One year I got a wild hair and reduced my teacher desk to the size of a cafe table. You know, like the ones you stand next to at a wedding reception or have a coffee over at the local coffee shop. Yes, about a two-foot space. I sure was up on my high horse that year thinking, “I don’t need a big space because my classroom is student-centered”, mmmmhmm.
It was cute and all, but I didn’t have any space to relax, which is what my teacher-desk was used for briefly during my planning period or other break times during the day, yes, even during class when I had a minute.
In fact, that was my space’s main purpose. To be a small, but mighty space for me to be able to just sit and take care of a few things when I had a moment. But I didn't know that until the space was gone. So I quickly switched back to a regular table sized desk, but made sure that the space served it’s main purpose - allowed me to get work done and to relax a bit amidst the chaos of daily teaching.
So, teacher-friend, in this episode we’ll be talking over ways you can give your desk a little revamp, know if it’s needed in the first place, and then make sure that your space is what you need it to be.
If you love this episode or any of our recent episodes on the show, we would so appreciate it if you would click the share button where you’re listening and send it to a teacher-friend, helping us reach more teachers with the message that their sustainability is our top priority.
Let’s get to it.
Today’s episode is brought to you by the Full Focus Planner. If you’re like me, you totally geek out about planners. Especially the super colorful and organized teacher planners with the stickers and the tabs. Seriously - so cute. But as I searched and tested multiple planners, they only became more work to maintain and didn’t necessarily serve the work I was doing in my classroom.
Then I found the Full Focus Planner.
Teachers know the power in backwards planning, right? We start with where we want students to be, then we plan our lessons backwards from there. It’s just good practice. So why don’t we do the same with our goals, whether professional or personal?
Well, the Full Focus Planner allows us to do that. It also does NOT tell you absolutely everything you need to do or accomplish. Yes, you heard me right. It doesn’t put everything in your face to where you’re bogged down by the weight of it all. Instead it allows you to prioritize your tasks so that you are focusing on what’s most important right now.
To learn more about how I use my Full Focus Planner and how it can help you get a hold of your unsustainable to-do list, head over to Teachonamission.com/planner.
You may be thinking that this seems frivolous or like a waste of time to be thinking about and then creating a better space that is your teacher desk, but teacher-friend you couldn’t be more incorrect. So tell that inner voice, it’s what I call the teacher-guilt voice, to ssshh-it for now while you learn about why it really matters and how the space might improve your daily teaching life.
I’ve got three actionable steps for you to take and we’re just going to dive right into them, and as promised in my intro to the podcast, it’s not going to take a bunch of time to implement these steps nor will it add a ton to your to-do list, and yet it will have measurable impact.
First up, consider what you need from the space. Think of this - anytime before the 2000s, teachers needed massive space for all their stuff. They need filing cabinets upon filing cabinets, and table space to lay out their copies and piles of papers to grade. Then, sometime in the early 2000s approximately, they need a ton of computer space for their still giant desktop computers as well as the space for all the paper. Now, you need minimal space for what is hopefully a powerful but compact laptop, and minimal space for papers… again, that’s what I hope you need but may not be the case.
So take a few moments to consider, when push comes to shove during your school day AND during your planning period, what do you need that space to be?
As I said in the intro to this episode, I didn’t need a lot of space necessarily, but I did need a declared space away from students, and one with minimal clutter so that I was able to relax when I sat down at my desk and focus on the task at hand. Too much physical clutter equals stress to me.
Consider what’s going to allow you to be most effective during your time when you’re at your desk accomplishing the super important behind-the-scenes work of teaching, and make your decisions from there. Maybe you don’t need that big clunky desk from 1952. Maybe you need to get rid of the paper trays full of papers from three+ years ago. Or maybe you need a chair that supports you lumbar better so when you go to stand for 80% or more of your job, you’re not aching while you do it. These are just some suggestions… the point being, make the space what you need it to be by knowing what the need is first.
Next up is a tough one for some, but it’s time. It really is time, especially after the pandemic and distance learning.
Just get rid of the paper.
This doesn’t mean that all student activities have to be digital, but it does mean two specific things.
Number 1: if paper is a stressor for you like it is for me, stop creating it in your classroom. Have your students do less on paper, simple as that. In my mind, for about 5th grade and up, everything except for student notes could be better accomplished digitally.
Number 2: the second thing this means is that you have papers coming at you throughout the day. From your teaching assistant, SPED teacher, school counselor, etc. As soon as it hits your desk, take care of it like it’s a ticking time bomb, just get it away. Then make everything else digital. Seriously everything, except, of course, your Full Focus Planner which will actually help with reducing paper, promise.
The last tip I have for you is to value your teacher space. And, don’t underestimate liking the space you work in.
You have to go there five days a week, and spend what is a majority of your time each week in this space. If you go there each day dreading it without really knowing why, it might be the lack of liking the space. And Lord knows, we could use some help in liking our teaching jobs in the current state of things right now, am I right?!?
So take some time to make it a space that you like to sit down and work in each day - add a plant, a framed picture from your vacation or of your fur baby, cute pen holder with a matching stapler, or even a new cover for your laptop keyboard. Whatever it takes to brighten the space, make it cozy or relaxing, but ultimately conducive to you being productive and content in your teacher space.
Alright teacher-friend, there you have it for episode 65 where we consider if you need a teacher desk revamp, and here’s a quick recap for you.
First, consider what you need from your teacher space, and make decisions from there.
Secondly, get rid of paper and anything other form of physical or mental clutter.
Lastly, value your teacher space but not underestimating it’s impact on your overall perspective of your daily teaching life.
If this episode resonated with you, we would so appreciate you sharing it with a teacher friend and on social media so we can better spread the message of teacher sustainability.
I’m wishing you all the best this week, and I’ll see you same time, same place, next week. Bye for now.