea of winning (or not losing) that they totally overlook the realization that they are learning. They put all their effort into achieving the correct answer, and if they are anything like me in front of a Monopoly board, strategy and accuracy matter. A variety of games can be developed from just about any math standard, and providing this type of learning experience allows for application of skill that goes deeper than independent practice that simply displays use of an algorithm or identification of a correct answer choice.

It is important, however, to be highly intentional about the games we place in front of our students. There is a place for games that rely on speed in mathematics, but they should not be the go-to for all types of math learning. When encouraging students to improve on their fluency, games that count on speed are valuable. For example, allowing students to use a deck of cards and determine who can multiply the most pairs of card values serves as a way for students to exercise their speed in regurgitating multiplication facts. Having students compete to solve long division problems, on the other hand, is not the type of activity that would be best exercised with speed. More complex computations require students to pay close attention to the operations and steps required to perform such tasks. These games can still be played, with encouragement from the teacher that accuracy and precision are important.

“Groceries” | I don’t mean, actual groceries. I actually mean application, like we must do with groceries. Math is one of the things that kids will use all their life, whether they are going to be an architect, or not (like me). When it comes to setting an alarm clock or tipping a server, math is ever-present. Presenting math tasks in a highly applicable format creates awareness in students that the skill is valuable and worth knowing.

The example of groceries that I mentioned is just one application for math. Students can be given a budget for purchasing goods, and they have to create a list of things to buy for a meal without going over. Students could also determine which brand of food is better to buy by comparing the amount of food in two packages per the dollar amount. Even more, students can figure out what fraction of a package of food actually serves as the serving size, and what percentage of daily nutritional values that serving will satisfy.

But like I said, it doesn’t stop at groceries. Knowing students’ interests and hobbies will help to find an enjoyable way to apply math knowledge. The trick I always hold up my sleeve when tutoring middle school boys is applying integers to the football field. What is boring to them as -8 + 10 is so much more enjoyable as “your team just got a first down, but on second down, the quarterback got sacked and lost 8 yards.” One middle school female tired of mine was all about shopping, so understandably, we took to the Justice website and tackled the sales in order to understand percents. Again, Jedi mind trick.

Math anxiety is something we can battle just as easy as “i before e, except after c” (bad example, I know… protein, beige, weight, neighbor). If we are highly intentional and data-driven, and make math engaging and applicable, we can create experiences that kids not only look forward to, but are confident in participating.

I say this all with the understanding that the end of the day, there may just be a wannabe architect in your class meant for greater things.

_________________________________________________

Ashcraft, M.H. (2002), “Math anxiety: Personal, educational, and cognitive consequences”, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11: 181–185

‘Shelter’ – Porter Robinson & Madeon

I have the amazing privilege of working alongside 11 ridiculously on fire educators as part of the EdCamp Greenville team. We are the ultimate professional learning network (PLN), and we have an ongoing group text that talks about everything from Cardi B to classroom environment…

It was my intrigue about one of my teammates’ classroom environment that sparked the post I am sharing today. I had the amazing privilege of being Shasta Looper’s instructional coach at A.J. Whittenberg a few years back, and we have grown to truly be coaches for each other, as well as dear friends and Disneyworld ride partners! Shasta is venturing back to the elementary classroom after a 3-year stent as a middle level literacy coach. I asked her what she felt were essentials for the classroom learning spaces.

Well, Shasta did not disappoint. She actually took this prompt and ran with it, authoring a blog post of her own at her site, The Teacher’s Loop. Here is a direct link to her post on “My Top 5 Essentials”, where she discusses building a shelter of learning for her new class of 4th grade kiddos.

‘You Don’t Know About Me’ – Ella Vos, Icona Pop, & VÉRITÉ

I am so excited to feature the first guest blogger to EDM. My friend and colleague, P. Sloan Joseph joins the blog today with this gem that will encourage you to know about  your students this coming year in an inspiring new way.

Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are known as the 4Cs of teaching and assessing students. Without these skills, it’s difficult for them to become responsible, productive citizens of society. Isn’t that the ultimate goal for all of our students? Preparing our students for college and career, begins with getting to know them. Being mindful of another set of 4 Cs is essential in building relationships with students and maximizing their success.

  1. Caring | Showing your students that you care is the first step in the process of building relationships. Do students know that you genuinely care about them separate from their academic success? How do you tell/show them? Take some time to say, “I care about you. I will/will not accept _____ because I want what’s best for you.” Listen when they contribute to class discussions and require their classmates to listen, too. Explain how your rules and procedures are created to keep them safe. Most kids like talking about themselves, their family and friends. Give them opportunities to talk, write, and draw to express their interests? Whether we like it or not, students tend to learn more from teachers that they like and/or respect. And they like/respect those they feel like, respect, and care about them.
  2. Competent | Most educators think competence is solely about their content area. Competence also means considering non-curricular factors that impact the learning environment. Your students are experiencing various stages of psychological and physical development. Do you assess their learning preferences and allow your findings to guide your decisions? Do you consider that students may be self-conscience about his/her weight or the new pimple that has appeared on his/her face. Does your lesson require lots of “sit and get” or do you consider that your students are experiencing “growing pains” and need to move around? What about non-verbal cues? Do you notice your students losing their excitement with a specific strategy, game, or tech tool? Considering these factors will have a huge impact on class culture and your relationships with students.
  3. Consistent |During the first weeks of school, you are focused on implementing rules, procedures, and pre-assessments. You are observing your student’s attitudes and behaviors to determine your seating chart and learning groups. In the midst of being busy with these daily tasks, you may forget that your students are observing your attitudes and behaviors, too! They are watching your body language, facial expressions, and listening to your vocal tone. They notice if you are organized or easily distracted. When your students are observing you, will they describe you as being consistent? Are you consistent with addressing negative behaviors? Are you consistent with implementing rewards and consequences? Do you show biases towards certain groups based on gender, race, or achievement level? If you aren’t consistent, your students will not trust you. And relationships are built on trust. Be mindful of being consistent. How? Record your lesson and do some self-observations. Have your instructional coach or a colleague observe you and be willing to accept their feedback (good or bad). Use this information to make adjustments.
  4. Candid | You are an educated, professional adult. Therefore, you speak and think like an educated, professional, adult. Sometimes, there is a break down in communication and lesson implementation because our students are kids; not educated, professional, adults. They may not understand idioms or regional phrases. They may not know how to “read between the lines.” Some of our students are from other countries and speak a different language. What you say and what it means to them can be very different. For this reason, you must be straightforward and truthful about your expectations, rewards, and consequences. You may need to repeat instructions multiple times. Use pictures, videos, motions, and skits to help your students understand. Your willingness to be candid decreases confusion and chaos, and increases student’s confidence and competence.

P. Sloan Joseph

P. Sloan Joseph is an Instructional Technologist at Greer Middle School, part of Greenville County Schools in Greenville, South Carolina. She serves teachers and students with almost 16 years of experience as a business education teacher, professional development facilitator, and administrator.

Twitter: @psjoseph718

‘Bad Dreams’ – Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson (Feed Me Remix)

I haven’t had to turn in lesson plans in 7 years. It never fails, however, that around this time every summer, I end up having a bad dream about school that involves me not having my lesson plans.

I know exactly where this comes from. Sometimes I wonder if some administrators put too much value in lesson plans. I don’t mean the planning; I really mean the well-worn parchment that, in my experience as an administrator, is somewhere among the mess of papers, forms, and sheets that are ACTUALLY important to the teacher. There’s no way that I’m going to discount the invaluable moments spent digesting standards and support documents, painstakingly collaborating with team members, and researching best strategies. That is truly where the magic happens. But the document that arrives out of all of that good, good work–meh.

I have learned to read between the lines for rich learning experiences, though. And the teachers that I have coached and led have been trained to articulate well in these documents that seek to guide instruction for a week at a time. I love looking at them, mostly, for times when I can pop in to classrooms to see either A.) something that seemed incredible in the plans, or B.) something that didn’t quite seem to be all there. Normally, when I do visit for the latter, I am met with understanding that just wasn’t best communicated in the plans. This just confirms my point that the plans are blah. Good teaching is good teaching, and it can’t be identified in a lesson plan.

Now before my fellow administrators kick me out of the club, I understand the purpose for lesson plans, just like there is purpose for any plan; it’s to serve as a road map for the actual trip–in hopes that the trip will go smoothly with no detours or flat tires. Well on the journey we call the classroom, detours and flat tires can pretty much be guaranteed in the form of misunderstanding and the need for reteaching. So yeah, that map? Toss it out the window, and prepare to go off-road if necessary!

In all seriousness, these plans are also highly important for accountability purposes. Administrators can’t be in classrooms all day (and this one really has a strong desire to be there). We’ve got to be able to see what teachers are teaching students and how they are doing it; and just like I mentioned before, we are interested in what is really awesome, and what needs just a little more clarification.

So I propose, for the sake of no bad dreams, teachers writing plans that work best for them–the ones delivering the instruction. I get a little twitchy when I hear that schools or districts are “mandating” a certain template or style when it comes to lesson plans. I totally understand requiring certain elements, in case a school or system is employing a certain framework or curriculum. However, it’s important that teachers are allowed to differentiate for themselves, just as we expect them to differentiate for their students. This is where creativity is given the room to blossom, and the planning actually flourishes. The planning is more important than the actual plan.

That being said, these masterful plans that are birthed from precious planning are not “done” when they are submitted on Monday morning at 8 am. They’ve got to allow room for those flat tires and detours, right?

My favorite thing to see as a coach and as an administrator is some highly-loved on plans–plans that have been annotated to death with different colored pens that have crossed out well-intentioned quizzes because the kids aren’t ready, drawn arrows from Tuesday’s small group session to Thursday’s, and scribbled Pete and Scarlett’s names down for reteaching on Friday. Those are plans that have heeded the GPS warning of “heavy traffic up ahead.” This doesn’t make me, as the teacher’s supervisor, concerned about their plans. This makes me so proud that they have understood the needs of even individual students, and placed them ahead of their menial sheet of paper. Literally, it make’s me pumped just thinking about it now!

So let me empower my teacher friends with a few tools for plans that may help create that road map to weekly wisdom. May you never have bad dreams.

EdPuzzle | This website allows teachers to craft personalized videos for their lessons. They can crop them so that unnecessary junk is deleted, and they can add in voice overs and notes with their own voices. Teachers can pull from resources like YouTube, Khan Academy, or TED Talks to enhance their students’ learning. An added bonus? It works seamlessly with Google Classroom.

InsertLearning | This one is similar to EdPuzzle, in that it allows teachers to personalize web content for a lesson. The difference is that it can be done to websites instead of videos. With this tool, teachers can literally insert varied types of questions, notes, and even videos into a website. This tool, also, can pair with Google Classroom.

PlanbookEDU | I’m a big fan of this site because it allows teachers to pick their preferred standards so that while using the software, they can bring up lesson standards right on the page without having to look in another document. It sets plans up more like a calendar, however, which is not really my taste. The next resource combines the user-friendliness of this site with what I feel is a more teacher-friendly template.

Planbook | I actually used this when I taught 5th grade and I loved it. Back then, though, there was no feature that would allow you to use pre-loaded standards. So now, I’m sure it’s amazing. Even more, it is set up to allow communication with administrators and students. Not gonna lie, I’m a little salty that I was early to the Planbook party back in 2010. Another great thing about Planbook is that teachers can color-code their subjects, which I know is a plus for us very organized, type-A creatures.

Chalk | Chalk is another tool similar to Planbook and PlanbookEDU, however it seems to have a lot more bells and whistles. It’s got extra perks like a gradebook and attendance log, which I feel might be a little overwhelming for teachers in districts that are using a schoolwide program like PowerTeacher. It is free, though, to individual teachers.

‘Hyper Paradise’ – Hermitude (Flume Remix)

No matter how hard one may try to deny it, the first day of school is on its way. The ads for Back to School sales and specials have surfaced, and as of today, Target is throwing an irresistible bone at teachers with its Teacher Prep Event. We might as well turn our speakers up and join the party.

At UTC last week, I learned about a tech-based engagement tool called Hyperdocs. This tool synthesizes Google Apps for Education to create a learning experience for students full of a range of tasks. Learn more about Hyperdocs here.

I also stumbled across the Mac daddy of Back to School Hyperdocs called The First Days of School.

This Hyperdoc includes a variety of activities that will help students share information about themselves and allow them to get to know each other. This is the first, most integral step of student engagement–creating a relationship!

Get hyped up with your students this year and employ this tool with your students.

‘Me, Myself, and I’ – Blonde (feat. Bryn Christopher)

Public educators are currently living a very outspoken existence. With our current unqualified national leadership and the strike in Oklahoma, it seems we are in a place where more teachers are clapping back when we are criticized, unappreciated, or unseen. Yes! Let ’em know!

However, it appears that we have gotten a little too sensitive when it comes to professional development. In starting this blog, I have seen individuals on social media light into well-intentioned educational specialists for providing them with next level strategies to engage kids and inspire learning. It’s time we focus on why these tools and tricks are being shared with us, rather than jumping down people’s throats the first time someone suggests a paperless classroom.

The kids that take up residence in our classrooms for 180 days are the why. They come to us as empty vessels waiting to be poured into. It’s pretty powerful when you think that some nugget of lifelong wisdom may be imparted to a child by one singularly influential teacher.

One unforgettable piece of knowledge I still remember from Mrs. Debbie Mihalic’s third grade class is when things get hot they expand, and when they get cold they contract. I don’t remember this because of a textbook or a worksheet I did, but because she had us out of our seats with our arms out at our sides expanding; after we would say, “Expand,” we would wipe our brows and exhale as if we were sweating. We’d then say, “Contract,” in chorus and wrap our arms around our bodies and feign teeth chattering and shivering.

Mrs. Mihalic was an unforgettable teacher who poured into all of us in portable 3 at Brushy Creek Elementary a love of learning that I’m sure was imparted using all the most engaging strategies 1991 had to offer. We used textbooks, worksheets, tests, quizzes, and probably listened to her just lecture several times. The point is, regardless of any tool she used, traditional or cutting edge, the way she used them could only be attributed to her.

Teacher friend, when concerned with what’s really going to make the most impact on your children, quiet the noise of those around you and say it’s “Me, Myself, and I.”

No one can do what you do for those kids for those 180 days. OWN IT. You may have a fantastic way of presenting engaging guided instruction using a textbook. That doesn’t mean that when the big wigs of education suggest never using a textbook, you lock yours away with your confiscated fidget spinners and Pokémon cards. You do what’s right by those children. Maybe you have amazing skill at writing deep, probing, higher level questions–it would seem then, that a task-based assessment may simply be just an option for testing your kids. Conjure up that paper-pencil test and watch your students soar.

Understanding our own personal strengths in the way we deliver instruction to our students is twofold, however. It’s important that we acknowledge when we need to be poured into as well. Often I say, “For the sake of our students.” This is when we have to carry our burden and take time researching new strategies, learning about new techniques, and being uncomfortable trying something new in our classrooms. No one thinks you suck. Point blank. It’s just you have to be open to continuously bettering yourself so that your students can get the most out of you before June. Wouldn’t it be great if one day, they’re sitting somewhere at age 34 understanding that their back door always gets stuck in the summer because, “Expand” (arms outstretched, wiping brow)?

We’ve got it. When we answered the call to teach, there was a gift in all of us that ensured we could develop the amazing way in which we deliver information to our students. No one can take that away from us. But if our why is truly our kiddos, we will seek out good counsel and innovative ideas that will help us get better for the sake of our students.

‘Swagga’ – Excision & Datsik

(see swagger)

noun

a very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive gait or manner.

I went to the Upstate Technology Conference (UTC) this week put on by Greenville County Schools. I am always fascinated by the ever growing myriad of tools that are available to help reach our students. Since I became an administrator, I’ve been torn about the types of sessions to attend at conferences, seeing how I am not directly in the classroom anymore. I still believe that I have the ability to trickle the knowledge I gain down to teachers and empower them to put these tools in place for the sake of their students.

I found myself, however, in two sessions specifically for administrators and coaches in what was called The Leader’s Lounge. Both of these sessions centered a lot around using social media to tell the story of a school.

I’ll stop here for a moment because this is where swagger is important.

My role as an instructional coach (IC) was at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering (AJ). It opened in 2010 as South Carolina’s only elementary school for with a curriculum designed around teaching engineering principals 4K-5th grade. When it opened, parents in the upstate went bonkers. With a teeny tiny attendance area in the low-wealth area of West Greenville, the rest of the school’s enrollment was first come first served to students around the district. There were literally parents lined up camping out to get their kids into the school a whole week before they started accepting enrollment for the next school year. Take a look at a news article I’ve provided here.

The demand for the school (and the kids having to walk through tent city to get to the front door) was so insane that the school district put in place a policy that prospective parents couldn’t step foot on school grounds until a certain time on the day they started accepting new enrollments. Then this happened:

Needless to say, the school had something that the people wanted. And when I left my role as IC in the spring of 2017, it had just been named a Palmetto’s Finest Finalist school. The school had something the current principal, Dr. Susan Stevens, calls swagger.

I had the privilege of sitting with Dr. Stevens and some of AJ’s stakeholders when the district was looking to fill the principal vacancy. When asked why she was so interested in leading the school she said, “AJ kind of has this sort of… swagger.”

That stuck with me–mainly because I worked so hard to coach and support teachers in creating a remarkable, incomparable learning experience for the kids whose parents literally weathered the elements or fought to get them enrolled. When people heard the two letters, “AJ”, they knew what was up.

That brings me back to using social media to tell the story of a school. Let me lay out 3 certainties:

  1. No one wants to go to a school with a bad rep.
  2. A school’s reputation is created by the people in the community with ties to the school.
  3. “If you don’t share your story, they’ll create it.” –P. Sloan Joseph

If we are going to use social media to give people the inside scoop on our schools, we’ve got to be expecting swagger in our schools. All the stops have got to be pulled out on a daily basis. It’s not enough to do something cute and exciting every now and then–the school has got to be full of overwhelming engagement every single day. That means kids need to be doing more than seat work–more than worksheets, and dare I say more than Google Forms. Creating a school that kids want to go to begins with creating engaging opportunities in every classroom and on every hall. Every day. The reason AJ caused a riot? The promise of something incredible.

Once the school is cranking out the swag, everyone in the school is responsible for getting the word out. Why are we so humble when it comes to talking about how awesome we are at educating kids? It’s something that not everyone can do! And if we do it with swagger, we need to be telling everyone about it! This type of reputation is not exclusive to A.J. Whittenberg, it’s merely a benchmark to which everyone should strive. We created hashtags that articulated our mission statement there, and one of them was #WeOwnWow. I remember thinking how brazen it was when we came up with it, but it was something that every student, parent, teacher, and staff member proudly spoke into the universe when they boasted about their school. Was it bold? Absolutely! But you can’t argue with the truth. Kids went flying down hallways in homemade hover boards, models of entire cities were created out of legos, the first grade hall was transformed into a food court with classrooms that were transformed into restaurants, second graders created an entire carnival where they engineered their own games, and fifth graders created roller coasters and turned their classrooms into amusement parks. The hype was definitely there, as one of our t-shirts proudly boasted. I recounted all of that to say, if the swag is in the building and everyone is witness to it, let the people know! We can’t be modest for the sake of “doing too much.” Please…

This brings me to the quote so eloquently shared by my friend Sloan in her session for administrators at UTC.

If you don’t share your story, they’ll create it.

There are too many things stacked against public schools for us to sit silently and not share how awesome we are. People need to understand that we pave the way for every career there is: every doctor was once in kindergarten, every lawyer was once a third grader, every senator once sat in the fifth grade. The child of every parent in our schools was once in school themselves–their experience and their knowledge as students is all that they have about school. Who knows what kind of story they had that might be painting their picture of school? It’s up to us as educators to let them know school has changed, and we’re in the business of student achievement through rocking kids’ socks off. We’ve got to be taking pictures and videos of all those swaggalicious things going on in our schools and posting them to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and every other social media outlet we can. We’ve got to call the news and let them know about the good stuff that is continuously happening (because they will surely find their way to the bad stuff).

Our schools have got to have swagger; it’s as mandatory as the essential questions on the whiteboards. It’s time that teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators alike understand that the time for humility has come and gone. We’re doing big things and we’ve got to say it loud.

Worried you’re low on the swag?…

‘Lordly’ – Feder (feat. Alex Aiono)

In my ‘Finest Hour’ post, I likened teachers to kings, queens, presidents, governors, and mayors.

Well, before anyone’s head gets too big, consider the throne of the proverbial classroom kingdom: the teacher’s desk.

I believe that the teacher’s desk is probably the most useless thing in the classroom. As the purveyors of student engagement, most teachers today find themselves estranged from their desks. They are often at a small group kidney or U-shaped table delivering differentiated instruction. Sometimes they are at a podium with a computer in order to present information on an interactive whiteboard. They can even be found carefully maneuvering between student’s desks, coaching, having conversations, and supporting individual students all day long. All the while, the teacher’s desk sits unoccupied in a corner taking up at least 16 valuable square feet of classroom real estate.

It’s important, when looking at the value of the teacher’s desk, to consider the culture within a school, however. In walking the halls and peering into classrooms, are the teacher’s like those previously mentioned? Or is the teacher’s desk the place of extended periods of lordly perching?

In these types of environments, the teacher’s desk is often serving more like a ball and chain than a throne. The teacher is bound to her desk, rather than actively engaging with her students. I mean, how effective is a principal that runs a school solely from his office?

I also sometimes think of television and movie characterizations of teachers, and in most cases, they are always seen waging classroom warfare behind their battle station, the desk.

Miss Shields in A Christmas Story is the quintessential lordly teacher. The only time she is seen out from behind her desk is when she ventures to the flagpole to rescue Flick from his “sticky situation”.

Just like we no longer place our teacher desks in the center of the front of the classroom, it may be time to consider doing away with them altogether. There are too many times when teachers must be up and actively engaged with their students, and it simply takes up valuable space.

Because I understand that completely abdicating a throne is not easy, We Are Teachers offers 5 alternatives to the teacher’s desk, instead of getting rid of it entirely.