The Dying Age of Desks


Check out this article about a California elementary school that got rid of their desks for a new, standing approach. Crazy, right? Well, it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

A few years ago I walked into a brand new school. I put up my decorations, got my class list, and arranged my desks. Completely pleased with myself, I went around to meet some of my fellow teachers. As I was wandering, I noticed that a few of the classes had no desks in them. I stopped by one of the rooms and it turned out that the teacher was in the same grade level as me. After chatting for a bit, I couldn’t hold it any longer. “So, uh, where are the desks?”

To my surprise, he chuckled. “Out in the storage where I put them every year.”

Every year? Every year, for how long? Turns out, he had been using this desk-less classroom layout for about 4 years. Immediately, I had a thousand questions. Where do the students sit? Where do they complete their work? What do students do for storage? How you keep the chaos at bay?

He explained to me that he had multiple places for students to work. There were several tables of varying heights, a large carpet space, pillows, bean bags, aerobic balls, stools, milk crates, etc. Students got to choose where they were comfortable completing their work. If a student was comfortable laying on the floor while completing his math, he was allowed. If a student wanted to drag a bean bag under a table to write, she was allowed. There is always that student who sat on one of those huge aerobic balls to bounce around while reading. They were free, free to work as comfortably as possible.

I probably stood there with my mouth agape as I listened. How is it possible that students could learn like this? Then he said one simple thing to me: why can’t they?

I kept my desks for two years. I couldn’t imagine a classroom where there were no desks and there was still structure. Every time I walked by his classroom, I would glance in. There was no difference between his students and mine. Reading, writing, and math scores were similar. If anything, his students needed less management. I saw it, but I could not, would not step out of my comfort zone.

Finally, this year as I was setting up my classroom I decided to take the plunge. I went to his room and I said “if I want to do this, how do I start?” He walked me through the process. He helped me check garage sales, Craigslist, and many a Big Lots for items that could be utilized for seats. I started off the year with my typical classroom, but by Christmas I had removed every desk from my room. My students were enthralled by the transition and took to it immediately.

Overall, nothing in my classroom had really changed except my students’ focus and comfort level. Whenever I give a task, they know what to do. They find a spot, get comfy, and get to work. If they find that they need to move, they do and we’re all the better for it.

  • Amanda, staff writer

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One comment

  1. I can definitely see how that worked well….in my junior and senior year, we had a teacher who had class outside, as long as the weather permitted. It went over pretty well. As I just signed up to be a sub this next year, it’ll be interesting to see if any teacher does something like either of these.

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